Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

September 28, 2021

From honey to hot sauce, local food producers pitch for bigger share

PHOTOS | Liese Klein Tiffany Leong displays her superfood teas, made with traditional Chinese ingredients.

With shoppers walking by clutching their bags and iced lattes, Ian Knisely started his pitch. 

“I’m Ian, I’m the owner and managing director of East Rock Apiary, we’re a small backyard beekeeping operation over here on Everit Street,” Knisely said. His family’s hobby turned into a honey and beeswax business after he graduated from college. 

“I came home and I had no work, no job, I was looking for something to do,” Knisely said. “From there we started a business and it has grown slowly and organically from there… That's pretty much it. We're trying to get into stores and expand our distribution.”

Knisely’s spiel, one of a dozen delivered by food entrepreneurs from across the state, was part of the latest CT Food Launchpad Pitch Night held at Atticus Market on Orange Street in New Haven on Monday.

At times personal, at times political, at times skillfully crafted, the pitches told the stories of entrepreneurs seeking to bring their passions to the plate. 

The primary audience wasn’t the several dozen onlookers and dog-walkers clustered in front of the market — it was visitors like the buyer from Big Y who stood by a display of jams and preserves.

“The pitch is kind of communicating to the wholesale buyers,” said Reed Immer, director of sales and marketing for Chabaso Bakery. Chabaso runs both Atticus Market and organized the CT Food Launchpad event. “We’d love to be building that network, whether it’s smaller independent grocers or whether it’s restaurant chefs who use savory sauces in their dishes or local honey that they can promote on their own menus,” Immer said. 

Ian Knisely, right, gives his pitch outside of Atticus Market with Reed Immer, at left.

One of the savory sauces in question was a line of West African condiments crafted by Kwame Asare and marketed under the name O Shito! Asare enjoyed a similar sauce in Ghana while visiting with his immigrant father and decided to introduce it to the U.S.

“The unfortunate thing about a lot of West African cuisine is that it's not well known in the Western World," Asare said in his pitch. “We have amazing taste profiles.”

Fiery Scotch bonnet peppers star in his O Shito! sauces, mellowed by ingredients like ginger, onion and curry powder. Asare has sold 1,300 units of his products so far at farmers markets and shipped to 40 states via his online store. 

“The plan is to be present at big-box wholesalers and wholesale online around the world, and be the premier brand for West Africa,” Asare said. 

Kwame Asare discusses his O Shito! West African hot sauce with a potential customer.

Tiffany Leong told another compelling immigrant story that inspired her line of drinks, which feature Asian superfoods like jujube and hawthorn. She started her pitch with a personal story of treating her own health issues with the traditional Chinese remedies she grew up with. 

“We’re basically trying to take the herbs and fruits within traditional Chinese medicine and make it more popular like other superfoods,” Leong said of her line, Bo-yi superfood tea. Barely sweet with a pleasantly bitter aftertaste, the Jujube tea delivered on its promise of “relaxation.”

“They're really good and really good for you,” Leong said of her teas. “Our goal is to be the number one premier East Asian superfood company in the country.”

Immer said another CT Food Launchpad Pitch Night is planned for January, with a focus on attracting a new crop of entrepreneurs. 

“This kind of serves as a stepping stone,” Immer said. “We’re trying to get more emerging food startups to apply and become part of it.”

Contact Liese Klein at

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF