The new Andouille Trail seeks to draw visitors to Louisiana’s river parishes
Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.
“Andouille is a sausage with an identity crisis.”
That funny and true statement was made to me by Buddy Boe, executive director of Louisiana River Parishes Tourist Commission (RPTC) in a recent interview. Like many aspects of Louisiana culture, andouille — known for its smoky flavor and chunky interior texture — is derived from a mixture of traditions. It is a German sausage with a French name, crafted by generations of cooks in the river parishes.
In September, the RPTC launched The Andouille Trail, a new culinary experience designed to showcase and celebrate andouille and the people who make it in Louisiana’s River Parishes. There are currently 34 stops or “links” on the trail where visitors can choose to eat andouille in restaurants, order andouille to ship home, take a cooking class with andouille as the star ingredient and even learn to make andouille themselves.
“The Andouille Trail provides us with an opportunity to celebrate what makes Louisiana’s River Parishes so unique and why people come out here from around the world to experience our cuisine and our hospitality,” said Boe. “Now more than ever, our communities need something to look forward to and have a reason to celebrate. This initiative represents an opportunity to bring people together around our region’s favorite dish while supporting our small businesses through our industry’s recovery.”
Boe said the trail had been in the planning stages since 2019. When the tourism economy was dramatically impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, RPTC used that time to focus its efforts on launching the trail and working on other initiatives soon to come.
Through the lens of New Orleans tourism, the River Parishes — St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist — are typically considered day-trip destinations for plantation visits and swamp tours. The Andouille Trail is meant to draw visitors to the River Parishes for longer than a day trip, guiding them through the three parishes to destinations on both sides of the Mississippi River, with current “links” from St. Rose to Convent, Louisiana. The helpful website encourages visitors to build an itinerary filled with locations classified as Buy It, Make It, Taste It, Eat It and Ship It.
“Our desired outcome is to give people down the street and around the world another reason to visit Louisiana’s River Parishes,” said Boe. “Because of our area’s complicated history and the multiple cultures that either came here or were brought here, our culinary traditions, one of them being andouille, have also added to the flavor profile of Louisiana cuisine. We wanted to make sure that our contributions to that Louisiana plate and buffet of food had its own asset that visitors could easily utilize and know where to go regardless of how they want to experience it.”
To help market The Andouille Trail, the RPTC created logos and signage for the restaurants, coffee shops and andouille makers on the trail to incorporate into their own menus, websites and parking lots. The RPTC also launched a digital campaign within a three-hour drive market and has long-term plans for print campaigns in food-focused publications and expanded digital advertising for chefs, cooks and even people searching online for the keyword “sausage.”
They also created an Andouille Trail Passport. The culinarily adventurous can bring the passport with them to the “links” on the trail and collect stamps along with their experiences. After they go to five of the trail’s locations, they can mail in the passport and the corresponding receipts as proof of visits to the RPTC and in return, they’ll be sent a roux spoon marked with The Andouille Trail logo.
The Andouille Trail is a permanent project that will expand over time. Boe said it is meant to help build the tourism infrastructure of the River Parishes and works in tandem with the other offerings in the region. The River Parishes website currently has 11 itineraries for visitors, including Nautical by Nature, Rhythms of the Region, Historic Women of the River Parishes and History of the Enslaved. Each itinerary is multiday, encouraging visitors to stay in local hotels and enjoy andouille-filled meals between other activities.