Unique Technology to Produce Gourmet Tomato Juice Developed Locally

Jim Hudson

Do you know of any local businesses that not only make profit for itself, but also helps other local businesses receive additional profit from their products? Well, we do! Meet Jim Hudson, owner of Luke's Premier Tomato Juice.

Hudson named his business after his grandson, Luke, who loves tomatoes. He first started canning tomatoes and making juice only for his grandson, then he started canning more and giving it away to his other family members, and everyone who tried it said it tastes like a real tomato. His family members encouraged him to start a business and sell his juice for profit. Out of pure curiosity, Jim conducted marketing research. He took his juice to total strangers to try and give him honest feedback, "Everyone who tried it said the juice was great and tastes like a fresh tomato. I had a 99.9% success rate. It gave me the confidence I needed to start the business."

Luke's pulp-free tomato juiceJim Hudson is an inventor; in creating the unique process of separating clear juice from the pulp to produce his juice, Hudson has no competitors in the whole country! Thus far, equipment has not been developed to simulate Hudson's entire process of juice making therefore he tests different types of equipment before he buys it to make sure he can utilize it in his operations in a non-standard way. The outcome is the clear tomato juice that tastes like a real tomato.

"The secret, says Jim, is in blending different types of tomatoes. Each tomato adds the unique flavor to the mix. It is very much like brewing wine." It took a full 6 years for Jim to invent and develop the whole production line, "But it was so much fun!" – adds the inventor.

Hudson was seeking financing opportunities to get his business off the ground and he was referred to MCE by two people: Dan Kuennen, director of the Rural Development Center at University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and Lois Haggerty, business consultant at Small Business Development Center (SBDC). MCE specializes in small business loans, business trainings and one-on-one business consulting. In our country's current economic state, banks have tightened their regulations and are hesitant to lend money to new businesses that have been in the existence for less than three years. MCE fills that gap; it lends money to both new and existing businesses, regardless of number of years the business has been in operation. This was a perfect solution for Jim!

"Without MCE's help I couldn't complete my project. I borrowed funds from MCE to purchase the equipment to start production of the only in the whole country pulp-free tomato juice. Without the equipment I couldn't have done anything. The staff was a great help. Loan officer, Andy Hall, processed my loan application in a timely manner and I was able to start my operations right before the tomato season begun. MCE fills the need in the community for business owners who can't get a loan at the bank".

Wanted tomato growersJim located his operations on the UMES campus and his business boosts local economy. Hudson helps local tomato growers make the most money out of their farms. Jim is buying the second product from them – tomatoes that are too ripe, and that resellers won't buy from the growers. Those tomatoes will end up being thrown away. This allows growers, who Jim works with, to get additional profit from their product that would have been thrown away otherwise.

Currently, Jim is working with Alan and Elizabeth Butler, local farmers and tomato growers. Jim is still looking for 3 or 4 Heirloom tomato growers, to nail down the operations for the next season. He established his operations on the UMES campus in Princess Anne, MD.

In the beginning of 2012 Jim Hudson will be applying for another loan with MCE, to increase capacity and get his product to the large retailers such as Shore Gourmet, Dean & DeLuka, Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods and Sysco. Representatives at Whole Foods and Sysco tried Jim's juice and both said that there are no products similar to his in the market. Larger retailers are waiting for Jim to increase production and set up his distribution channel.

Jim Hudson sets a great example of how you can grow your hobby into the money-making business. All you need is passion, marketing research and a supportive surrounding.


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