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Wednesday, November 20, 2002


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STAR-BULLETIN
Sam Choy's teriyaki beef bowls come five to a box and sell for about $10 at Costco. They feature the chef's image "hanging out of the 'Choy,'" as he put it.




Sam Choy’s frozen
meals reach diners
on both coasts

The chef's teriyaki bowls
come to Costco


By Betty Shimabukuro
betty@starbulletin.com

A familiar face is grinning out of the massive freezer compartments of Costco stores in several states.

Hawaii chef Sam Choy has signed on with the food-processing giant ConAgra Foods for the production of a line of frozen meals bearing his name and smiling face.

"Sam Choy's Premium Garlic-Ginger Beef Teriyaki Bowls" are on the shelves at Costco stores in the eastern United States, Los Angeles, San Diego and Hawaii.

They've been selling for more than a month, although because of the West Coast dock slowdown, the meals reached Hawaii only recently.

The Choy rice bowls join a long list of ConAgra products, including Wolfgang Puck's pizzas and Marie Callender's chicken pot pies. The company also markets Butterball turkeys and Healthy Choice frozen meals, among dozens of other familiar brand names.

ConAgra spokesman Bob McKeon said the company, based in Omaha, Neb., is evaluating sales to determine how to proceed with the Sam Choy line and declined to talk about production numbers. But Choy said sales have averaged $1,000 per store daily and that he has developed a second product -- macadamia-nut chicken fingers in 5-pounds bags.

The frozen-food line marks the continued growth of Choy's business empire beyond the restaurants that launched his celebrity status.

Over the last few years, Choy has stopped opening new restaurants (he has two on Oahu, one in Kona and one on Guam), and has in fact closed several sites. He has been concentrating instead on cookbooks, television appearances and his line of salad dressings and sauces, produced out of Torrance, Calif. He also has a contract to provide recipes for United Airlines meals and travels constantly for guest chef appearances nationwide.

The ConAgra/Costco deal, though, marks a huge step forward in the marketing of his name, Choy said, and has proven far more lucrative, and less difficult, than running a restaurant. "This is way much easier," he said.

McKeon said ConAgra has a licensing agreement to use Choy's name on frozen-food products. "He brings the recipes and formulas, and we have the manufacturing, production and marketing in place to bring those to a larger market."

Choy said he is paid a percentage of sales. He sees this venture as a natural extension of his culinary life. "For chefs working hard behind their stoves ... this is another avenue of introducing your food to a mass audience."



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