Whipped up in his Williamsville kitchen, Bruce Benson’s bacon-tinged barbecue sauce was a hit – confirmed by friends who tried it and kept coming back for more.

But Benson couldn’t get his sauce in stores. As a startup, he wasn’t producing the volume that a large automated, production facility requires, and the smaller operations were too expensive.

“It was a challenge,” he said.

Until he found Pellicano Specialty Foods in Buffalo to make and bottle his KTB Bucking Pig BBQ Sauce.

“It definitely was a turning point; I couldn’t have done it without Pellicano’s,” Benson said.

Pellicano Specialty Foods, a South Buffalo manufacturer of its own and private label sauces and co-packer for large food companies, is expanding to do work for startups and small businesses.

The company will open a 2,000-square-foot pilot plant within its 24,000-square-foot facility on Reading Street in October to co-pack lower-volume production. Co-packing differs from private label manufacturing because the formulation comes from the client, not the manufacturer, and the products are made according to the client’s specifications. This contractual arrangement is common among food entrepreneurs and businesses that can’t afford or don’t operate their own processing plants. Pellicano’s co-packs shelf-stable food for a variety of companies.

The new plant will be semiautomated, similar to other small co-packing manufacturers, said Mario Pellicano, president of Pellicano’s.

“I think we could give them a competitive advantage because we’ll able to buy raw materials at large plant prices,” he said. “Startups are paying a lot at small plants, and it’s hard to get going if you can’t turn enough of a profit.”

In the new plant, companies will have two options to make their products. They will be able to rent the machines by the hour and operate them if the workers have completed the Better Procession Control School and have the required insurance. Or Pellicano’s workers can oversee production for a per-unit cost.

Mario Pellicano gets about a half a dozen calls a week from fledgling food companies requesting to process and bottle from 300 to 400 jars of sauces, but his facility typically does 2,000 cases or orders of 1,000 bottles for larger businesses.

Pellicano said that it is not cost-effective to do the smaller jobs, but he has agreed to help entrepreneurs such as Benson and others in the past to get them going. Pellicano’s also will offer services to the small businesses using the new plant, including research and development and assistance getting raw materials and packaging through their suppliers. And as the businesses grow, they can graduate to the main facility.

Benson, who had been in the interior design business, was new to food manufacturing, and said Pellicano helped him get started. He sells about 1,200 to 1,500 bottles a month at Tops, Dash’s and Niagara Produce, and hopes to expand.