(May 22) Ed Mills, chief executive officer of Sunny Creek Farms, a sprout farm in Tryon, N.C., had been a vegetarian for 27 years.

One thing he said he noticed over the years was the lack of high-quality organic salad dressings. The few he did see on supermarket shelves didn’t taste very good.

He found the alternative, mass-marketed conventional dressings were unacceptable as well.

Though he now eats some organic beef, Mills is very health-conscious and reads the labels of all of the foods he eats.
“They had too many things I couldn’t pronounce and I wouldn’t eat,” Mills said.

So two years ago, Sunny Creek began making its own organic salad dressings, with the idea of making them appeal to the average consumer.

Now the company markets five dressings along with its sprout offerings. Sunny Creek ships about 20,000 pounds of sprouts a week, making it the largest sprout farmer in the Carolinas.

Sunny Creek’s dressings are all certified by Quality Assurance International, the third-party organization that monitors the organic food business.

Sunny Creek’s bleu cheese, buttermilk ranch, caesar, garlic feta and balsamic and olive oil dressings all contain less than 1% nonorganic ingredients. Items with less than 5% nonorganic ingredients qualify as organic, Mills said.

Using agave nectar as a sweetener instead of sugar lowers the glycemic index of the dressings from 85 to 39, important to people with blood sugar problems.

According to Mills, the dressings were good enough to attract Albert’s Organics Inc., Bridgeport, N.J., and the grocery division of United Natural Foods Inc, Dayville, Conn.

“United Natural Foods saw it in a Lowes and liked it and wanted to market it,” Mills said.

Mills said that the company is looking for ways to cross-promote the dressing with their sprouts. He said he was thinking about packaging them together in some fashion, but it hadn't happened yet.

“We have to find the right size packaging, and that’s not easy,” Mills said.