by Len Lear
If you shop for groceries at Weavers Way in Chestnut Hill, you just might notice the colorful bottles of Kevin’s Fresh Salad Dressings, but you might overlook them because the name is not exactly a household word. On the other hand, you would be missing a truly fresh, healthful product made from scratch by a local couple with four children whose business model is straight out of the popular TV show, “Shark Tank.”
Kevin Feeney, 49, and his wife, Robin, 48, are not Donald Trump-like entrepreneurs. They are ordinary, everyday folks pursuing the American Dream. Kevin is from Dallas, PA, and Robin is from Wilkes-Barre. Robin went to Drexel University and Widener Law School, and Kevin went to Temple University. Kevin worked in the financial services industry for 23 years, and Robin has been a trial lawyer for the last 22 years, although she took about seven years off to raise their four children. She has been with the Fine and Staud law firm in center city for the last eight years.
Neither Kevin or Robin had ever been involved in the food industry before, but in 2011 they stepped out on the high wire and started Kevin’s Fresh Salad Dressings.
“They evolved from a few basic principles that we followed when feeding ourselves and our four children,” explained Kevin. “Freshly bought and freshly prepared food for dinner is best. Commercially prepared foods invariably contain copious amounts of salt, sugar and preservatives. These foods tend to make us fat. By trying to cook fresh, flavorful food at home we can control the amount of salt and sugar in our food, lowering calories while not sacrificing taste.
“However, with two busy parents and four busy children, entirely fresh is not always possible. With our kids we’ve always had dinner at the dining table. The TV is off, and we gathered to share our meal and our day … We both love salad but the kids at that time, not so much.
“We were eating commercial dressing and not pleased with the taste or the amount of additives in the dressing. So we started exploring by making our own dressing, and eventually our lemon vinaigrette was entirely embraced by our five year old, Bo. If we had the kids eating salad, then we knew we were on to something.” (Author’s note: I just bought the lemon vinaigrette at Weavers Way and tried it. It is awesome!)
Taking the lessons they learned with their first dressing, the lemon vinaigrette, Kevin and Robin started experimenting with other fruits. After much trial and error, they came up with two very tasty and very different vinaigrettes. They tried many combinations but kept coming back to peaches. They were convinced there is something about the fresh peach that tastes like nothing else. So they created a roasted peach vinaigrette that is sweet and savory. It goes very well with grilled meats and, of course, salad.
The Feeneys then created a cranberry vinaigrette which had its inception during Thanksgiving. The cranberries are cooked and condensed into a concentrated puree. This puree is then mixed with other all-natural ingredients.
The couple are currently testing additional products including one with cilantro and lime. The retail prices of their dressings are between $5.25 and $6.50. Kevin is now working full-time on the business while Robin divides her time between her legal work and the company.
After developing their low-fat, low-salt dressings, the Feeneys began by selling them at the Glenside Farmers’ Market with in-market tastings. They later used the same strategy at Weavers Way Co-op and other area markets. Ultimately they were also accepted into the Mid-Atlantic region of Whole Foods stores, a major coup. They are always trying to add more stores.
How have sales been compared to how they hoped they would be? “We had no expectations being a start-up, but sales have been strong and growing,” said Kevin. “Our ultimate goal is to become a national brand and a leader in the drive for better food on store shelves.
“We know from personal experience the terrible toll on the human body from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes being the most common. Both of us have lost parents to these diseases, which has taught us that it is up to us to look for quality in the foods we and our children eat. We hope that by producing the best possible product, we are encouraging our customers to eat healthy, tasty and simply, and by doing so we can do our small part to lower the obesity and the problems associated with it in our communities.”
More information at www.kevinsfresh.com.