Delta Ridge expanding reach of spice line

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Wilson “Ab” McCullough and Carey File sell containers of Delta Ridge spices and BBQ sauces to Sherry Goins at Batesville’s Square Market. (Allen Brewer)

By Allen Brewer

Soon, citizens of Batesville and Oxford will be able to buy Delta Ridge spice rubs at their local grocery stores.

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The new commercial line of spices includes Everything Everyday,  Data Dust BBQ Rub, and the Full Bull Triple Rubs. Each spice mix has a specific favor customized for seasoning specific types of foods such as burgers or chicken.

Carey and Melissa File,  owners of Delta Ridge, signed an agreement with a co-packer in Arkansas to produce their signature brand of meat rubs. With the help of a distributor, the spices will be shipped to large stores such as Krogers around North Mississippi around the end of August.

“It is unexpected,” Carey said. “I never would have thought it would go so fast.”

The Files have been producing BBQ sauce from their home in Batesville for just over a year ago. Their signature blend of flavors was inspired by Melissa’s Arkansas family recipe.

Carey said that part of the inspiration behind the brand’s name came from Melissa’s grandfather’s last name, which was Ridge. Since many people consider Panola County on the edge of the Mississippi Delta, the couple decided to combine those terms to create their brand, Delta Ridge.

“We have been trying to keep everything between Arkansas and Mississippi,” Carey said.

When the couple decided to start packaging the sauce, they began selling it at farmers markets in Batesville and Oxford. Some of their products were also sold in small local goods stores, such as E.C. Moore General Store.

As a cottage food producer, all of the sauces and later spice mixes had to be made in their home kitchen. This impacted the number of products they could create and distribute.

“I can create about five gallons in an hour,” Carey said. “In a commercial business, I could create 50 gallons in an hour.”

While the couple began looking for ways to commercialize their business, they were contacted by the University of Mississippi professor Chris Sparks about becoming the subject of the fall 2019 capstone project.

This is a project that all Integrated Marketing Communication majors have to participate in before graduating from the program.

“Community partners like Carey and Melissa File are so valuable to the educational experience in the IMC program at Ole Miss,” Sparks said.

During that semester, the class was divided into five groups of five to create marketing campaigns for Delta Ridge. Carey said that he took a few of their best ideas to incorporate into the packaging labels, which is what customers see first when they see the product.

“While they were students, they took a lot of pride in their work,” Carey said. “The experience was amazing.”

After a long period of package adjustment making sure everything was just right, the spices were finally ready to be pushed for distribution. While the seasoning mix will be available this month, the Files are still in the process of planning for commercializing their sauces.

Carey said that he is hoping to contract a Mississippi based co-packer later this summer. Their goal, however, is to find a way to commercially produce their goods in Batesville.

“We want to use an (business) incubator to create a commercial kitchen to be able to do it ourselves and not have to go to a co-packer,” Carey said.

The Files have been working with the Panola Partnership to find such a space to use as a commercial kitchen. This building would allow them to make mass quantities of their sauces and spices outside of their home and meet legal standards.

According to Panola Partnership Executive Director Joe Azar, there is not an available space for a commercial kitchen in Batesville as of yet. He said that as more small start-up businesses open in the area with a need for a commercial kitchen, the Panola Partnership will try to secure a location.

“There is no limit, within the range of our abilities, to help our members,” Azar said. “We are able to assist our members in such a wide variety of levels.”

While it may still take some time before Delta Ridge products are commercially made in Panola, one can still enjoy the product at their local farmers market and eventually in the supermarket.

Cutline: Wilson “Ab” McCullough and Carey File sell containers of Delta Ridge spices and BBQ sauces to Sherry Goins at Batesville’s Square Market. (Allen Brewer)