This spring, United started serving Wheatley Vodka, which is distilled in small batches in Frankfort. Ky., in both economy, where it’s available for purchase, and business class, where it’s free. Also, in July, the airline started serving bags of maple wafers from Byrd’s Cookie Company, a fourth-generation, family-owned enterprise from Savannah, Ga., as its free economy class snack on morning flights.
American Airlines will start serving snacks from Lorissa’s Kitchen, a maker of grass-fed beef jerky, in November (free in business class; for sale in coach) and it will also be selling items from Zoe’s Kitchen, a Dallas-Fort Worth company that prides itself on its made-from-scratch Mediterranean dishes. The choices will include the Gruben sandwich, a combination of turkey, manchego cheese, slaw and feta spread on marble bread.
You mentioned JetBlue
JetBlue is so dedicated to supporting tiny food brands that it offers a mentoring program called BlueBud where companies work with its onboard food and beverage team to learn what it takes to supply products to an airline. They’re not guaranteed placement on JetBlue, but Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability, environmental and social governance, said that the point is to set up the budding entrepreneurs for success.
In the skies, the airline has numerous options from niche food companies, varying by route. In Mint, its business class cabin, for example, passengers can eat ice-cream from local producers. Flights departing from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., between October and December are stocked with a “chocolate decadence” flavor from the Miami Beach company, The Frieze, while flights leaving Los Angeles during these months can choose “bananas foster” from Coolhaus.
The companies must love this
Byrd’s, the cookie company whose products were picked up United, was making 200 million cookies a year before the airline started offering them. “We now make 1.9 billion of them a year,” said Geoff Repella, Byrd’s president. The thin and crispy wafers are made with brown sugar and maple syrup and are a variation on a recipe from the South that Mr. Repella said dates back more than 300 years. “Our relationship with United has been a game changer for us,” he said. “I get more than 20 calls and 40 emails a day from customers who want to buy our cookies.”