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Food fight: Pawleys brand edged out in battle of chips vs. dip
By Jason Lesley
Even though Fritos edged out local product Palmetto Cheese in a magazine’s “Battle of the Brands” competition last week, owner Brian Henry feels like a winner.
The pimento cheese developed from his wife Sassy’s recipe and served at their beachfront hotel, Sea View Inn, won a ton of publicity and credibility as a “quintessential Southern brand” in the eyes of the subscribers to the magazine Garden and Gun and on social media.
Though Fritos is a national brand, the contest wasn’t exactly David vs. Goliath. Palmetto Cheese is in 5,000 grocery stores in 28 states. Its manufacturer recently moved to a new, larger facility in Easley and turns out 30 tons a week.
Palmetto Cheese started commercially in the kitchen at Sea View Inn when Sassy Henry taught Vertrella Brown — that’s her picture on the container — how to make it. The first outlet to carry the product was Independent Seafood in Georgetown. It was displayed in the ice right beside the mullet, Henry said.
He got the local Food Lion to carry the product, added Piggly Wiggly and grew slowly from there.
“It’s a relationship business and a belief business,” Henry said. “When you’ve got something really good with a niche, don’t take no for an answer.”
Two years ago Garden and Gun included Palmetto Cheese in a list of Southern brands that included RC Cola, Moon Pie, Cheerwine, Coke and Pepsi. “We were thinking, ‘Wow, we’ll take that,’” Henry said.
When he saw that Fritos would be the opponent for Palmetto Cheese in the first round of a 32-product elimination, Henry liked his chances. “I was thinking, ‘We can do this.’”
After two days of voting Palmetto Cheese closed the gap to a razor thin margin when Henry reached out to some of his friends at Coca-Cola, where he used to work. They were only too glad to help defeat Fritos, owned by rival Pepsi.
“I thought we were going to win,” Henry said. “We were in the game until literally right there at the buzzer.”