Walker & Sons’ Slap Ya Mama has come a long way from its origins as a brand with a memorable name representing some of the most authentic Cajun products on the market. When Walker & Sons incorporated in 2001 after five years of selling authentic spice mix to deli customers in and around Ville Platte, La., its blends, spices and sauces were driving the business, and distribution eventually grew to all 50 states.
Today, however, the Slap Ya Mama brand is growing in leaps and bounds. Walker & Sons has supplemented its spices and batters with a line of dinner mixes available in grocery stores and big-box retailers around the globe, United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden and Canada. The company now has 40 foodservice accounts in the United States, bringing mass quantities of Slap Ya Mama items to hotels, restaurants and cafeterias.
And its catchy brand name is emblazoned along with the instantly recognizable pair of hot peppers on collectible merchandise to target foodies. “Our growth rate has continued to increase at a phenomenal rate which brings fourth a lot of hard work, but we’re ready, willing and excited,” Vice President Jack Walker says.
Walker & Sons has operated in the foodservice sector for about a year out of its new sales office in New Orleans. Walker says the company wants to supply restaurants, hotels, delis and any other customers that use institutional-sized quantities of seasonings, hot sauces and other food prep items.
“We’re targeting anybody and everybody that sells finished food product to their customers,” Walker says. “This is for the back-of-the-house products, or even placing our products on dining room tables.”
The company hired Bradley Schmidt to lead its foodservice initiatives from the new office in New Orleans. Walker & Sons works directly with its foodservice customers; however, Walker hopes to attract the attention of foodservice distribution companies.
“Once we have enough demand from the foodservice industry, we should not have a problem getting into distribution,” Walker says. “That will put us on the map and help us grow because they have that much larger of a salesforce.”
In the meantime, Walker & Sons continues to focus on the retail side of its business, which still accounts for the bulk of Slap Ya Mama sales. In fact, Walker says the company is monitoring its growth carefully to make sure it can supply the demand in a timely fashion.
“[Foodservice] can be a very sizable part of our company once it gets the traction and gets moving, but the biggest thing is the retail side,” Walker says. “This past year, we haven’t really brought in any new distributors because of our growth rate and it is hard for us to supply the demand with all the organic growth we’re experiencing, but we’re making it work and we’re not going to halt our growth.”
Walker & Sons is accommodating this growth at its facilities. It recently renovated its 40,000-square-foot warehouse to serve as its headquarters and central distribution center.
Mixing it Up
The Slap Ya Mama brand now extends to dinner mixes, as well. In late 2012 to early 2013, Walker & Sons launched boxed mixes of red beans and rice, gumbo and jambalaya.
Walker & Sons did not sacrifice authenticity for convenience, however. Walker says the Slap Ya Mama mixes feature traditional Cajun flavors and taste nothing like most meals that originate in a box. The mixes are available through the Slap Ya Mama website only, but Walker says the company plans to offer the products to Louisiana distributors soon.
“These are designed in a manner for when a family of four’s parents get home and don’t have the time to put a whole meal together for their family,” Walker says.