The creative enterprise known as Key West Gourmet Foods was founded in 1997 by George Gelakis.
While operating a successful seafood restaurant in Key West, Florida, Gelakis
became aware of a potentially rewarding business opportunity.Throughout the year, thousands of tourists would visit his
restaurant in Key West
, and many would ask to have their Thermos® or Tupperware® filled with Conch Chowder to take back with them.Originally a Bahamian delicacy, Conch was a principal meat diet of the early English settlers in Key West
, and Conch Chowder had become a popular local specialty.
A self-taught chef with a great passion for authentic cuisine, Gelakis
identified that his
patrons were hungry for unique menu ideas to enjoy at home.
Using customer feedback aided by specially designed in-house questionnaires, Gelakis
refined this regional delicacy until deciding to leave the restaurant business in 1995, determined to build a company that would create a new brand of premium food products for discriminating consumers.
With little manufacturing expertise and lots of entrepreneurial spirit, Gelakis
spent the next few years consulting with industry experts, developing new product formulations, and conducting numerous tests involving many different packaging formats and production techniques.Conch Chowder proved particularly challenging to manufacture and would require a specialized method of production in order to retain the homemade quality devotees had become used to.
In 1997, Gelakis
proudly introduced his
first product to the marketplace, and a new brand was born: Key West Conch ChowderÔ.
Our World Begins At Your TableÔ
Their marketing program invited consumers to Discover Great ChowderÔ and Gelakis
could be seen regularly appearing at in-store product demonstrations and promotional events enthusiastically passing out chowder samples and chatting with customers.
Ultimately, however, the foil laminate pouch inhibited greater appeal because it was not microwavable.The public had voiced their desire for a more convenient method of preparation.
Armed with valuable comments from both consumers and retailers, Gelakis
commissioned the design of an attractive new microwavable package and re-introduced the Key West Gourmet Foods
product line by adding two new items in 2002.Key West Curried Shrimp ChowderÔ and Key West Crab ChowderÔ represent a logical extension for Key West Gourmet Foods, and a continuation of the same philosophy Gelakis began his culinary odyssey with.
"Americans love Caribbean cooking, and they especially love foods that are unique and flavorful" he