In the South, perhaps the only thing we love more than our food is the tale of a hometown hero. With Arbo’s Cheese Dip, we get both, which explains why this creamy-with-a-kick treat is taking the South by storm. This cheese dip is quickly becoming the favorite cheese dip across Southern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Kentucky. And, if your state is not listed, it’s coming, so be prepared for all the cheese-dip goodness you can handle!
Brand owner Andrew Arbogast is a native is Memphis, Tennessee who served in the U.S. Army, returned home with his family, and started the 9-to-5 grind. Needing a new challenge, he began toying with the idea of building a business based on a specialty of his father’s, a flavorful cheese dip based on a recipe passed down via Andrew’s maternal grandmother. As all good Memphians know, our city is home to a major local cheese dip favorite, so marketing a new one came with a risk.
“I thought Arbo’s would stand out because it was new, local, veteran-owned, and has a unique flavor and a kick that other dips don’t have,” Andrew says. And although you can serve it warm, this cheesy delight tastes every bit as delicious when eaten cold.
Memphians responded as Memphians do: with whole-hearted generosity and acceptance. “I have always loved this city and have made great connections along the way. The people of this amazing city have my back and want me to succeed, so I attribute my success in the community to the 901 where Arbo’s originated and accelerated,” Andrew tells us.
With some of his earlier challenges behind him – figuring out how to adjust the yield from one pound to 200, for example – Andrew turned his attention to growing the business. From the beginning, he had envisioned Arbo’s at grocery stores and restaurants across the region and, eventually, the nation. Early support from small, family-owned establishments such as High Point Grocery and Buster’s Liquors & Wines gave him opportunities and set a strong foundation. Next it was time to shift focus from grassroots to larger customers with regional and national distributions such as Kroger, Sysco, and Performance Food Group (PFG).
Outsourcing the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution to a co-packer to enable mass production for bigger grocery and foodservice was step one – and one of his biggest challenges to date. Andrew contacted several co-packers, only to find that he just didn’t have the volume to meet minimum requirements. When he contacted Bruce Parker of West End Fresh Salads in Tupelo, Mississippi, he finally found the partner he’d been looking for and expansion began. He also knew the time was right to quit his day job.
“We made our first container of commercial dip in May 2021,” he says. “And 30,000 units later, in August, I began to concentrate all of my attention on Arbo’s.” He credits the support of his wife, family, and friends to allow him to quit his “cushy corporate job” (all while wife Erin was pregnant with their third child; they are also the proud parents of 6-year-old twins).
While word of mouth provided a great launching pad, Andrew has added social media, local pop-ups, and food shows to the marketing strategy, as well as hiring a local agency to boost advertising on social media platforms. As of today, you can get your Arbo’s fix across Tennessee as well as in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Kentucky; specific cities include West Memphis, Tupelo, Oxford, Little Rock, Nashville, Pickwick, and Savannah. Next up? Birmingham, Louisville, and the Gulf Coast. “If you live in Louisville, visit your local Crossroad, Price Less IGA, Pic Pac, or Cash Saver and ask the deli to order Arbo’s Cheese Dip from the AWG Nashville warehouse,” Andrew says. “Same thing for Piggly Wiggly in Birmingham.”
Being born and raised in the Volunteer State, combined with his time in the service stationed in Alabama and Georgia, has given Andrew an enthusiastic fan base. “The support from being a veteran-owned business has made an enormous impact,” he says. “Since we spent time living in Savannah and made many wonderful friends there, the Tybee Island IGA grocery store has become one of our best sellers!”
As a veteran, Andrew felt called to use his growing business to honor the service people who gave everything for their country. To that end, he recently announced a new partnership with Folds of Honor, a non-profit that raises money to provide scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members. With every purchase of Arbo’s Cheese Dip, the company gives back to Folds of Honor.
He’s been given support in his endeavor by John Rich, of the popular country music duo Big & Rich, a champion of Folds of Honor, and the owner of Redneck Riviera Bar & BBQ in Nashville. The downtown honky tonk hotspot will be the first location in the South to serve Arbo’s Cheese Dip on its menu, starting March 1.
If you’d like to sample Arbo’s at other local restaurants near you, you are increasingly in luck! In Memphis, Brookhaven Pub & Grill will soon have the dip on its menus – a partnership Andrew says is a perfect fit for the Arbo’s brand: “A huge range of people eat at Brookhaven. From college age, through young professionals, to retirees – they are all our target market.”
Andrew has several other restaurants in the works, so be on the lookout in Memphis and beyond. Also upcoming: a spicier version and a Queso Blanco-style offering. Timing is TBD, but we can’t wait!
Although the Arbo’s journey has not always been easy, and more challenges lie ahead, Andrew would not have it any other way. “I’m doing what I was called to do, and I get to be true to myself every single day,” he says. “I love working on Arbo’s; it feels like more of a hobby than occupation. The people I’ve met and connections I’ve made are two of the most enjoyable aspects, and the hope that I can one day pay it forward pushes me further every day.”
If you’re not sure where to find a container or two of the delicious dip, just go to the Arbo’s website. You can enter your ZIP code to find the closest place that carries Arbo’s Cheese Dip and discover for yourself why this delectable treat is taking the South by storm!
All photography by Chris Lott Creative Studio unless otherwise noted.
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