By UO student Chelsea Fullmer
Upon his arrival at the UO, Kurt Barajas ’13 was ready to pursue his law degree at the UO Law School. Originally, Barajas had no plans to pursue a master’s in business. But with an interest in business law and after taking business law classes, he decided to enroll in the Lundquist College of Business MBA program, focusing on entrepreneurship. Little did he know that his venture into the MBA program would land him as the co-founder of a local thriving business.
In the MBA program, Barajas worked with many other students on various projects. Barajas created a group for a new venture-planning course with a few other students he’d worked with previously before. Karen Bonner, Shannon Oliver, and Jessica Zutz Hilbert joined Barajas to begin working on a business idea for their class. They were one of the last groups to decide what kind of business they wanted to simulate.
“When the class first started, almost every other team had some idea. We were the only team that didn’t have any idea but we didn’t want to rush it,” said Barajas.
After experiences with cherry cola-flavored ketchup from China and curry-flavored ketchup from Belgium, the team realized that they had an opportunity to explore the relatively bland U.S. ketchup market. And, after hosting group meetings at Rennie’s Landing and eating french fries and tater tots, the team was underwhelmed by the condiment choices.
Thus the team created Red Duck Ketchup, an organic ingredient-based ketchup experience with three unique flavors. While the project for the course was primarily to research the market opportunity and the product, the team decided to take their business forward. From blind taste testing to an “unintended garlic” batch, the crew eventually landed on three primary flavors: classic, spicy and curry.
“We had people in the class and professors telling us they will never buy Heinz again,” said Barajas after the group provided samples of their ketchup flavors to the class.
To create their flavors, the team researched ketchup products already on the shelves by blind tasting the different brands and noting what they liked and didn’t like about each one. From there, they were able to begin developing recipes.
“We were all foodies, but none of us are master chefs. So it took a lot of time and experimentation and tasting testing,” Barajas said.
After each batch was made, the team would give samples to friends and classmates encouraging feedback. Two to three months later, the team was ready to put their product in a jar and begin selling.
Using natural products and unique flavors as a pitching point, Red Duck looked to lure customers away from generic brands of ketchup and show a new and better kind of condiment.
“We realized that everybody loves ketchup and everyone kind of grew up on ketchup. On the other side, a lot of people have forgotten that it’s something that they love. We have this expression, ‘we are reintroducing the world to ketchup,’” said Barajas.
One of the first stores to put Red Duck on its shelves was the Duck Store right off campus. Now, Red Duck can be found in 25 locations across Oregon. All Market of Choice stores from Portland to Eugene to Ashland have the classic, spicy and curry flavors. Red Duck can also be found at the Whole Foods in Bend, Capella Market in Eugene, and even the suites at JELD-WEN Field in Portland. The products can also be purchased online, where the team has found customers across the nation.
While the team hopes to eventually expand geographically and add more flavors or condiments, they continue their success in the local market. Whether using the classic flavor for your french fries, the spicy flavor for breakfast foods, or the curry flavor for vegetables, Red Duck Ketchup offers a new taste experience.
“Once you taste it, you’re convinced,” said Barajas.