Red Duck Ketchup: What you need to know

Want to know more about Red Duck Ketchup, the recent champions of the Graduate Venture Quest competition? Here is a quick profile of the team, their business plan, and the ketchups’ successes so far!

Who is Red Duck?

  • Kurt “More Meatloaf” Barajas (JD/MBA 2013): Financial whiz and negotiation specialist with concentration in business law.
  • Karen “Crazy for Veggie Burgers” Bonner (MBA 2013): Background in finance and corporate strategy, product development specialist, food nerd.
  • Shannon “Pass the Cajun Tots” Oliver (MBA 2013): Experience at food startup companies, operations expert, concentration in sustainability.
  • Jess “Don’t Call Them Freedom Fries” Zutz (JD/MBA 2014): Background in restaurant and kitchen management, branding, marketing, and social media professional.

What is Red Duck Ketchup?

When was the last time you were excited about ketchup?  As adults, we realized that ketchup’s cachet has faded as our palates have matured. We started Red Duck Ketchup as a specialty foods company based to re-introduce the world to ketchup through our line of artisan condiments and our quirky West Coast brand.

Why ketchup?

During the Oregon MBA’s Engaging Asia experiential learning trip, the four of us found we shared passions for travel and food. After many conversations lamenting the fact that our grocery stores back home don’t carry many products featuring our favorite exotic flavors, we realized there’s a gap in the market. We decided to remedy this by combining our business backgrounds with our foodie expertise to create a line of artisan ketchups.

How did we develop the business?

After returning from our trip to Asia in September, the four of us enrolled in New Venture Planning, part of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship’s Venture Launch sequence. This course gave us the opportunity to transform our vision into a solid business plan. We had opportunities to meet with successful entrepreneurs and other mentors to guide us and help us prepare a defensible business strategy.

During the course of the term, we fine-tuned our recipes and did blind taste tests against other specialty ketchups. Our biggest tasting event happened at the beloved Bagel Day, a weekly LCB event that supplies grad students with snacks and coffee. We were able to bring in fresh French fries and conduct a head-to-head blind taste test of our three ketchups (Classic, Spicy, and Curry) against three similar competitors. After 52 people completed our market research survey, we crunched the numbers and were pleased to see that Red Duck Ketchup crushed all three competitors! This was a pivotal moment in the term, as it provided us with some basic customer validation and a compelling chart for our business plan.

We then had the opportunity to participate in the OMBA’s Venture Quest Competition, where we won the elevator pitch and business plan competition, securing almost $2000 to start funding our business. Over winter break, we worked to refine our business plan and begin positioning our company for success in the future. With the start of winter term now here, we’ll be moving on to Venture Startup 1, the next phase in the venture launch sequence. Quack!

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.