Build a better mousetrap, said Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1855, and the world will beat a path to your door. Figure out how to make a good french fry in a microwave oven in 1989, and Marco A. Bonne believes the world will beat a path to the doors of all the stores that sell them.
That theory is about to be tested. Salt Lake City has been selected as one of two national test markets for what a Massachusetts food processing company contends is a "breakthrough" in microwave food technology.Horizons International Foods is introducing its Gold Rush microwave french fries in 7-Eleven convenience stores in Salt Lake City and Circle K in Tucson, Ariz.
According to Bonne, president and chief executive officer of Horizons, Gold Rush fries are the only shoestring style french fries that cook in 60 seconds in a microwave oven and emerge with the same look, aroma, texture and taste of fast-food style fries - attributes that he believes will soon make Gold Rush a household staple.
"There are $7 billion worth of french fries sold in the United States each year and $6.5 billion of them are consumed outside the home in fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's, Burger King and so forth," said Bonne. Unquestionably, it's a huge potential market.
The reason all those fries are eaten out in restaurants, Bonne contends, is because no company has been able to match the characteristics of fries cooked commercially in deep fat fryers. Past attempts at marketing fries for home consumption have invariably ended up soggy and tasteless - a poor imitation of "the real thing."
Until now, that is, says Bonne. Horizons International was formed to capitalize on a "revolutionary breakthrough" in potato preparation which enables consumers to turn out, in their own microwaves, fries that he says are crispy golden on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside.
Horizons has one manufacturing plant at its headquarters in Burlington, Mass., and is currently constructing a second one at the Freeport Center in Clearfield.
The 76,000-square-foot facility will employ about 150 - all local hires - and is expected to be on line in June with a capacity of some 40 million pounds per year and the ability to double that output as needed.
A national rollout of the product is planned for July. The Clearfield plant, for the time being, will produce fries for marketing in all states west of the Mississippi River.
Horizons International is an interesting case study in the way companies are formed in the '80s. Privately held by management and a group of venture capitalists, it was created following "strategic planning" to identify (1) a business that could be created with large potential (2) one that had a "deficiency" in the market and (3) one that could profit from the secret technology developed by Bonne and his associates, all of whom have years of experience in the food business.
The result of that planning was Horizons International and Gold Rush fries.
For now, Bonne said, the fries will be sold exclusively out of convenience stores and will likely be microwaved in the store along with hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches and other food items that have become the "hot growth items" for convenience stores in recent years.
After that beachhead is established, Horizons then plans to move Gold Rush into supermarkets for home consumption.
Bonne said the product has the same caloric content as potatoes - "because that's what it is" - and is cooked at the plant in 100 percent unsaturated vegetable oil.
The company is presently applying for patents for its production processes which he said are proprietary information and cannot be divulged.
Although the fries are Horizon's only product right now, Bonne said the company is developing other potato products as well, including "superior hash browns for the breakfast trade."