Custard Stand launched a chili soup last year, but the packaging was similar to the chili sauce containers and some consumers were confused. "You learn as you go," Cowger said.
The soup container has been redesigned and the soup has been relaunched.
"The flavor profile is different," she said of the soup. "Our hot-dog chili is mild and kind of sweet. The soup has a little heat to it with kidney beans, diced tomatoes and green chilies."
Cowger hopes the soup will provide the company with a more year-round business. "From May 1 to the end of September is our current season," when people are grilling hot dogs and spending lots of time outdoors, she explained.
"We want more stable employment for our employees and more stability for our manufacturing," she said. The company has 15 full- and part-time employees at Webster Springs and 15 at Flatwoods. Employment peaks at about 40 in the summer and drops to about 28 in the winter. The franchised restaurants at Danville, Oak Hill and Elkins each have 10 to 25 employees.
A more year-round business "would let us have better pricing," she added. "Consumers won't see a price reduction but will see price stability."
On the subject of pricing, Cowger said a small price increase is in the works "because the ground beef price isn't going to go down."
Custard Stand Hot Dog Chili is 100 percent ground beef which, combined with eight other ingredients and a slow-cook process, gives the chili its flavor.
Cowger doesn't miss many marketing opportunities. At Flatwoods, Custard Stand's logo and a picture of a hot dog are on the Days Hotel business cards. "You get one free hot dog a day by showing your Days Hotel room key at our restaurant," she said.
If you can't find the chili in your favorite grocery store, you can go to the company's website, www.custardstand.com, and print a request card to hand to your grocer.
The expansion into Kings and Balducci's supermarkets came because Custard Stand was one of five companies featured in the state Department of Agriculture's pavilion at the June 2012 Fancy Foods Show in Washington, D.C.
The state Department of Agriculture "has been awesome to us," Cowger said. The company just built a 40-foot by 100-foot warehouse in Webster Springs with loans from the department and BB&T Corp.
"We're prepared for a lot more production," she said.
Contact writer George Hohmann at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.