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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Will Liba Falafel Supply Whole Foods' Next Street-Food Products?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 11:31 AM

click to enlarge Owner Gail Lillian peers out from the Liba Falafel truck. Lillian is talking with Whole Foods about developing street-inspired retail products. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • Owner Gail Lillian peers out from the Liba Falafel truck. Lillian is talking with Whole Foods about developing street-inspired retail products.
Looks like the Magic Curry Kart line of sauces is only the beginning of Whole Foods' foray into street-food product marketing. Mobile vendor Liba Falafel meets tomorrow with Harvindar Singh, Whole Foods' Northern California local products' forager, to discuss developing a retail product line. Singh tells SFoodie he's had recent talks with the Chai Cart and Currywurst, and an ongoing conversation with Jon's Street Eats to develop a line of dressings.

Liba's Gail Lillian tells SFoodie the mega-retailer approached her about what she calls the expansion opportunity. "One of my locations is near Whole Foods' regional offices [in Emeryville], so some of my steady weekly customers work there," Lillian says. "Some of them said, 'Have you ever thought about packaging your products?'" Lillian's truck has a falafel-topping bar stocked with 15 relishes, sauces, and condiments. "I think I could find something that would work," says Lillian, who's also been scouting spaces in North and West Oakland for a retail location of her own.

Singh, meanwhile, says that, while developing new street-eats products takes time and patience, Whole Foods is committed to supporting vendors. "We're really encouraging our patrons to follow them on Twitter and go have an authentic street-food experience," Singh says.

One advantage about working with mobile vendors, Singh suggests: Most already have legions of Twitter followers and Facebook fans likely to trail them into the grocery store.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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