Billy’s Original Foods launches with first Kroger shipment

Published 12:44 am Saturday, June 25, 2016

During your next trip to Kroger, you may come across a new brand in the frozen food section from one of Vicksburg’s newest companies.

Billy’s Original Foods, a spin-off of Billy’s Italian Restaurant and manufacturer of artisan, ready-to-eat frozen Italian meals and deli products, just sent its first shipment to Kroger distributors, officially launching the company a little over a year after its start.

“We’re the only Italian restaurant in the history of the world that sold more chicken salad than Italian food,” CEO Billy Lieberman said. “I was having a rough day and I went outside and said, ‘Why don’t we just sell this stuff wholesale?’ ”

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The rest, as they say, is history.

The company just sent its first shipment out, which should be available in Vicksburg soon, Lieberman said. Their lasagna, meatballs with sauce and cheese and acclaimed chicken salad will be found in 68 Kroger stores in five states, including Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.

At the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting Friday that marked the occasion, Lieberman joked about getting the company off the ground.

“We have lots of game plans. If one works, that would be great,” he said, chuckling. “I hope you go to stores and buy our stuff because if this doesn’t work, I’m to be coming to each one of you and asking for a job.”

Already certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Lieberman added the company has plans to gain its Global Food Safety Initiative certification to be able to sell products internationally soon.

“As it grows, it’ll be the rest of the United States and then it will be whoever wants to buy it in the rest of the world,” he said.

COO Mani Chanprasith added, “We will take Vicksburg, Mississippi, to other parts of the world. That’s what we’re hoping for soon.”

Lieberman said at the end of the year he should be able to hire 25 employees, 10 more than they currently have, and in two years he hopes to be putting 20 Billy’s original food products on grocery store shelves. “We’ve already outgrown this,” he said of their facility on Thalweg Drive.

While presenting the company with a plaque commemorating their official launch at the ribbon cutting ceremony, Jane Flowers, executive director of the chamber said, “Entrepreneurship, working hard every day, being willing to take a risk, and providing good service to customers is what we need and hope all of you will support.”