We got on the phone with Baron Conway, the co-founder of Pernicious Pickling Co , and right off the bat, you can tell this guy is passionate about pickles! Along with his business and life partner, Kendra Coggin, the couple introduces a love for pickles that’s so big, it was almost fate that this English guy and this Southern gal would meet and get together.
How did you guys come with the name “Pernicious Pickling”?
B: We wanted to market ourselves as a highly differentiated and non-traditional pickling company – whether it’s our name, our color palette or our products. We like the alliteration Pernicious Pickling has, plus, very easy to remember! The word pernicious actually means “to slowly harm”, which is suitable since pickling is such a transformative process. It also pokes fun at how our pickles are to die for! Usually, it’s a lot older people who know what the word means.
What is the story behind you and Kendra? How did you two come together and start making pickles?
B: Kendra and I met while working at a marketing agency in Los Angeles. I was putting together a presentation deck when she tapped me on the shoulder and advised me to change my Times New Roman font to Metellica. That was the first time we spoke with each other; from then, we became friends and started dating. Kendra had a hobby of making canned jellies, chocolate and toffee and I just got involved. Even though we grew up in different parts of the world, we both shared fond childhood memories with pickles so we eventually got into it. We noticed there was no one making pickles in Southern California, a reason being California is one of the most regulated states when it comes to pickling! We wanted to start our own business so we spent a year developing recipes and going through the qualification series to eventually launch in 2013.
Since you and Kendra grew up exposed to different kinds of pickles, how did you two decide on the flavors you have now?
B: Kendra grew up in rural Mississippi so she was always familiar with pickles that had the “sweet heat of the South”. I’m from Central London and my family has roots in Eastern Europe so I’m used to more savory dill pickles. Living in Southern California where there is a lot of diversity in food and culture is what inspired the creation of our flavors. For example, with our Pickled Carrots, instead of following the Mexican-styled recipe, we gave it an Asian twist with rice vinegar, ginger and red Thai chili. My mom always made Pickled Red Beets with a heavy amount of sweet cardamom, but we went an entirely opposite route by adding dill seed and a sweet and salty brine. Our motto for flavors is, “If we like it, we’ll make it!”
What do you think makes your pickles unique?
B: It’s hard to distinguish one flavor from another when it comes to many pickles in the market nowadays. For us, we put a lot of thought and effort in pushing for complex, powerful flavors that are hard to forget. We don’t use preservatives or sodium chloride. We don’t have any ingredients you can’t identify on our labels. We also make sure to source fresh produce and local spices.
What are your business values?
We have three core principles and they are Integrity, Quality and Fun. Integrity in the way we run our business by always putting our customers first. Quality in the ingredients, the packaging and the way we engage with others. And of course, Fun! You only live once so don’t be too serious all the time! We noticed that pickle people are happy people and bringing big smiles to our customers motivates us to do what we do.
How big is your team?
We have family, friends and part-time staff who comes in here and there to help out, but for the most part it’s just us two. I’m at the production site 3-4 hours a day on average and the rest of the time I work as a digital marketing consultant to boost cash flow. Kendra is the real superhero though; she works 10 hours each day!
What does the words “artisanal”, “small batch”, “handcrafted” mean to you and how do they apply to your products?
To me, “artisanal” means craftsmanship; it’s the attention we put into creating something different and special and the care we put into everything we do. With small batch, we try to maximize the amount of focus we put into each jar despite our growing quantity. We turn up anywhere from 700 to 1100 pickle jars a day and they are are filled and capped by hand. With handcrafted, we want to make sure that as our production grows, even if we use machines that they taste the same had the process been done by hand.
What are some creative ways to use your pickles?
I’ve heard of a wine and cheese shop blend our Pickled Cauliflower and our Pickled Carrots together with prosciutto for a dressing. Garlic Dill Pickles can really transform a tuna melt, crab cake, or mashed potato! Pickled Red Onions is a great ingredient for making mean martinis! We like to say “Pickles aren’t just for sandwiches”; they taste equally amazing in other food and drinks!