HOUSTON -- Rice Epicurean Markets here has enlisted the help of some real salsa experts -- 6th, 7th and 8th graders -- to develop a sauce that will debut on store shelves in May.
"Project Epicurean," as the program is known, was the brainchild of Scott Silverman, vice president of specialty foods for the markets. It is a partnership with Memorial Middle School in the Spring Branch Independent School District. Middle-school students will research, design and develop the sauce. State and city agencies, as well as other businesses, are also involved.
Silverman brought in a marketing vice president from Uncle Ben's Rice to help students devise a survey about salsa and, on another occasion, one of the chain's advertising agencies sent its creative director and a graphic artist to the school to discuss label design with the kids.
Students are now in the final stages of recipe development, Silverman told SN in early March. Since proceeds from salsa sales will be donated to charity, the kids are also in the process of choosing a charity.
The project is a cross-curriculum venture, from language arts, where the survey was created, to shop class, where students are building racks for the new product. Altogether, 10 academic departments are involved.
"We really have tried to involve every child in the school," said Silverman. Lessons on food safety and nutritional labeling have also been part of the project, in science and home economics classes.
The run of the new salsa will be 100 to 200 cases. The name for the salsa will be related to the nonprofit organization chosen by the children.
Interest generated by "Project Epicurean" may affect sales of other salsas. Silverman said he expects to "sort of sacrifice a portion of the category for a short period of time."