Employees: Several contract employees and organizations
Ownership: Jerry Spinelli and Chrissy Rogers
Spinelli’s Sauce Co. is like Colorado’s headwaters. The company’s four varieties of pasta sauce, Classic Marinara, Roasted Garlic fra Diavolo, Creamy Tomato Vodka Sauce and Puttanesca di Napoli have made their way from the high plains of Colorado to surrounding states.
Spinelli’s sauces are in roughly 300 stores throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region, ranging from local stores like Spinelli’s Market (go figure!) to Vitamin Cottage and Natural Grocers; regional chains like King Soopers and City Market; and national chains like Safeway. “Natural Grocers opens like a store a month. They’ve brought us to Seattle, Missouri and every time they open a store they pick us up,” Rogers says. The sauces are also in Sprouts stores and some Central Market stores in Texas.
The high-end sauce company came about in 2007 when Rogers started working with Spinelli Market and making her sauce recipes. “I was working for Whole Foods about 14 years ago. Spinelli’s was looking for a chef and I tried finding them one. Then I started baking for them part-time. In 2007 I said ‘we should start a sauce company’ because we sold all of our sauces out of the market and we were selling them out of deli containers. I thought we should start bottling them,” Rogers explains.
As a result the sauce company was established separate from the Market. Although Jerry and Mary Ellen Spinelli retired and sold the market in April he is still co-owner of the sauce company, Rogers explains.
When Rogers first started bottling the sauce it was produced in 20-gallon batches. Now it’s produced in 200-gallon batches at Louisville-based co-packer Natural Food Works. “We just started working with them in February. Before that we used we used Silver State foods and a Comfort Foods in Albuquerque, N.M.,” she says. “Natural Food Works ensures everything is completely safe.”
With manufacturing successfully outsourced, Rogers is focusing on other operational management. “One of our needs right now is to create a team because we’re at a pivotal phase in our growth where we can’t do it with a handful of contract labor. We really need build a team that has expertise and can help us grow the company in the smartest and most successful way.” She says marketing, sales and financial consulting are positions they’re interested in.
That’s particularly important in a “taste-able” product. “I find our best selling technique is demos. There are a million sauces -- how do you get someone to pick yours off the shelf? We consider ours a premium product. It’s not $2.99 a jar it’s $6.99 a jar and how do you get people to go ‘Hey that’s good?’ Tasting. We find by far that’s our best marketing,” Rogers explains.
Since it’s a premium product, Rogers focuses on using premium ingredients and local ones when possible. “The onions that go into the sauce are local. The tomatoes we use are out of California. So many pasta sauces add sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. The tomatoes we use are such a high-quality, wonderful ripe tomato…that we don’t add sugar to our sauce.”
The company also recently launched Caesar, Gorgonzola and Balsamico salad dressings using all natural, preservative-free ingredients and must be refrigerated—even when sealed—so they’re primarily distributed locally. “We haven’t acquired distribution to other states,” Rogers says. Right now, “the dressings are very small in about 80 stores [in Colorado],” she says.
Challenges: “Growing into other regions,” Rogers says. “How do you do the demo in new regions…while keeping that homegrown artisan dynamic?
Opportunities: “Bringing our sauces outside the Rocky Mountain region,” Rogers says. “There’s a whole untapped market in the restaurant business.”
Needs: “Going from a one person operation to building a team of experts to grow Spinelli Sauce to its full potential. And money to hire and grow the company successfully,” Rogers says.