August Kitchen: Westchester’s Own, Surprising Specialty Foods Company
From being a buyer for Macy’s to creating a unique start-up
For years, Jason and Zina Santos had been making specially seasoned burgers for friends and family at parties hosted at their Armonk home. It wasn’t long before guests of the self-proclaimed foodie duo were asking if they could buy the seasoning, which consisted of mostly onions and chipotle peppers. Zina, who wanted to leave her job as a buyer for Macy’s in Manhattan to spend more time with her two young sons, thought it was the perfect opportunity to transition to a home-based, start-up business. Thus began specialty foods company August Kitchen (augustkitchen.com) and its first product, J-Burger All-Natural Burger Starter.
In late 2009, the couple started adjusting the burger-seasoning recipe for larger quantities. “We ate so many burgers, I got to the point I didn’t want to see one for a long while,” Zina says. After almost a year of experimenting with ingredient ratios, packaging, and other elements, the two were ready to bring the product to market.
To get the product into stores, Jason and Zina went to food shows, first locally, and eventually, nationally; cold-called retailers; and did in-store demos. Today, August Kitchen products are sold in more than 600 stores nationwide including locations in Texas and California. In 2011, sales revenues were less than $50,000; at press time, revenues are already more than $100,000.
Jason and Zina credit much of their product’s success to its uniqueness. “It’s all fresh ingredients and all-natural," says Jason. "There’s nothing like it—we’re the only burger seasoning on general retailers’ shelves that’s a paste and not a powder.” J-Burger, used with ground beef, chicken, or turkey before cooking, comes in original onion and chipotle & onion flavors and costs $4.99 to $5.99 for a 9-ounce jar (one jar makes 10 burgers). Also in the August Kitchen product line are J-Chili and J-Meat Loaf. Locally, J-Burger can be found in ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Turco’s, and DeCicco Family Markets, among other area stores.
What’s next for August Kitchen? Possibly a wing sauce or spicier variation of J-Burger. “It’s a little bit of tough work to come up with the new ones, but it’s also a lot of fun,” Jason says.