Small Biz Spotlight: Keep Calm and Grill On, with Smarter Starter Fluid

By Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development

Monroe, Walton County | Region 6

Spring is here and everyone is getting outside! Lawns are getting green, flowers are bursting with color and the aroma of charcoal grills drift lazily on the late afternoon breeze.

Across Georgia, families are sitting down to fantastic-looking meals of juicy burgers, steaks, chicken and pork, only to take that first bite and discover their meal tastes like kerosene. What could be more disappointing?

Picture4The invention of ESCOGO LLC’s flagship product, Smarter Starter Fluid, was inspired by a concerned wife and mom who dumped a couple of pounds of grilled chicken in the trash, claiming it tasted like gasoline. The Smarter Starter Fluid, a bio-based lighter fluid that is made from ag-based resources rather than petrochemicals, is changing the way people barbecue and makes this very American way of cooking healthier and safer!

Its sister company, Down to Earth Energy collects spent vegetable oil from area restaurants. This vegetable oil is refined by ESCOGO into a lighter fluid that has the same characteristics as traditional lighter fluid, but without the nasty kerosene smell and taste that can be transferred into food, ruining your cook-out.

For decades, consumers have been told not to touch lighter fluid, but Smarter Starter is safe to touch and doesn’t have the drawbacks of traditional lighter fluid. As such, pit masters and other grilling industry leaders are embracing the use of Smarter Starter, whereas before, they would never be caught using such a chemical.

“Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best,” said Patrick Harper, General Manager.

A typical initial response to Smarter Starter is ‘Wow, that make’s so much sense, I can’t believe no one was doing that yet!’”

ESCOGO’s roots can be traced back to 2009 with the founding of Smarter Starter Fluid, LLC. Following a few years of successful regional sales of Smarter Starter Fluid, ESCOGO was formed in March 2013 to support the national rollout of Smarter Starter Fluid and lay the foundation for the creation of additional bio-based products.

Picture3The adoption of Smarter Starter has been brisk and enthusiastic. ESCOGO’s two primary sales channels are grocery and hardware stores. Since the national launch of Smarter Starter in January 2014, the company has grown from 114 retail locations to over 8,000 stores (including The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target) and international accounts.

ESCOGO employs between six and 10 employees at their facility in Monroe (Walton County), depending on the season, with plans for additional expansion in the near future.

The company has received assistance and accolades from various groups. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has served as a valuable partner in the growth and success of ESCOGO and their sister company, Down to Earth Energy.

The group was recently visited by Krysta Harden, the outgoing Deputy Secretary with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for a site visit to see their expanded operations. Additionally, Smarter Starter has earned certification as a USDA Biobased Product, which is an independent third-party testing program to help consumers identify products made from renewable biological resources. ESCOGO is also a proud member of Georgia Grown and features the logo prominently on its product packaging.

To assist in sharing the Smarter Starter story, ESCOGO has been getting involved in the local barbecue scene with events like the Walton County BBQ Festival and Classic City BBQ Festival.

Picture2ESCOGO is working on the development of several new products that will be available through their existing network of retailers. They have also received interest regarding Smarter Starter from international retailers, so the company is looking to expand their international footprint into Canada, Central America and Europe in the very near future!

Learn more about ESCOGO, LLC and Smarter Starter Fluid and where you can buy some for your next cook-out online at www.ESCOGO.com.

Got a Small Business question? Start the conversation! Contact Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development.

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