Pacific Pickle Works began as a hobby for Bradley Bennett, who made pickled treats to give to close friends every holiday season.
“I was improving and perfecting the recipe every year,” explains Bennett, whose list of recipients grew quite large after about four years. “We decided we either have to brand this and sell them, or stop doing it completely.”
So Pacific Pickle Works was born in 2010, and C’est Cheese on Santa Barbara Street became his first customer that next year. The company steadily expanded since. “Then it became eight stores and then 10, and 10 became 20, then 40,” said Bennett. “Then we got into one Whole Foods, then three, then 15.” Today, they are in most of the West Coast’s Whole Foods as well as in Jimbo’s, Bristol Farms, and Gelson’s in Southern California and Lucky’s, Save Mart, and more in Northern California.
As the company expanded, Bennett realized they would need their own space. In 2015, he opened a facility on Union Street, just east of downtown Santa Barbara, near the Marborg facility and 101. There, Bennett manages a small staff that pickles, packages, labels, and ships his creations to locations around the world. The space is also rented out to other food production businesses, but less so now. “When we started, there were a lot of different makers here sharing the space with us,” he explained. “We’ve sort of taken over more and more as time goes on, so we don’t have as many people renting the space now.”
Although Pacific Pickle Works has had great success in retail, the grocery business is a tough one, and not really designed to support small brands such as Pacific Pickle Works. “At the end of the day, it’s nearly impossible for a small company to make a profit in the grocery segment,” explained Bennett. “It’s just a means to an end to get your name and brand out there while pursuing other means to try to make your business profitable.”
So Bennett is shifting his focus to sell his products at resorts, restaurants, and breweries, believing that his pickles are well-suited for the restaurant business, a high-quality, handmade alternative to the typical mass-produced options.
Here are three of his most popular items.
Asparagusto! Asparagusto! is Pacific Pickle Works’ most famous product. Although Bennett never expected pickled asparagus to be his best-selling product, he admires how the flavor profile of the asparagus goes well with the spices and flavors added in the pickling process. Since Pacific Pickle Works bottles its produce the day after receiving it, the asparagus maintains its crispy snap. Asparagusto! is the perfect Bloody Mary garnish or a welcomed addition to a charcuterie board.
Carriots of Fire: Catching up to Asparagusto! as Pacific Pickle Works’ second best-selling pickled veggie are its Carriots of Fire. “I’ll give most of the credit of the quality of the carrots to the farmers who grow those,” said Bennett of the farmers at Sunrise, Givens, and Roots farms. “We are able to package them when they’re so fresh because they’re grown locally And the quality of the carrot we use — it’s called a Sweet Nantes — is a really juicy, crunchy, and sweet carrot.”
Bloody Mary Elixir: Pacific Pickle Works’ most popular drink mix is its Bloody Mary Elixir, which has won its fair share of awards. “We make our own Worcestershire sauce from scratch — that’s at the base of it. I think we’re the only ones in the industry that do that. Everyone else uses pre-made from some other manufacturer. We deconstructed it and made our own recipe.” The Bloody Mary Elixir is easy to alter by adding more hot sauce to add more kick. It’s also very versatile. “Our base allows for that because it’s just the seasoning mix, so people add their own tomato juice to it,” he said. “It works out really well for restaurants.”