Ethan Holmes remembers the day he got the call. He was working his on-campus job at Hiram College, where he was studying business and entrepreneurship. He remembers his excitement. “I recognized the number. It was Heinen’s calling to say they would put my applesauce in 24 locations, including their four Chicago stores,” he says.
At the time, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce, the company Ethan founded at age 15, was producing about 200 jars a month. Heinen’s needed 3,000 units in two weeks. Ethan relied on his family and friends to fulfill the order, working out of the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (now renamed Central Kitchen), a shared production facility for craft food businesses. Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce is now a full-time pursuit, and his products are carried in 300 stores in five states, including most local grocery stores.
The start of Ethan’s applesauce dynasty can be traced to his grandfather, Elmer Buford, who made batches of fresh, homemade applesauce with a taste superior to anything that could be found in a store. Ethan thought other kids would like it too, so he experimented with apple varieties, textures, and flavor combinations. “I found that the combination of golden delicious apples, real apple cider, and a small addition of Bartlett pears make it sweet enough, without adding extra sugar.”
Early on, Ethan was so committed to perfecting his applesauce recipe, making more test batches than he could count. One year, he even asked his parents to give him apples for Christmas. Nowadays, he sources his apples primarily from Bauman Orchards and Quarry Hill Orchards and buys his cider from Patterson Fruit Farms. His applesauce is organic, non-GMO, vegan-friendly, and preservative-free.
The busy 25-year-old CEO is currently working on building relationships that would have Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce distributed through food service providers in schools, hospitals, and airlines. “We want to take Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce nationally and disrupt the market on a larger scale.”
Like many established entrepreneurs he admires, Ethan has developed his own plan to give back. Through the Holmes Entrepreneur Initiative, Ethan conducts presentations and workshops for high school students to encourage young people to pursue their business dreams. “I tell kids all the time that people want to invest in you, so start now.”
Find Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce locally at Zagara’s, Heinen’s, Whole Foods Market, Dave’s Market, Acme, and other locations. For more information, visit HolmesApplesauce.com.