By Maggie Heyn Richardson
March 18, 2021
Baton Rouge’s beloved, homegrown salad could be on more tables nationwide, thanks to the forthcoming expansion of Hanley’s Food’s Sensation dressing through Walmart and Costco.
The made-in-Baton Rouge condiment, currently in 80 regional Walmart stores, will soon be available in 400 Walmarts across the country, says Hanley’s CEO Richard Hanley, who launched the company in 2012 with his wife, Kate. The product was also recently placed in Louisiana’s three Costco locations (Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans), with additional stores to come. “Sales have been really strong,” Hanley says, “so they’re expanding us to three more Costco locations in the Houston area.”
The company is currently producing 300-500 gallons of dressing a week at the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, where it first began.
Local food products come and go, but Hanley’s has become a kind of poster child for artisan producers in the Capital Region. It launched after the Hanleys spotted a void in commercial production of what is arguably the area’s favorite salad dressing flavor.
Sensation salad, an all-season salad traditionally made with iceberg lettuce and an oil-based dressing defined by its garlicky, lemon and Romano cheesy profile, was originally served at the long-since-closed Bob & Jake’s, a steakhouse on Government Street.
Over the decades, you could find sensation salad in some restaurants and a few cookbooks, including River Road Recipes. But the dressing wasn’t yet a product you could buy in stores.
The couple came up with a formula, vigorously taste-tested it on friends and family, trademarked the name and began producing it at the LSU incubator. Hanley’s Foods has since added eight more dressing flavors, like Creole Ranch and Garlic & Red Wine Vinaigrette, and salad toppers, including Po’boy Croutons; roasted pecans called Nuts!; and vegetarian “Bacom” bits made from mushrooms.
Most small-batch producers who see success eventually make the jump to a co-packer, but the Hanleys haven’t found one they like enough to relinquish hands-on production. Instead, they’ve continued doing it themselves until they can build their own production facility, Hanley says, which they hope to begin by the end of the year.