News Release
 February 13, 2023
CONTACT: Kathy Sautter
716 635 5577

Tops Honors Black Run Businesses During Black History Month

(Williamsville, NY) - When Julie Ndjee, co-owner of Neilly's Foods, ventured down the road to becoming a business owner, it was not intentional. In fact, it was born out of her own need for convenience. As a busy career woman, she needed a convenient and healthy meal option for her family, which she could not find at the store. So she set out to create it herself. "I certainly got myself into a lot of work as a result," she laughs during an interview with a Tops spokeswoman.

That was a little over a decade ago. When she and her husband Al began, they were in the corporate world trying to juggle work, family, and this budding business when they came to a crossroads. Something had to give. It was apparent that their desire to pursue a passion for creating flavorful native dishes from their home country in Central Africa was where their heart lay. And so Neilly's Foods was born.

"It's amazing how life takes you to where you should be," Julie said. At first, they started with a simple sauce blend that could be used with chicken, fish, or a vegetable Saute, but they had to learn all the ins and outs of running a business first before going any further.

"There was a lot to learn. It was not easy to get on shelves, get the word out, and figure out financing. We also had to ensure we met the requirements by being lab tested and then began searching for a co-packer. At first, we took our products to farmer's markets which we enjoyed because we would get face-to-face feedback from customers and hear what they liked about the products. We still like doing that today when we can," Julie said.

From there, their business continued to expand with not only the expansion of offerings but also their distribution to stores like Tops and other retailers, Nationally. Today they are in 18 Tops locations and Nationally offer 32 SKUs, which include sauces, rice, condiments, and frozen sides and meals. Julie also spoke about the brand's continued growth, which will soon have desserts.

"We like to continue to look at how do we solve problems for people. We enjoy making a difference in families' lives by offering a healthy, low-sodium product. It's important for people to enjoy food and keep it the way it's supposed to be, without bad ingredients."

Julie prides herself on providing her customers with products that also have 50% more herbs and vegetables. "Quality is key, and that is why we decided to bring manufacturing in-house to control the process."

In 2022, Neilly's purchased a new manufacturing facility allowing them to expand their line, but in a controlled fashion. "We take on new customers based on what we can cover and tend to expand to customers who know our brand and us."

When asked what advice she would give others interested in pursuing a passion project, she had this to say:

"Stick to your passion. Learn your craft. When you have the discipline to learn something from start to finish, you can really excel at what you do. It makes a difference. I once read it takes 10,000 hours to be good at anything, and I really believe that. You have to study and take workshops. And somehow, the universe speaks back to you."

To learn more about Julie and Al's journey, visit or pick up Neilly's Zesty Rice & Red Bean Mix, Brown Rice Jambalaya Mix or Jerk Rice and Black Bean Mix at select Tops locations today. ###

About Tops Friendly Markets Based in Williamsville, NY, Tops Markets currently operates 149 grocery stores in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, including five that are run by franchisees. As the largest private, for-profit employer in Western New York, with over 14,000 associates, the company is dedicated to providing sustainably sourced, high-quality products, while helping its communities flourish via support for programs that eradicate hunger and disease, educate youth and reduce environmental waste and energy consumption. For more information, visit


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