Overland Park & Leawood

January 7, 2014

Specialty food company manufactures in Johnson County

KC Classic Gourmet Foods are at grocers, available online.

Nina Ward and her daughter Rosina have been selling plenty of Krack these days, but not the kind that will get her customers in any legal trouble. Their chocolate Krack is just one of the original food products the mother–daughter team has developed through their company KC Classic Gourmet Foods.

“We offer a line of gourmet food products that includes dips, sauces, marinades, salad dressings and more that are all natural with no fillers or MSG, food coloring or added preservatives,” said Rosina Ward. The 22-item line includes some small baked goodies, quesos, vinaigrettes and gluten-free barbecue sauce, in the $5 to $7 price range. The entire line is produced at Maser Industries in Lenexa.

Q: How did you get into the food production business?

Nina Ward grew up in the food industry, working with her parents at their Jose’s Family Restaurants right out of high school. Surrounded by the smells, sights and sounds of the food business, Nina Ward started her own product line in 1989. Later, she joined Original Juan, a private label production facility.

“My partner and I couldn’t come to terms on where the business was going, so I left,” Nina Ward said.

In 2007, she began toying with starting her own company again. With the help of a consultant, Nina Ward put together a business plan for KC Innovations, but using the name KC Classic Gourmet Foods for her product line.

“By the time I got all my products and business plan, it took about a year before we opened,” she said. Eventually, Rosina Ward joined her mother in the business. Nina Ward handles the actual product development, finances and administrative tasks while Rosina is in charge of sales and distribution.

Q: Where do your recipes come from?

The recipes are all Nina’s.

“I created them all,” she said. “Eating inspires me.… The salsas I brought from my parents’ restaurant.… Very few (recipes) I had to try a second time, but everyone tastes.”

The first batches are made at home in small quantities for tasting. Once she gets the formula just right, Nina and Rosina Ward move into the commercial kitchen at Maser Industries.

“We have to make adjustments at that point,” Nina Ward said. “You’re translating a recipe that made a few cups to an 80-gallon kettle that makes 700 units.”

A batch takes three to four hours to complete. Once bottled or packaged, the product is stored at the manufacturing facility. However, change is in the wind for KC Classic Gourmet.

“We are looking for a place to store our products as well as a new co-packer, because our current one is going into the pharmaceutical business in six months,” Rosina Ward said.

Q: What about distribution?

Rosina Ward gets the product line into area stores for sale. KC Class Gourmet Products are in area grocery stores including Hen Houses, several Cosentino’s, and McGonigles and Fritz’ meat markets. The Wards are looking to expand their products’ reach.

“We’re working on it,” Rosina Ward said. “This year we hope to go into Columbia and Joplin. And we hope to have a distributor.”

The Wards also sell their line through KC Classic Gourmet’s website using FedEx for delivery. Sales have been low, “but they’re picking up,” Rosina Ward said.

The Wards have mainly used word of mouth for marketing.

“We have no money for advertising,” Nina Ward said. “We do try to use social media … and we do a lot of demonstrating at farmers markets, holiday boutiques and stores.”

This year, Nina Wards hopes to introduce new items in the product line.

“I hope to come out with one more cheese dip and a couple of Italian cookies and finger foods,” she said.

Q: What’s it like working in a mother-daughter team?

“It’s fabulous,” said Nina Ward. “I wish she would have joined me years ago.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t fight, but overall it’s pretty good,” Rosina Ward said.

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