PARAMUS, N.J. — Calling all foodie entrepreneurs! Do you have an off-the-charts food product you’d like to pitch to Stew Leonard’s to get on their shelves this summer?
Stew Leonard’s in Paramus is seeking video applications until Sunday, March 15 from residents all around New Jersey in which they describe their hot product for a chance to be selected to participate next month in a special program at the Paramus grocery store called “Stew’s Tank.” Loosely based on the hit show “Shark Tank,” the lucky applicants will go on to pitch their idea in April before a panel of judges at the Paramus store who will help decide (with customer feedback) which item will be the next “hot product” to be sold in all the upscale grocery chain’s seven stores in the tri-state area.
Judges will include Stew Leonard, Jr., president and CEO of Stew Leonard’s; Jake Tavello, president of the Paramus store; Andrew Colton, chief marketing officer; Joe Gorsky, the grocery manager of the Paramus store; and head buyer Rick Baker.
Tavello says Stew Leonard’s prides itself on a select 3,000 items in their stores; the winning products must be nothing short of top-notch and have a great story behind it to earn a place on their shelves.
Last year, when the competition was held in their Long Island store, the winners ranged from a tasty meatball recipe to a zesty hot sauce, and a protein-packed coffee drink. After being introduced to the grocery stores last summer, the products netted a whopping $500,000 in sales, Tavello said.
“We hope as a family business, we can help other family businesses that have a product at the ground level that we can grow and give a platform to, and to take it to the next level,” he said.
One such product was the now-famous Newman’s Salad Dressing, which Stew Leonard’s first featured in their stores in 1982, followed by Bear Naked Granola.
“This is something that he really loves,” says Tavello of Stew Leonard, Jr. “He loves promoting products when the product has a good story.”
While there is no theme to the contest, judges are looking for wholesome recipes based on ingredients for which the Garden State is best known: fresh produce!
“I’m hoping that it’s something that aligns with what we love, which is fresh products,” says Tavello. “Produce is our biggest department of the store. Fresh is what we’re all about. We have about 30,000 customers, and I’d love for them to have a product they walk by and taste and love, and get to meet the owners, and it’s something they want to come to Stew Leonard’s to get.”
He continued, “Our goal is when customers come through here to make it a treasure hunt to find unique items they either didn’t expect to find, or something they haven’t seen anywhere else. We’re looking for the next treasure in New Jersey that represents New Jersey, and something that works in all seven stores.”
After the April presentations, the winners will be selected in May and the hot new products are set to hit store shelves at the start of the summer. Go to stewleonards.com and tap the Stew’s Tank widget to apply.