Marie Jensen hadn’t planned to go into the food business. But Marie had a veggie burger that friends and family raved over, and with their encouragement, she began the journey that eventually landed Chez Marie’s veggie burgers on the menu at Burgerville, on the shelves of 100 Fred Meyer stores, and at grocers and restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Marie’s story begins like that of many other successful food entrepreneurs in this wildly food-centric region: “… and then I met with Sarah Masoni.” As the product development manager at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center, Masoni has helped launch hundreds of successful food businesses, guiding entrepreneurs from recipe to market.
“I worked with Sarah for five months in the research kitchen at FIC, refining my recipe, sourcing suppliers, developing the nutritional label,” Jensen said. “There was so much to discover that I didn’t know.” With help from Masoni and her FIC colleagues, Jensen learned it all: she acquired the requisite licenses and insurance, developed packaging, designed a label, and found her first retail markets.
“Eventually I outgrew the research kitchen at FIC, and Sarah helped me set up my own industrial kitchen,” Jensen said. Eventually, Chez Marie outgrew that space, too. “Creating delicious recipes with the most nutritious ingredients became my mission and the foundation for everything I wanted to do at Chez Marie,” Jensen said.
Jensen and her team at Chez Marie continue to innovate. Her recipes include whole food ingredients and her packaging is fully biodegradable. And she has won awards and expanded her business as far east as Texas.
“I learned an enormous amount at the Food Innovation Center, they were an invaluable key to my success” she said. “They have answers to questions that you don’t even think to ask.”