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Clarence's Nanco Group adds Paula Deen to its food team; Partnership to develop branded packaged goods

Paula Deen's Southern cooking is getting a bit of Western New York flavor.

The celebrity chef has teamed up with locally based Nanco Group to form Paula Deen Foods. The new partnership will develop food products expected to reach retail shelves starting in early 2013.

The Nanco Group is owned by the Nanula family, known for its past connections to the Tops Markets and Wilson Farms chains.

Nick Gallegos, a Nanco partner and executive vice president of Paula Deen Foods, said the company was not yet ready to disclose the types of packaged goods that will be sold under the Deen name. But he said there will be a combination of perishable and nonperishable items, and they will cover Deen's traditional recipes, as well as some lighter versions.

Paula Deen Foods has two offices: one in Clarence and one in Savannah, Ga., where Deen is based.

"We are honored to take the Nanco generations of experience and bring our favorite recipes from our family to your own," Deen said in a statement.

Some items have been sold under the Deen name on store shelves through past licensing agreements, Gallegos said. But the partnership is taking a new approach, with Deen and Nanco working side by side.

"This isn't Paula just signing off on something," said Steven Nanula, president of Paula Deen Foods. "This is Paula really getting into it and rolling up her sleeves along with her team."

Gallegos, who has past experience with Safeway and Wilson Farms, said Deen is meticulous about the taste of the products.

"It's got to be delicious, and it's got to be authentic, or she won't put her name on it and won't allow us to put her name on it," Gallegos said.

Nanula said the new venture fits into one of the fastest-growing segments in the supermarket industry: specialty brands.

Deen is a popular TV personality who has built her brand through cookbooks, restaurants and cookware. She generated controversy in January when she revealed she had been diagnosed with diabetes about three years earlier.