LSU Incubator helps local women launch Re: Dressing & Marinade

It’s about the dressing

The name of Sarah Vincent’s garlicky vinaigrette salad dressing was born in an email.

But the taste was made in her kitchen.

For a decade, Vincent perfected the recipe she now markets as Re: Dressing & Marinade, and one of her longtime friends loved it so much, she wanted to form a business and sell it.

“I’ve always been a picky eater and instantly fell in love with this dressing. I’ve never tasted anything like Re:,” said 32-year-old Kristen Bateman, Vincent’s friend and business partner. “I would ask Sarah to make me a bottle every few weeks or so.”

Friends since elementary school, Vincent and Bateman grew up together in the Central area. When Bateman proposed they bottle the dressing and market it, Vincent thought it might be a fun project.

Now more than 20 stores carry their product, and they have formed a company, Hooked on Re: LLC.

“It’s growing,” the 31-year-old Vincent said. “It’s become a big part of our lives.”

In the fall of 2012, Vincent and Bateman began making dressing one bottle at a time in Vincent’s home. They gave it away to friends just to gain exposure, then they packaged it in gift bags with tissue paper and used the dressing as Christmas gifts.

Both Vincent and Bateman work full time aside from the dressing business. Vincent and her husband run a martial arts studio, and Bateman is a sales service specialist at the Albemarle chemical corporation.

Most of their meetings concerning their salad dressing occurred over email.

“ ‘Re: salad dressing’ was the subject line of all the emails,” Vincent said. “It kind of by default became the name of our product, too.”

Working out of a home kitchen that first year, they were not able to get the permits needed to sell directly to grocery stores. They still sold 200 bottles.

“We did sell so many unexpectedly that we ran out of labels,” Vincent said.

All their work paired with great luck when Vincent went to a copy shop to get more labels made. A man at the shop told her that LSU was starting a business incubator program for people like her to use a commercial kitchen and receive guidance on starting a food-related business.

“Right place at the right time,” Vincent said.

Since joining the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator when it opened in the summer of 2013, Vincent and Bateman work with their families in the commercial kitchen to cook and bottle 90-gallon batches every three weeks.

The incubator offers guidance from program director Gaye Sandoz, a veteran of the food marketing business, and Luis Espinoza, a scientist who specializes in food chemistry.

Vincent and Bateman received help getting federal and state approval for their product and labeling, and Espinoza tested the dressing to figure out its shelf life.

When they initially increased their batch size from 12 ounces to 15 gallons, Vincent said, they weren’t pleased with the results. Espinoza helped figure out a solution.

“We had to add some other ingredients to keep it mixed longer so we could get it into bottles, and Luis helped us with that,” Vincent said.

For now, Re: is available in the Baton Rouge area, but Vincent wants to expand. She said they hope to outgrow the incubator program eventually and be able to venture on their own.

“We’re hoping LSU is a stepping stone to take us to that next level,” she said.