10-19-23

34 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY October 19-25, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com When husband-and-wife duo Bruce and Abbie Leeson launched The Ginger People in 1997, Whole Foods was still a niche organic market, Amazon was just an unprofitable online bookseller and ginger was perhaps best known as that bitter side on an order of sushi. These days, of course, Amazon is a global e-commerce behemoth that owns Whole Foods, one of America’s largest grocery store chains, outright—and both are among The Ginger People’s major vendors. Spices like ginger and turmeric are now renowned by health-conscious consumers for their wellness properties, and The Ginger People’s lines of delectable ginger and turmeric chews, candies and juices have steadily grown to serve an ever-expanding customer base. Last year was the Marina-based company’s 25th anniversary, though Abbie Leeson is quick to point out that she and her husband have actually been in the ginger game for closer to 40 years. The agriculture industry professionals initially parlayed their contacts to sell and ship ginger wholesale, from Australian and Southeast Asian suppliers to food manufacturers and beverage companies. “We didn’t have a brand, and we saw the opportunity to develop one— there was no ginger brand out there,” Abbie recalls. Today, the Carmel couple run a company with products that are carried in some 30,000 stores globally, as well as an expanding e-commerce business catering to modern consumer habits. The Ginger People works with farmers and factories in Fiji and Indonesia, not to mention suppliers in China and Peru and production lines in the U.S. and Canada, to produce everything from its flagship, multi-flavored line of Gin Gins candies and chews to its juices, sauces and, of course, jars of pickled ginger. “There’s no doubt that ginger has gone from being unknown [to many consumers] to being relatively wellknown,” Bruce says. He adds that with heightened awareness has come a greater focus on products catering to people’s specific needs, hence a widening array of offerings. A glance at the company’s website now finds ginger shots made to chug on-the-go, chewable ginger tablets, and bottled “gingerade,” among other varieties. Abbie says The Ginger People is currently working on another six-toeight new products. “We’re always working on something that’s new,” she notes. Turmeric is a particular point of emphasis; it’s from the same family of plants as ginger, and holds not only a similarly zesty flavor but also many of the same redeemable dietary properties—something that’s contributed to turmeric’s own health-food craze. Abbie adds that the two plants are often grown next to each other by the same farmers, which offers synergies as far as procuring ingredients. As far as getting their goods to customers, brick-and-mortar retail still reigns supreme—most people still do their grocery shopping at the grocery store, after all. But the Leesons are embracing e-commerce to further grow their operation; The Ginger People’s products are carried online by everyone from Amazon and Walmart to online distributors serving specific markets in Europe and Asia. As for many enterprises, the pandemic inadvertently helped develop that part of the company’s business. It also had its challenges—most notably, supply chain issues that especially hurt businesses, like The Ginger People, that are reliant on importing materials and exporting goods. On the bright side, as an “essential” food business, they were able to stay open during those days. “We did have the benefit of having a product that’s good for you,” Bruce adds, citing ginger’s benefits to the immune system. With around 40 employees now on staff, the Leesons are aiming to maintain The Ginger People’s impressive trajectory. When they moved from their previous headquarters, near Monterey Regional Airport, to Marina in 2007, “revenue was less than $10 million,” Bruce says. “Since then, it has quadrupled.” That’s a lot of ginger—and no, it’s not all just for sushi. First course Abbie and Bruce Leeson, the folks behind the popular Ginger People brand, say e-commerce has allowed them to expand internationally—all from a Marina HQ. Best of the best…Here’s a chance for a little local pride: Woody’s at the Airport (yes, Chef Tim Wood’s restaurant located at Monterey Regional Airport) was recently named the best sit-down restaurant at a U.S. airport in the USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. The listing calls Woody’s “a gem of a restaurant”—other honorees include restaurants at Phoenix, Philadelphia and Chicago O’Hare. Farewell After Fifteen…The Tequila People’s Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine Event is saying a fond farewell after 15 years of extraordinary, educational fun. Save your tears, though, because they’re going out with a bang on Saturday, Oct. 21. Head to the Hyatt Regency Grand Ballroom for an evening of agave exploration and appreciation, with small bites prepared by some of the area’s top chefs, live entertainment and shopping opportunities. Tickets ($159) can be purchased at bit.ly/ TequilaFarewell2023. Designated driver tickets are also available at the door for $59. 1 Old Golf Course Road, Monterey. thetequilapeople.com. Wine And Wicks…Let your scents of creativity soar (get it?) at a candle-making workshop on Friday, Oct. 20 at Holman Ranch. Holman is bringing Johnny Wicks Candles to the tasting room to help you create your own custom-scented candle while sipping a glass of wine. Tickets are $45 for wine club members and $60 for non-members. Scents need not align with the bouquet on that wine. 18 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 659-2640, holmanranch. com. Demo Delicious…The Italian restaurant Mangia - Eat On Main is hosting a series of cooking demonstrations. The first takes place on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 6pm. Enjoy a glass of wine or prosecco and nibble on seasonal appetizers while watching Chef Anna Altomare prepare fall rigatoni with roasted butternut squash. Tickets ($85 per person) can be purchased at order.toasttab.com/online/mangia-328-a-main-st. 328 Main St., Salinas. 256-2170. HBD OBBC…Other Brother Beer Co. is turning 4 and wants to celebrate with you. Join the kind folks at the brewery on Saturday, Oct. 21 and receive a full pour for $4 with the purchase of a sandwich or salad. They are also offering two fourpacks for $30 all weekend and will be releasing a special birthday beer. 877 Broadway Ave., Seaside. 747-1106, otherbrotherbeer.com. By Jacqueline Weixel morsels Send a bite to eatanddrink@mcweekly.com “Ginger has gone from unknown to relatively well-known.” Eat + DrinK Daniel Dreifuss Spice It Up Early movers in the health-food trend, The Ginger People is still delivering spicy goodies 26 years on. By Rey Mashayekhi

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