COLUMBUS, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — There is only one Bahama Mama – even if it might appear that there is more than one Bahama Mama.
Sheetz opened its sixth local shop this week and with that opening the popular Altoona, Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain announced the addition of the Bahama Mama in all 47 (and counting) units in Ohio, even touting it as “the official food of Columbus” in its communications, a title the sausage earned in a Columbus Dispatch reader’s poll.
But one name missing from the news: Schmidt’s, the historic Columbus restaurant and event business whose name is synonymous with that spicy German sausage.
But Carla Epler, Schmidt’s chief operating officer, said the Sheetz sausage is the Schmidt’s sausage. Though it doesn’t carry the family name, the ingredients are the same.
“We’re thrilled that Sheetz is embracing the Bahama Mama,” Epler said. “We want them to be successful. When the Bahama Mama does well, we do well.”
There are two differences in the sausages of note. The big one is size. The restaurant links are larger – Epler calls it three-to-one, essentially three links per pound of meat – while the Bahama Mama sold in Sheetz and other retailers are five links per pound.
“It looks more like a hot dog,” she said. “But it’s the same taste.”
Epler said the smaller links also do not have the natural casing the restaurant links have, which means they don’t have that signature snap that long-timer restaurant diners would recognize.
This slight divide between Bahama Mama versions has been in place for years.
Although the Schmidt’s family still handles the Bahama Mamas sold at the restaurant, on its food trucks and at catered events, distribution rights to grocery stores, convenience stores and other outside venues have been controlled by outside companies for years.
Massachusetts-based Home Market Foods holds those rights today. Central Ohio-based Hot n Spicey Inc. was the previous distributor and holder of the trademark. It was acquired by Home Market Foods in 2016 and touts the product’s back story on its website.
Schmidt’s does not get a cut of any Bahama Mama sales through those channels, even on the products that do have the family name.
“But the name is out there,” Epler said. “That’s the benefit to us.”
Sheetz is selling its Bahama Mamas for $2.99. It opened up its newest shop at 4279 Cemetery Road in Hilliard this week.
For more business headlines, go to ColumbusBusinessFirst.com.