Orange County’s food scene is beginning to garner a bit of a reputation as Los Angeles’ southern neighbor comes out of its shadow. With high rents forcing chefs out of LA, the OC is benefiting from an influx of new talent. Unique, independent and chef-driven restaurants are joining the range of great Asian and Latin American food the area has long played host to. Orange County residents are revealing their sophisticated palettes as they begin to seek out different and interesting dishes, while the county’s numerous farmers markets supply a range of fresh produce to cook with and take home.
What’s happening in the food scene is also being mirrored in the startup world. With lower costs and a more relaxed pace of life startups are increasingly choosing to launch in the OC. Here’s a look at some of the companies who are getting entrepreneurial with food (and drink) in Orange County.
The Hood Kitchen http://thehoodkitchen.com
The Hood Kitchen offers affordable, commercial kitchen space that OC-based food startups can use by the hour. The space features six kitchens with state of the art appliances alongside a studio for cooking demonstrations, classes and private dining events. With few other options it’s a supportive incubator space for local food entrepreneurs.Funding: NA
Paleohacks is an online community for individuals interested in the Paleo lifestyle. Based on the so-called “caveman diet”, which cuts out grains and any other foods hunter-gatherers didn’t eat back in their day, the site covers organic food, fitness and recipes for the Paleo diet. In addition to articles and a blog, the site features a community driven Q&A section where members can ask questions about recipes, workouts, tips and tricks.
iPourit is a system that allows customers to pour their own beer and wine on-premise. The system gives customers the opportunity to try a range of different beers and wines, with each pour automatically added to their tab and charged by the ounce. In addition to increasing customer satisfaction, not to mention novelty, the system lowers operating costs by reducing the need for multiple servers and fitting a wide choice of drinks into a small space.
Funding: $4.14M in 3 Rounds from 1 Investor
Promax Nutrition http://www.promaxnutrition.com
Promax Nutrition produces high performance protein bars. The bars are free from “nasties” such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or trans fats, and are available in four different series including lower sugar and reduced carbs. Focusing on muscle growth, performance and recovery, the bars are designed to support workouts and sports. The company was purchased by a private equity firm in 2006.
Funding: Undisclosed Amount in 1 Round from 1 Investor
UniTerra produces a portable espresso machine called the Nomad. The machine makes high quality espresso available anywhere and requires only coffee and water to work. The size of a 15cm cube, the Nomad weighs 1.1kg and operates using a lever rather than electricity, batteries or cartridges to produce ecologically sound coffee. The Nomad was successfully funded via a Kickstarter campaign in 2013.
Funding: $127,493 via Kickstarter
I Like This Grape http://www.ilikethisgrape.com
I Like This Grape (ILTG) is a media company that is dedicated to celebrating wine and making it more accessible by creating digital content that pairs it with fashion, film, food and music. The startup publishes articles and videos that link wine with the arts. Articles about wine making in Cuba, suggested wine pairings for music videos and wine features are only a few of the unique ideas coming from ILTG.
Funding: Undisclosed Amount in 2 Rounds
Agave Underground http://www.agaveunderground.com
Agave Underground produces multi-award winning tequilas. The company has a range of tequilas, from classics like Reposado to a prickly pear infused offering. The startup was founded in 2009 and has won numerous awards, including best in class at the Spirits International Prestige (SIP) Awards competition. Agave Underground currently distributes to 26 US states, and is preparing to launch in Europe.
Funding: $150k in 1 RoundThe Laguna Salt Co. http://www.lagunasalt.com
The Laguna Salt Co. produces a range of delicious gourmet flavored salts. The company was founded in 2013 as a side project and now offers a range of infused salts including vanilla, roasted garlic, ghost pepper and kona bean. The salts can be used for just about everything, from jazzing up salads to creating fusion margaritas. The wasabi root salt sounds particularly interesting!
Diesel Brew http://dieselbrew.com
Diesel Brew makes cold brewed organic coffee. The coffee is brewed for 14 hours in special brewing tanks prior to being filtered twice. Available in glass and aluminium 12oz bottles, 640z growlers or 5 gallon kegs, there’s a serving to suit anyone’s cold brew needs. Unlike other cold brewed coffees, Diesel Brew is a great way to get a boost on the go without having to drink added sugar and is full of caffeine!
Pernicious Pickling Co. http://www.perniciouspickling.com
The Pernicious Pickling Co. produces a range of small batch, handmade pickles and other pickled vegetables. The startup offers a wide range of pickled products, from beets and cauliflowers to garlic dill and sour garlic pickles. Founded in 2013 by Southern Girl and a Brit, it has been featured in a range of food and wine publications, won a 2016 Good Food Award and was a finalist in the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.
Adventures in the Kitchen http://adventuresinthekitchen.com
Adventures in the Kitchen produces corporate team building events and private cooking parties. These corporate events help to enhance teamwork, camaraderie and collaboration. Other events such as bridal showers or cooking parties make a creative and refreshing focus point. Started by a former freelance food writer, the startup also offers private cooking lessons.