There are few things better than a BBQ with friends—the sound of laughter, the great conversations, and, perhaps best of all, the incredible bites. When consumers can get their hands on an item that reminds them of those fun times, they have a hard time giving it up, searching high and low to find a taste of the good life. Offering some of the Southern-style comfort BBQs offer is Lillie’s Q with its new Memphis-in-May—a fully-cooked pulled pork item that fits perfectly with both foodservice and retailers. Walking me through the company’s journey to its newest product is Owner, Founder, and Creator at Lillie’s Q, Charlie McKenna.
Charlie tells me that the Lillie’s Q brand stems from his restaurants of the same name in Chicago, Illinois, and Destin, Florida, where the flavors came to life for customers visiting the venues. From there, the company saw that patrons sought to go beyond the experiences they had at Charlie’s locations. After the company’s sauces became widely-appreciated at the restaurant, retailers began asking to sell the products in their own stores, and, from there, the company introduced a line of potato chips.
Finally, it made its most recent stop with this pulled pork option, which is made in almost exact same manner as the restaurant’s, right down to the rubs, cooking time, and wood used. While the flavor profile matches the restaurant’s, the 197 degrees at which the meat is cooked delivers a soft texture that pulls apart easily when warmed in the convenience of consumers’ homes or at foodservice venues. The new item, released in the latter end of 2017 and soon-to-be available on the company’s website, is now rolling out at supermarkets throughout the nation.
“People wanted us to ship our pulled pork and send it to different places throughout the country. We eventually found someone that would work with us the way we do things in our restaurant and at the Memphis in May competition to cook the pork so that you can enjoy it at your house. It’s a fully cooked pork product and heats up in 30 minutes in the oven. It’s really easy to do; you can open it, shred it, and then, hopefully, use our sauce on it,” he explains.
The well-rounded approach to meal-time ease lends itself to many different purposes. I can’t help but ask for the school of thought Charlie was employing when coming up with the unique and convenient product. From his point of view, coming from the restaurant business, he points out the multi-faceted product's appeal.
“There are two ways that I think retailers can really capitalize on our pulled pork. They can can use it if they have a hot bar or a prepared food section. And we have these stands, which have recipe cards and our sauces on them, and you can put them next to the pork in the deli and hot food sections to drive sales in two different locations in the grocery store,” Charlie shares with me, before sharing the second major way retailers can utilize the new item for better sales. “Also, just sell the product in the package, and then a lot of people can just take it home. They can have it prepared for them at the store, or they can prepare it for themselves at home. We have a smaller package, as well. We have a three-pound package, for a person to buy and take home, and a six-pound package, which is more for the delis and foodservice models.”
The product’s versatility makes it an easy choice for so many different businesses—from small ma’ and pop shops looking to make lunch-time stops tasty and efficient to major retailers wanting to add a bit of Southern flare to their prepared food sections with cornbread and coleslaw. And Charlie tells me this isn’t the last stop for the brand, with plans to expand its reach further.
“Our plans are really to push the deli side of it, where it’s already hot and you can just grab it and go home with it. We’re really going to the grocery store people and talking to managers to see if we can get our product in there. A lot of these places already carry a pork, but we feel our quality is so much better than what they have out. Our other method of growth is to reach out to sports bars who don’t have smokers, so they can have smoked pork to serve.”
The only thing to top off a meal with BBQ-style pulled pork is to wash it down with sweet tea lemonade, so, with that, I say cheers to Lillie’s Q’s newest item, Memphis-in-May, bringing Southern tastes to dinner plates with convenience and charm.