Three Las Vegas entrepreneurs try to perfect their recipes for success


New food products can come about for any number of reasons. Sometimes it's frustration at the status quo. In other cases, it's a search for a new career path. In still others, it may be a dream -- literally.

Following are three local people and their products, each representing a classic path to production.

ProBread

Gregg Leighton, owner

Leighton, who'd been involved in bodybuilding for 30 years, was tired of the same old protein bars and shakes, which, he said, "are mostly chemicals now."

Most everybody eats bread, he reasoned. And a lot of the bread they consume has little or no nutritional value. A high-protein bread seemed, he thought, "the way to go."

Leighton consulted with business partner Carlos Pereira, a master baker. And ProBread was born.

What's different about it is that it has 17 grams of protein per slice -- as opposed to 7 or 8 grams for conventional bread.

It also comes in at 230 calories per slice, which may seem like a lot considering that an equivalent volume of an average bread contains about 170 calories.

"The reason our bread is high in calories is that it's a very thick, dense bread," Leighton said. It's all-natural, he added, and made with eight grains and three seeds. With such a high amount of protein, it's tantamount to a meal replacement, he said, and with 24 grams of carbohydrate, 17 grams of protein and 7 grams of total fat, it's close to the 3-2-1 ratio recommended by many medical professionals.

So far, Leighton said, athletes represent only 5 percent of the ProBread market.

"We are targeting the fitness industry, but that's a relatively small percentage," he said. "We want kids to eat it; we want older people to eat it." He also sees ProBread's potential for feeding disaster victims, because it's a protein source that stores well.

"We have a diverse area of people that we're looking at," Leighton said. "It's a given that people in the fitness business would want to eat it. Others need as much protein as the fitness-industry people do; they're the ones who aren't getting it."

ProBread is baked in Las Vegas by Pereira's Bon Breads. It sells for $9.79 for a 30-ounce loaf and is available at Freddy's Nutrition at 9701 W. Flamingo Road and 7985 W. Sahara Ave. and at www.ProBreadLasVegas.com.

Southwest Barbaque Sauce

Bryan Stanford, owner

Stanford's story reflects that of many Las Vegans. A native of Ohio, he moved to the valley in 1986, after getting out of the Marines, and immediately found a job. He worked his way up in the company, eventually becoming a sales manager making $160,000 a year. And then the company was sold.

Stanford has been cooking all of his life, and his wife, Diana, told him he had a great barbecue sauce. She worked for a hotel, so he bottled some up in Mason jars and gave it away.

"They just loved it, so my test market was successful," Stanford said.

He was, he decided, in business. But first he had to find a packer and processor, and that turned out to be a lot more difficult than knowing that he had a winning recipe. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to work with a startup company. He eventually found Da'Kine Foods in Newport Beach, Calif. Together they produced 200 cases of regular and 200 cases of hot and spicy, 12 bottles to a case. And Stanford went to work selling it.

He was at the Harvest Festival, a craft festival, National Finals Rodeo and the Professional Bull Riders event. And he saw the flaw in his competitors' marketing plans.

"A lot of people have pretzels," Stanford said. "You don't go to your wife, 'Hey, honey, we're having dinner; get the pretzels out.' " Stanford smoked pork shoulder for 12 to 13 hours and served it, with his sauce, in a couple of commercial chafing pans.

"I had people six rows deep," he said. "I do a lot of demos. That's what gets people in."

Finding response in the industry, though, has been more difficult.

"I'm getting more from California than I am from here," he noted.

The sauce is available at a farmers'ttt market in Los Angeles and at Tom's Farms in Temecula, Calif. He's also on YouTube and Facebook.

"I've got a lot of followers, all in California," Stanford said.

In the valley, the sauce is available at Branded Meats & Deli at 1550 Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson, and at www.southwestbarbaquesauces.com. It sells for $7 for a 15-ounce bottle at shows, $6 online. And he'll deliver online orders.

"I'll take one to your house," he said.

"It's a very slow process, but we're making headway," Stanford added. "I'm starting to make friends."

He has a new partner who wants to do a food truck.

"We'll eventually get there," Stanford said.

Choffy

Jason Vanderhoven, inventor and co-founder

Choffy was literally created because of a dream Vanderhoven had. In the dream, he was back in Brazil -- where he had done a mission for his church -- and was served a hot, cocoa-based brewed beverage.

"I realized that this was a product I had produced," he said. "It had finally made it to Brazil and was helping people all over the world to be healthy. At that point, I woke up."

And he thought: "That was the stupidest thing I had ever heard of. Who in their right mind would take a cocoa bean and try to treat it like a coffee bean?"

But he couldn't get back to sleep. He started doing research and started experimenting with cocoa beans in his kitchen. He wasn't impressed with early results, not realizing that because he didn't drink coffee, "I'd never tasted anything that wasn't sweet that was hot."

His father-in-law was visiting at the time and one morning came in to find Vanderhoven experimenting in the kitchen.

"I thought it would be funny to play a joke on him: 'Dad, here, I made you something.' "

His father-in-law's reaction: "Oh, this isn't bad. What is it? Is it coffee? Is it hot chocolate?"

"It's Choffy, Dad."

He and his father-in-law worked on developing the product, first in their kitchen and then, when his wife got tired of the smoke from the roasting, out in the backyard.

"We realized very quickly that this had some potential," Vanderhoven said.

He talked to his friend Jason Sherwood, who lived in Portland, Ore., and they decided to become business partners. They couldn't find a local roaster who was interested, so Choffy is produced in Vancouver, Wash. It's roasted in small batches and packed by hand.

"We want to make sure your customers get the best-quality product they could possibly get," Vanderhoven said. "This product has a special place in my heart."

It's sold via direct-sales representatives and at www.DrinkChoffy.com and sells for $15 for 12-ounce bags produced with cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast or Dominican Republic, $20 for those from Papua New Guinea. Two- and five-pound bags of Ivory Coast Choffy also are available.

"We're finding great acceptance in the marketplace right now," Vanderhoven said. "We're growing at a great pace."

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@review journal.com or 702-383-0474.

 

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