By Lorrie Baumann
Away out West where the sun sets over the ocean, Bradley Bennett is a pickle-packing pro. He’s the founder of Pacific Pickle Works, which is making a name for itself as a maker of some of the zippiest garnishes you can plunk into a cocktail.
Last year Pacific Pickle Works’ Jalabeaos won a Good Food Award, and this year, Brussizzle Sprouts won the Specialty Food Association’s sofi Award for the best appetizer and Asparagusto! won a Best of Show award from the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition. “That run of victories was kind of fun!” commented Bennett, Pacific Pickle Works’ Principal Pickle. Those are on top of awards for the company’s Bloody Mary Elixir from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Los Angeles International Spirits Competition and the SIP Awards, an international spirits competition in which consumers are enlisted to judge.
Bennett defines the Pacific Pickle Works product line as a West Coast take on pickles. “So much of the pickle tradition in the U.S. is an old East Coast, New York kind of a thing that came mostly from European immigrants who brought their tradition over,” he said. “We saw that as an opportunity to do something a little different.” The West Coast influence gave the Pacific Pickle Works products their Latin flavors inspired by the cuisine to be found in the local taquerias and Asian-inspired flavor fusions like Fenn Shui, for instance, which is a fennel root pickled in a rice vinegar blend spiced with citrus zest, ginger and Thai chili. The Asian-influenced ingredients make a nice complement to the fennel root, which doesn’t work with a traditional savory treatment, Bennett said. “We’re just sort of paying homage to those kinds of things – using chiles, keeping everything very fresh and crisp,” he added.
Pacific Pickle Works also relies heavily on southern California’s bounty of produce. Bennett buys much of his produce from local organic farmers the day after it’s picked, and then it’s in the jar soon afterwards. The speed of that transition from field to pickle jar produces a product with both extra crispness and fresh taste, he said.
Bennett’s been playing with combinations of local produce and spices for about a decade, making batches of pickles and handing them out as gifts to friends and family before he started selling them to a few local Santa Barbara retailers in 2011. The pickle packing continued to be a small side project for the next few years, but then more retailers started spotting his pickles on their competitors’ shelves and began coming to him. By late 2012, Bennett realized he had a full-time business on his hands and started looking for ways to increase his production with the construction of a new facility to take the place of the shared space in which he’d been working, trading his pickles for the use of a kitchen. He found an old warehouse and built a kitchen into it, leaving the rest of the space as storage for his pallets of jars and the product that’s waiting to be shipped. The new facility opened in September, 2015, and the increased capacity has meant that Bennett was able to team up with a distributor and expand the distribution of his products outside southern California. “We make everything here, by hand. No outsourcing, no copacking of anything,” Bennett said. “It has really changed things for us – allowing us to scale our business to these new demands.”
Retail prices for Pacific Pickle Works products range from $8.99 to $10.99 depending on variety. For more information, visit www.pacificpickleworks.com.