Last semester, USC Hospitality and the Undergraduate Student Government created the Trojan Farmers’ Market, a weekly event held in McCarthy Quad. Local farmers, bakers and chefs from the surrounding area gather in the quad every Wednesday to sell their products to students, but one vendor has seen more success than it could ever imagine come out of its weekly visits.
Starting this week, the healthy root vegetable chips from Fusion Variations, one of the most coveted farmers market products, will be sold at the USC Bookstore. After just two semesters at USC, Fusion Variations has seen rapid success, not unlike the rapidly evolving company itself, which has taken off quickly after just over a year in business.
In April 2013, Chef David Rowe officially launched Fusion Variations, a family-run extension of his catering company that came about when he experimented with healthy appetizers.
“[Rowe] wanted to replace [the appetizer and bread plate], and create something more colorful and creative,” said Omar Edwards, director of operations at Fusion Variations. “What he did for his catering clients was he created a root vegetable plate … and it got to a point where he thought, ‘Well, this is pretty convenient, wouldn’t it be cool if I put it all in one bag?’ And he put it in one bag and saw how colorful they were.”
During the first week of June 2013, Fusion Variations’ team launched its product at the Calabasas Farmers Market, and the responses were both positive and constructive.
“[The farmers’ markets] gave us a chance to test market our product when we first started,” Edwards said. “You are really able to sell your product without maximum labels … We were able to test the product out with our customers — they gave us feedback, and we were able to change.”
Last semester, when USC launched its very own farmers market, Fusion Variations was one of the first vendors to sell their product, and they quickly gained a devoted following of returning customers.
“[Customers] are constantly asking, ‘When you’re not here every Saturday or every Wednesday, where can we buy your chips?’” Edwards said.
He went on to note that local stores surrounding farmers markets will often sell their product since they can predict the target market and success of sales.
After a referral and recommendation from a faculty member to the bookstore, Edwards and his team began talking with USC about selling the product on the shelves so students could buy it when Fusion Variations wasn’t there. Now, after negotiations and deliberations, students are finally able to buy the product at a more convenient time.
Along with vending opportunities, the USC community has also led Fusion Variations to form partnerships with USC grads who are active business owners themselves. With their chips currently being sold in nearly 50 stores and a weekly circuit of highly trafficked farmers’ markets, Fusion Variations is well on its way to success.