Clearwater’s Yo Mama’s Foods finds secret sauce for continued success

Homegrown Clearwater company Yo Mama’s Foods continues to show it makes a special sauce for success.

Yo Mama’s, which specializes in high quality pasta, pizza and barbecue sauces and salad dressings, is now carried by more than 10,500 retail outlets, ships to all 50 states, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Australia, and continues to have the top-selling pizza and pasta sauces and ketchup on online retail giant Amazon.

Company founder David Habib, who was featured in a 2019 83 Degrees' story about companies that benefited from the expertise of the Clearwater Business SPARK network, earned a spot on Forbes 30 under 30 Class of 2022 list of successful young entrepreneurs. Yo Mama’s was also honored on the most recent annual list of GrowFL’s Florida Companies to Watch. 

It’s a string of accolades for the company that Habib, a University of Florida graduate who had worked in Washington D.C. and returned to Clearwater to launch from his parent’s home on Mother’s Day 2017. 

“It’s always great to have recognition for our team here,” Habib says. “It has  been a nice honor for them to share that with us. It helps us as we keep on growing our brand and keep on building our story.”

Perhaps most impressive, on top of typical startup pains, Yo Mama’s growth and success has continued to pick up steam as the company dealt with the COVID pandemic, supply chain interruptions, cost increases, inflation and spiking gas prices.

But living during the pandemic also helped Yo Mama’s grow its customer base, Habib says.

“More and more customers are cooking from home now,” he says. “During COVID, when people weren’t going out, many customers were buying online. A lot of those customers ended up trading up. Those who typically would buy a more recognized brand of less quality, if those specific brands had supply issues, they were purchasing more premium brands. I think a lot of premium brands grew during COVID because the customer,  after they had given us a try during the pandemic, decided, ‘Oh, this is a much better sauce, I'm going to order this one from now on.’ I think it has influenced a change in consumer behavior for not only our brands but a lot of premium brands.”

Habib also provides some insight on the game plan that’s helped fuel Yo Mama’s boom.

“Our approach is really starting small, thinking big and scaling quickly,” he says. Scale and distribution is a really important spice to the overall recipe because the food business is volume driven. You really have to do a lot of volume for the operation to make sense. But as you do more volume, you achieve more brand exposure, you get in more and more stores and more and more buyers are seeing you. It really snowballs. You just have to get past the uphill battle, which I would say was a solid five-year battle for us. From there it’s just focusing on scale and distribution. From there, the more people who purchase your items, the more people that you can get your product in their hands, it keeps on snowballing. As long as they like it and enjoy it, they’ll be coming back for more purchases.”

The city of Clearwater, a partner organization in Clearwater Business SPARK, offered a helping hand in Yo Mama’s early growth. The city’s Economic Development team helped Habib and Yo Mama’s find its current location -- a once vacant warehouse along Eldridge Street in an industrial area of the North Greenwood neighborhood, and offered expertise navigating the permitting process. 

Yo Mama’s Foods Co. turned out to be the catalyst that’s attracted more businesses to that area.
 

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather, and Florida's wealth of outdoor festivals.