Updated Sat, Aug 11, 2012 6:52 am
"Athens is the artisan food capital of Ohio."
So says Jonathan Leal, an artisan - or specialty - food producer himself.
WOUB News talked with Leal recently at his booth at a wine festival in the Cleveland area, and asked him why Athens County is home to not only his company but several others.
"I don't know why it's happened but I think part of it might just be that the more there is the more there becomes," he says. "It's self encouraging. It's astonishing how much Athens is known for food."
Leal is the owner of Vino De Milo, which prides itself on local sourcing.
It doesn't get any more local than Shagbark Seed and Mill Company of Athens and Jackie O's Pub and Brewery of Athens.
Vino De Milo started production in 2003.
It was a small operation then and remains small but is getting bigger.
He says, "Now we're up to five or six. We've had quite a lot of growth over time."
Leal says with the recent expansion into BBQ sauces and salsas, the number of products is approaching 40.
He says, "We saw a need in the private label world. The more products we have the stronger our sales potential becomes. Next we're coming out with some enchilada sauces."
Also new for Vino De Milo - a couple of private label products.
"Private label has been a really big growth area for us," says Leal.
Leal says production is now up to about 250,000 units a year.
"This year things have really started to come back," he says, "and we're looking for 20-30% sales growth this year."