PASCAGOULA — Cooking herbs come in small packets that, considering the volume, are relatively expensive. That’s true especially with herb blends that are primarily salt, which is dirt cheap.
That’s why the spice blends sold by Elaine Wolney are a double bargain. The spice packets are a good value because they contain no salt, MSG or preservatives. And they are healthful for the same reason.
Wolney started young in life with a love for cooking with herbs.
“As a mother of young children, I found it easier to have a spice blend to make my cooking simpler,” said Wolney, who does business as Elaine’s Spice Pantry. “I could take poultry, fish, or beef, just sprinkle herbs on them, and have a simple but healthful meal without all those additives.”
Wolney started out making the spice blends for her family, and then started giving them to friends and relatives as gifts. Everyone liked the spice blends, so she decided to market them.
“There is a need for the salt-free blends,” said Wolney. “Over the years there has been a trend towards more salt-free cooking because of high blood pressure and other health problems. So I accent the salt-free part of them. But they are good for everybody. They are convenient for anyone who likes fresh cooked food, and doesn’t have time to dig out a recipe and follow a complex recipe for a meal. It can be done simply and easily by sprinkling on some herb blends, or substituting the herb blends in your favorite recipe.”
Wolney was living in California when she started marketing her herbs 10 years ago. She sold 38 different blends, which turned out to be too much to manage. When she moved to Las Vegas, the business went into dormancy.
Wolney and her husband now operate a dental laboratory in Pascagoula. Wolney, encouraged by her family, decided to start up the spice business again recently.
“My family got after me and said, ‘You need to do something that you like to do,” she said. “I decided to restart the business, but pare the business down to 10 blends, the blends I’ve found I use the most. But they cover a pretty wide spectrum. You can cook just about anything, and find a blend that will work well with it.”
The blends include Alamo Chili Seasoning, Bayou Cajun, Country Farm Pork and Poultry, Fiesta Mexican, Finger-Likin’-Good Rib Rub, Jamaican Jerk, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fish, Rancher’s Favorite Beef, Rancho Grill and Seafood Delight. All are salt and additive free.
Wolney said even if you aren’t on a salt-free diet, it doesn’t hurt to watch salt intake.
“I’m not on a salt-free diet, but I find that I don’t need to add a lot of salt to my cooking,” she said. “And people who have tried it say that you really don’t need salt. It really does help them stay on salt-free diets. It is also good for weight loss diets. I’ve already had a diet clinic approach me because their diets are so restricted. Dieters like herbs because they add no calories, but do add flavor. So it helps them to stay on their weight-loss diet.”
Wolney has done a presentation to a diet clinic’s patients, and plans more such presentations as part of her marketing plan. She also markets her herbs by providing free samples at the Farmer’s Market in Pascagoula on Saturdays.
From her experience marketing spices in California, Wolney learned that it didn’t work well to give away free samples of the spice blends. She’d ask people later if they like it, and they’d say they had put them away in a drawer and forgotten about them.
“I thought everyone would jump on it,” she said. “I didn’t realize I would have to get out there and get in people’s face to get them to try it. I have given away many, many samples. Every sample costs more than just ingredients when you consider your time and other factors. And you don’t get that many people who will actually buy.”
So she found that, instead of giving up the spice blends, she does better by providing samples of food cooked with the spice blends. She gives away samples of sauteed vegetables or meats. Once people try it, they are more likely to buy some of the packets, which sell for $2.50 a piece.
“Once people try it, they tell friends and I get a lot of business by word of mouth,” Wolney said.
Besides selling at the Farmer’s Market, Wolney also sells out of their dental office at 1316 Live Oak Ave. The blends can be ordered by mail by calling (228) 769-7518. She does the spice business in addition to her full-time job at the dental laboratory, but hopes one day to make Elaine’s Spice Pantry her full-time business.
“It’s my passion,” she says.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.