The signs are encouraging, but early next year is when Trina Khadoo will really find out whether spinach balls can fly.
The spinach ball is simplicity itself: Combine spinach, bread crumbs, spices and herbs in a sphere about the size of a golf ball. Fill it with cheese or cheese and bacon, or omit the stuffing entirely. Bake, then delight diners, even those who think they don't like spinach.
“There is a great amount of healthy products out there, but they just don't taste good,” she said. “This is user-friendly spinach – it gets people to eat more
Early next year – probably in January – these small, green appetizers will get an unbeatable shot of publicity: a pitch on QVC, the cable shopping channel. Through the holidays, Trina, her husband, Ramesh; and assorted helpers will be busy producing 114,000 spinach balls available for viewers.
Spinach balls worked well on a small scale in the Herb Garden, the restaurant in Fremont she ran with her mother for years, beginning in 1994. But she left the restaurant in 2001 to become a paralegal, working for county prosecutors, first in Steuben County, later in Allen County. Spinach balls receded to a treat she made for family or co-workers once in a while.
About three or four years ago, Khadoo said, she started thinking that spinach balls had potential as a business. She and her husband, Ramesh, started branching out and taking soundings among a broader audience, selling them at farmers markets and promoting them to individual shop owners.
“The best thing about farmers markets is that you don't need to go through all the red tape with a commercial kitchen. You could do it out of your house."
The reception she received encouraged them enough to stake more of their resources on the venture. She's at it full time now, with part-time help from her husband, who makes deliveries to some of the stores that now stock spinach balls. At their first trade show last summer in Washington, D.C., their “virtually unknown” product caught the attention of a QVC buyer.
They're still settling into the next phase of the growing business – 1,800 square feet they're leasing in what was once the cafeteria kitchen of the former Kitty Hawk Aircargo at Fort Wayne International Airport. Now it's called the Air Trade Center.
Theirs is only a fledgling market now, selling about 3,000 to 5,000 spinach balls a week. But with a new machine that can make 100 spinach balls a minute, they've got the most important and specialized equipment they need to meet greater demand, say, the kind of demand that selling well on QVC could create. She realizes that building a treat on a foundation that's as divisive as spinach will take persistence and marketing.
“To get these in people's mouths (for the first time), it's going to take some time. That's why QVC is so important to us,” she said.