One of the defining points of outdoor specialty retail is that it is where customers can go to discover what’s truly new. Local shop owners are the ones who often take the risk to bring in a small, start-up brand, differentiating themselves from the big boys. In this reoccurring series, SNEWS will identify and highlight the new kids on the outdoor block vying for a place on those shelves.
Here’s an alternative to Ramen, PB&J or dehydrated foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce while on the trail.
Co-founded by award-winning chef and sommelier Jennifer Scism, Good To-Go is a new outdoor food company offering lightweight gourmet meals made with natural ingredients for the backcountry.
Scism, the long-time co-owner of a nationally recognized restaurant, Annisa, in New York City, has long been focused on good food. A graduate of Manhattan’s The French Culinary School, she cooked at several four-star restaurants, traveled to more than 20 countries studying regional foods, and, with her team from Annisa, out-cooked Iron Chef Mario Batali for the first time ever on the Food Network’s Iron Chef program.
But with a hankering for the outdoors, Scism moved in 2010 to the southern coast of Maine, where she met husband and business partner, David Koorits. The two quickly renovated a house in Kittery, incorporating a commercial kitchen, and opened Cape House Catering. She’s now combined her love of backpacking and other outdoor adventures with her culinary background to establish Good To-Go.
“Having focused most of my career on food, when I started getting more into extended backcountry trips, I gave a lot of attention to the meals I was eating,” she said. “Then we planned a seven-day backcountry trip in the Adirondacks and I was in charge of the food. After trying different packaged options, including a curry whose main ingredient was cheddar cheese, I knew there had to be a better way to eat on the trail. I couldn’t find something that I enjoyed eating and that wasn’t overloaded with salt and other preservatives. So I started making some of my favorite dishes and dehydrating them in my countertop dehydrator.”
After some trial and error, Scism said, she came up with a winning formula. Good To-Go is launching with three lightweight, dehydrated gourmet meals -- Smoked Three Bean Chili, Herbed Mushroom Risotto and Thai Curry – all made with natural ingredients, and no preservatives or additives. Product offerings are expected to expand to offer even more options.
“With the rise in the local food movement and all the research about how to eat well for peak performance, I think backcountry athletes are ready to change the way they eat on the trail,” she said. “You don’t need to eat over-salted, rubbery, freeze-dried food when you’re outside. Our mission is to create real food for real adventures. Each meal reconstitutes with the texture, flavor and taste they had when they first came off my stove.”
So far, the approach is gaining a following. Concentrating on penetrating the East Coast market first, Good To-Go meals can be found in such specialty stores as EMS, Outdoor Gear Exchange, Hilton’s Tent City, Kittery Trading Post, Cadillac Mountian Sports and the AMC. In just three months, the three-employee company has amassed 23 retailers in seven states.
“Response has been phenomenal. Scism said. “Once we prepare a meal for the buyer to taste, they’re sold.”
As far as entering what many might consider an already-crowded market, she’s not worried. Specialty retailers, she said, are a great fit because of the company’s unique brand story rooted in food and the outdoors.
“There’s room because we’re offering something healthier and tastier,” she said. “There’s a big focus on the gear we use on our trips, but it doesn’t seem that way with food. We want people to know that you can eat great tasting food in the backcountry.”
Does Good To-Go have what it takes to make it in your specialty outdoor retail store? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page. Or, email us about another newcomer to the outdoors we should feature here.