Some like it hot. Others like it dilled. Either way, Wagner’s Foods makes a mustard for you.
Perfected for German father, blend takes off
By Melissa Davlin
Photos by Matt Leitholt
Bob Wagner’s mustard recipe sprang from an unfulfilled craving.
“My father, he loves the old German style mustard,” Wagner said. “He couldn’t find it anymore.” So Wagner, who lives in Nampa, began looking up recipes and experimenting. He ordered mustard seed and made several variations of the German mustard for his father, who lives in California. Once Wagner tweaked the formula to perfection, he sent it to his dad for approval.
“He loves it and said it was better than the stuff he grew up with,” Wagner said.
After that, Wagner and his wife began giving jars of the mustard to friends, who loved it just as much. One of those friends owns a farm, where she sells organic beef and chicken. She told Wagner that if he bottled enough of the condiment, she’d sell it through her farm store.
“That was the encouragement I needed,” Wagner said.
He began looking into what it would take to legally sell his mustard, and the health inspector suggested he start at a church kitchen. After that didn’t work out, he called the University of Idaho Food Technology Center and got into a class.
That changed his approach to his blossoming business.
“They were talking about things I’d never even considered. Stuff like designing your label, all of the cleanliness issues, the production issues,” Wagner said.
Originally, he’d planned to put mustard in jars using a spoon and funnel. The UI class taught him that there were more efficient production methods, he said.
That lesson paid off. During just one production run in June, Wagner made 1,200 jars of mustard.
“If I’d attempted to make 1,200 jars with a spoon and a funnel, it would have taken us three weeks,” he said.
Two years into the business, Wagner has added more flavors to his lineup. He and his wife, Cari, now sell the original Wagner’s Idaho Mustard, Wagner’s Dill Mustard, Wagner’s Smoky-Hot Mustard, Wagner’s Screamin’ Hot Habanero Mustard, and the newest flavors: Hoppin’ Jalapeno Mustard and Sweet and Sassy Honey Mustard. The business is so successful, Wagner and his wife hope to make it a full-time gig.
“It would not have been possible for us to do this without the UI Food Technology Center,” he said.
From home kitchen to store shelf:
How the FTC helped four cooks find success