CLEVELAND, Ohio – Sales of marketed products from breweries and restaurants have seen varied success as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
Since manufacturing was allowed to continue during coronavirus restrictions, breweries and restaurants could keep making and selling products either through takeout or retail options. That means breweries kept rolling out their bottles and cans and restaurants continued marketing side products.
Those side-gig sales have experienced varying results.
Zack Bruell is known for his fine-dining restaurants throughout Cleveland, but he also markets coffee, olive oil, vinegar and marinara sauce.
“It’s been moving off the shelves. It’s really moving because people are cooking more at home,” he said. “People aren’t going out.”
The products provide what Bruell calls “passive income.”
Jeremy Umansky of Larder Delicatessen and Bakery makes and sells an assortment of products to enhance various dishes. His eatery is not open for dine-in service, but it is open for takeout – and that includes his array of products that are available solely in his Hingetown location. Sales are doing well, he said.
“We saw a big increase, oh yeah,” he said Thursday. “In fact yesterday I bottled a ton more. Our shelves have been wiped out for well over a week.”
Among the biggest sellers is his pastrami essence. While it might sound like a “Saturday Night Live” fake-commercial product, it adds a flavorful zest, similar to Worcestershire sauce from pastrami liquid. His vinegars and misos from rye bread also are doing well, Umansky said.
“We produce them here, and the way we pack and bottle are within what we’re allowed to do for restaurant or deli guidelines,” he said. “We’re not set up for commercial distribution.”
Umansky is well-equipped to produce these umami-flavored products: He wrote the recently released book “Koji Alchemy,” which focuses on the culinary science of the unique mold that forms the umami backbone of soy sauce, miso and other flavors.
Related coverage: ‘Koji Alchemy’ from Jeremy Umansky of Larder due soon
For years, Great Lakes Brewing Co. has maintained a gift shop adjacent to its brewpub in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.
And while beer sales remain “brisk,” CEO Mark King said, slow foot traffic during the restaurant shutdown hindered sales a bit for some items.
The brewery’s “co-branded products” include Bertman Original Mustard made with the brewery’s flagship Dortmunder Gold. It came out in 2015. A year later, the brewery launched barbecue sauces made with Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Dortmunder Gold.
Bac Nguyen of Ninja City came out with Ginger Ketchup not long before coronavirus restrictions were put in place.
“We were gaining some pretty good momentum, getting into retail stores, then the pandemic happened and it brought outside sales to a standstill,” he said. “Plus a lot of retailers are not adding new products. We’re definitely still selling it at the restaurant. We’re into about three dozen stores.”
Wasabi mustard, a companion product, is in the works, he added.
“We’re trying to grow that side of the business, but the pandemic really threw a wrench into that.”