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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Building business 1 batch at a time

 •  All the goodness of 'ohana

By Frances Stead Sellers
Washington Post

As a boy, Guy Tullberg watched his father reach into a black bin on the kitchen floor and stir its aromatic contents with his hand.

That hand has been replaced by paddles, the kitchen bin by a row of gleaming stainless-steel kettles, and the whole-grain mustard is now just one of an expanding range of so-called tracklements, or traditional accompaniments for food.

But the philosophy that Tullberg, 45, inherited from his father remains the same. And the word he uses to sum it up is "batch."

At its small factory outside the apricot-limestone town of Sherston in Wiltshire, England, the Tracklements company now churns out 50 mustards, relishes, chutneys, vinaigrettes and jellies, all made in small quantities. And that process, Tullberg says, is key not only to retaining the products' homemade taste but also to sustaining the relationships he has cultivated with retailers at delicatessens and farm shops across England, and more recently in the United States.

"They trust us," he says, and they pass on honest opinions about the merits (and failings) of his products.

He, in turn, abides by the principle he says his father set down: "Never let the machines dominate."

There is nothing the least bit high-tech about the uses Tracklements suggests for its products: as a dollop of mustard, cranberry jelly or mint sauce served alongside a roast; as a glaze for new potatoes; in marinades and sauces; or mixed with mayonnaise for a sandwich spread.

Taking advantage of the popularity of local sourcing, Tullberg emphasizes the importance of first local and regional and then national and international ingredients.

Although the company uses a lot of sugar that comes largely from Mauritius, it is able to draw on produce from one of England's most famous organic farms: The Prince of Wales's Highgrove estate a few miles away provides the fresh herbs Tullberg uses in the Organic Rosemary Jelly.

Tracklements still makes whole-grain mustard based on a recipe that Tullberg's father originally found in the pages of 17th-century English diarist John Evelyn; the company's bestseller is its onion marmalade (good on bangers and mash, or with cheese). But the batch philosophy allows for adaptability, and Tullberg says he enjoys launching new lines, including a recent courgette ("Zucchini to you," he says) relish.

The retailers "will let us know if it's rubbish," he adds cheerfully.

And he'll listen. With the factory now producing more than 3 million jars a year and preparing to increase its U.S. sales, the challenge Tullberg faces is to learn how to build his business one batch at a time.

Prices range from about $4 to $7.50; a limited range of Tracklements is available from some specialty stores such as Whole Foods Markets and online from Lobel's of New York (www.lobels.com).