Gina Cucina offers delicious food, all for a good cause. Find out more about her work below.
We’re a small startup offering farm-to-table organic, vegetarian and vegan food.
I started cooking when my two youngest children were in kindergarten. A friend of mine told me I needed to sell my food at the farmer’s market, so we went one day and sold about 200 jars of hot soup in an hour – in the middle of July! It was a wake-up call. The next week, a gentleman from Whole Foods came to us and said this was the best soup he’d ever had but he couldn’t buy it anywhere, so I told him he could buy it here!
It took us three years, but we got it on the shelves. Now, with the pandemic, we primarily sell online, since even major retailers are dropping branded products. We ship throughout the US.
It’s simple, clean food with ingredients you can pronounce and buy at your local market. We aim to offer the food you would make at home but without any time or effort from you. We keep our dishes at 10 ingredients or under and offer seasonal produce, too.
We also have a mission to combat human trafficking. Every jar of soup we sell raises awareness of our cause.
Seven or eight years ago I was at a conference in my hometown and a woman was speaking about human trafficking. I had no idea what she was talking about, but the more I listened, the more intrigued and disturbed I became.
She told us about the yearly Trust Conference, which takes place in London, England. My best friend and I flew there to attend and I knew this was a cause I wanted to fight for.
I work in an industry where there are a lot of possibilities for trafficking. All our products and ingredients are delivered in trucks. So, I linked up with an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking, which trains drivers on how to spot trafficking and what to do if they find it.
We use seasonal produce. For instance, in May and June, we’ll be making gazpacho, so we can use heirloom tomatoes and watermelons to make a watermelon habanero gazpacho and an heirloom tomato gazpacho. Then, we’ll make pesto, because we’ll get fresh basil – and so on.
We make the products, package, and flash freeze them to seal in the nutrients. We have 8 to 12 products on any given day: soups, sauces, and cioppinos (fish stews). But we are starting to add more to that line-up because we’ve had to switch to online sales on account of the pandemic. We didn’t have an online program until last September.
Right now, I’m getting ready to make a coconut broth and a sipping broth – something new will come out every two months. I also mentor a young woman who’s making amazing French macarons, so that we can sell a beautiful Easter package.
Regarding blacklisted ingredients, we don’t put preservatives or sugar in anything.
At the start, our only customers were people who knew me. Now, we’ve been expanding, and we’ve done great business over Christmas. But it’s slow growth.
In the online world, you have to make a concentrated effort daily to raise awareness of your brand and your product. It’s not easy. Last spring, we were in over 400 stores and today we are in zero. Most of them have their own kitchens now, so they make their own products, rather than selling branded products.
Healthy eating is so important: I have four children and can tell when they’ve traded food with their friends at lunchtime. Their sugar spikes are so obvious, and I think this is true for everybody. The way you eat affects how you act and feel.
I think it’s hard for people to juggle cooking with their workload and kids. I always suggest people cook for themselves by starting simple: just olive oil, salt, and their favorite produce.
But if that becomes difficult, at least for a couple of meals a week, find another way to do it, because life is busy. As much as I love cooking, some people don’t. Rather than struggling to feed your family, find other ways to do it well. Every day shouldn’t be a headache figuring out how to get healthy meals on the table.