The Arizona Republic - "Relish quest becomes business"

By Stephanie Paterik
The Arizona Republic

Whoever said necessity is the mother of invention may not have had relish in mind.

Judy Egge did.

The Chandler woman got hooked on a unique relish recipe that used zucchini, onions and peppers instead of pickles. The problem? It was sold by a group of Mennonites at a roadside stand two hours outside of Toronto, and they refused to ship it.

"For 10 years, I'd visit my sister and we would drive two hours to get this relish," said Egge, a spunky 44-year-old mother of two. "I used it in everything."

When Egge ran out of her supply, she started tinkering in the kitchen - and Sunshine Specialty Foods was born.

Egge makes three flavors of Relish This! - sweet and tangy, sweet and spicy, and hot and spicy - in a commercial kitchen and ships it to individuals, businesses and stores. In two years, her profits are up 125 percent. She also has been featured on the Food Network's show, Food Finds.

"I couldn't live without the product, so I started looking up recipes," Egge said. "I love my product."

This month, Egge will head to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade's Fancy Food Show in San Francisco to market the relish. It already is sold at AJ's Purveyors of Fine Foods, various gift shops and Guadalupe's farmers market. It also will be available at downtown Chandler's new farmers market, starting Saturday.

She realizes relish isn't the most popular condiment out there. But Egge's on a mission to change consumers' minds. She samples her product in grocery stores, hotels and even the airport.

Playing on the name, Egge sells gift boxes with tags that boast "a gift to relish." Companies also can give the product to clients as a way to say, "I relish your business."

Egge worked for years in the food industry, including a stint as Albertsons' private label broker. Putting that knowledge to use as her own boss is rewarding.

Yet, getting the company off the ground is taking sacrifice. She works long hours, sometimes taking phone orders late into the night. She had to pass up a family ski trip over the weekend. And although her profits are covering expenses, she is not yet paying herself.

Her family is supportive, though, and they've yet to tire of eating relish. Egge serves it with cream cheese and crackers, fish, chicken, deviled eggs, cornbread and, of course, hot dogs.

She hopes others will discover its versatility.

"I want to make people care about my product," she said, surrounded by glass jars and bubble wrap in her living room. "Why not support someone who has a passion for what they do?"