1) When, how and why was Obis One started?
Black garlic actually found us. Pat is a serial foodie and always experimenting. In 2010, we planted 10,000 organic garlic on our 1670’s historic farm in Pennsville, NJ. What if? . . . experiments soon followed and we started aging them. We detected a huge change in color, texture and flavor over time. We always share with others, it started to get traction in Philadelphia, PA and Wilmington, DE., and grew from there. After many refinements of our proprietary process without additives, we got better at it. We re-invested our seed stock which grew over time to over 250,000. Since I think almost everything has been done before, research ensued and here’s what I think happened; 300-400 years ago, I believe Korean people buried some of their garlic crop in earthen vessels around community fires as an attempt to preserve their harvest. Remember, garlic was their medicine (for good reason).
2) What is the most interesting thing you have learned about black garlic?
Undoubtedly, the scientific data and increase in antioxidants (over 2x) and it’s stability is just amazing. Our peeled cloves have the shortest shelf life of any of our products at 3 years, mainly because we package them in convenient plastic deli containers for consumers. Black Crack® and others have a shelf life approaching infinite. It’s simply hard to fathom.
3) What are the biggest challenges or hurdles you face?
Education and re-education of chefs and consumers is a biggie. Sure, there are other sources for black garlic, but we’re proud to be certified USDA organic. No Chinese garlic for us or our customers- period. To learn more, you might care to watch the garlic documentary on Netflix called ROTTEN. There appears to be a lot of commodity games associated with garlic, and we don’t play that way. Our overarching goal has always been to figure out a way to get organic black garlic into the hands of those who could best benefit from its health properties- the disadvantaged. We’ve haven’t figured that out yet, but hope to do maybe a little more than our share to promote human health and flavor.
4) How do you balance sustainability with profitability?
Sustainability is always first and it is our hope that profitability will follow the good word in the form of growth. We’re into building longtermrelationship partners with our customers. In fact, we don’t do the sales thing particularly well. Case in point, I’ve yet to take a nickel out of the business for good reason: it’s too important to do the right thing everyday without having money as a driving force for the business. It might happen or might not, but quality artisan organic black garlic comes first.
5) Excluding your own, what’s another natural food product(s) or brand that you always have at home and why?
Interestingly, we also have an “Experimental Kitchen” at Hokie Mountain Farms in, of course, BLACKsburg, Virginia. Six days a week, a minimum of 3 hours per day is spent experimenting and testing “what’s next”. Know that about 80% of what we work on isn’t successful, but that’s kind of the point. Perhaps odd, but we’re not “brand” people- we’re ingredient people. The reason is that we cherish fresh, local and hand made almost everything, but it’s equally important to explore the World to find the best, newest, oldest and finest. Price always takes a back seat to quality.