Sherpa Foods of South Burlington Wins Chobani Incubator Prize

Sherpa Foods of South Burlington is the recipient of a 2020 Chobani Incubator award, which will give the company opportunities ranging from a $15,000 grant to guidance about marketing and labeling.

Founded in 2015 by the husband-and-wife team of Nurbu and Phura Sherpa, the company makes beef and vegetarian Nepalese momos and three sauces to go with them: mild, hot and sesame. Sherpa also recently started producing veggie fried rice and veggie chow mein.

The company is one of eight food and drink businesses in the nation to receive the annual prize and the first winner in Vermont since New York-based yogurt manufacturer Chobani launched the initiative — aimed at strengthening local food systems — in 2016.

The selection coincides with Sherpa’s move to a larger facility at 1212 Williston Road. “It came at the exact time of our growth,” Nurbu Sherpa said. “We’ve been thinking about market development and going [farther] into New England with our distribution. This will help with packaging, labeling and distribution.”

Barring a change in plans due to COVID-19, the three-month incubator program will begin in mid-April with a series of seminars at Chobani’s Manhattan location, Sherpa said. Participants will meet with people from various departments at the company “and tap into their resources to see how they can help us get to the next level.”

For Sherpa Foods, that “next level” involves introducing vacuum-sealed packaging, Sherpa said, to extend the shelf life of the momos and facilitate expanded distribution. The Sherpas also plan to build their product line with pork and chicken momos and a second vegetarian option.

“All of this will be really helpful for us,” Sherpa said.

Sherpa Foods products are available at local grocery stores, including both City Market, Onion River Co-op locations in Burlington, Healthy Living Market & Café in South Burlington, and Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier.