The whimsy of Whipsy
|Two LSU grads plan to bring their wine-infused whipped cream product to Baton Rouge bars and cocktail parties.|
Like most folks in the engineering field, Mark Gabriel and Erik Durr are trained to hande serious situations that require their expertise.
In fact, not long ago they put those skills to work helping the state fight back after the BP oil spill two years ago.
As Louisiana natives and former LSU students, the two young men also know that life requires a little fun and relaxation along the way.
When those two notions collided—with a helpful nudge from another LSU alumnus—a distinctive product with strong Louisiana ties was born. And the goal for Gabriel and Durr is to make sure their most recent project takes flight in the Capital Region.
Gabriel and Durr are the brains behind Whipsy, a whipped cream product infused with wine.
The inspiration came from 1949 LSU graduate Ed Collins, who sponsored research and development after he noticed one of his card-playing buddies was adding both whipped cream and a little kick to his coffee.
Collins contacted the LSU engineering school with the idea in 2007 and offered to fund the project. Durr latched onto the endeavor and was soon joined by Gabriel.
Four years and a lot of trial and error later, Whipsy launched last fall in Vermont, and the Louisiana rights were acquired in March. Now, the primary focus is for Whipsy to become a household name in the Capital Region and throughout Louisiana.
“It's a great market for our product because of the LSU campus and the younger population surrounding it,” says Durr, a 28-year-old Covington native.
“It's very exciting when you start seeing it in your local bar or local convenience store,” Gabriel says. “We think it will be extremely viable for the local area because Louisiana is all about good food and having a good time. We're very glad we could bring it to Louisiana and especially to Baton Rouge. That was our goal the whole time because we think it will be successful and people will really like the product.”
The next goal is to move the base of operations from Harahan, where Whipsy works in conjunction with New Orleans-based Big Easy Blends, to Port Allen in the next five to six months with the idea of becoming wholly independent.
Whipsy's marketing reflects the team's aim to situate their product in a gourmet niche.
While alcohol-infused whipped creams aren't exactly novelties, Durr and Gabriel have made it a point to tap into the culture of food and fun in Louisiana as much as the alcohol itself.
Three major elements set Whipsy apart from its competitors: Wine is infused instead of harder (higher proof) alcohol; the whipped cream is flavored with gourmet ingredients; and the product is freezable for ice cream shots.
“When we decided to launch, we wanted to make sure we were doing it better than anybody else,” says Gabriel, 24, who grew up in New Orleans East. “We built it from the ground up to be better than any of the other competitors. It pairs better with more foods because of the great ingredients we include, and you don't have to refrigerate it. We're marketing this as a gourmet experience where you can also liven up parties and just have fun.”
Before Whipsy launched, Durr and Gabriel stepped into a much more serious arena of engineering.
In the days and months after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the two built an oil skimmer to clean up marshes without inflicting any damage.
The apparatus, the Marsh Mop, was never put to use—Durr and Gabriel say BP officials accepted the idea but did little else with it—but the work behind it was directly tied to the work the men had done as they developed and tested Whipsy.
“Our skills in food processing technology helped to separate oil from the water where no other wetlands skimmer could go,” Durr says.
Adds Gabriel: “We used all the same kind of technology. We couldn't have done this without the kind of engineering background we got. That's how we learned about analytic testing and microbiological engineering, and that helped with both the skimmer and Whipsy.”
Now the goal for the 10-employee company is to make the Capital Region the company's anchor for the future.
Besides moving home base to Port Allen, there is a plan to get Whipsy seen, known and consumed in the area starting in the fall.
“We would love to launch in this area for the start of LSU's football season,” says Ashleigh Thibodeaux, the company's Louisiana brand representative. Like every Whipsy employee, she is a Louisiana native and LSU graduate. “Louisiana is famous for cocktails and having fun, and that's what we think Whipsy gives people, so of course it's going to work here.”
The next step in Louisiana is securing widespread distribution, Thibodeaux says. She has cultivated a relationship with the nine Anheuser-Busch distributors around Louisiana and has established a market in the Houma/Thibodaux area.
Eventually, the goal is to get Whipsy into bars and restaurants around the state, and on the shelves of grocery, convenience and liquor stores.
It's important to note that the product will be labeled so that when it is scanned, the purchaser will be asked for proof of age.
“It's not for kids; it's for adults, and we make that very clear,” Gabriel says. “We're marketing this as a gourmet experience for adults.”
Louisiana adults in particular.
“This product will kill it in Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” Thibodeaux says. “We're excited to get going and give people in our state a great option for their parties.”
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