Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Organic Pasta Saga

We have been selling Organic Pasta, made in the USA (Actually, made in California) since we started in business 16 years ago.

It was originally made for us by a small, family producer, that ran into trouble when is passed from one generation to the next.

One day about 10 years ago, I flew to LA to pick up our commission check, but when i got to the plant, the owner told me he had to get a certified check for $10,000 to PG&E so they kept supplying electrical power to the plant, and we never did get that check....and soon after, they were out of business.

We then switched to another pasta manufacturer in LA. First they were owned by a meat company, then got sold to a conglomerate, then got sold to a guy in the Asian noodle business. He told me at one point that he thought he could do well with pasta, because, like Asian noodles, they were made out of flour and water.

The first change he made, other than raising prices, was to cut back the number of SKUs (grocery lingo for 'stock keeping units') We went from 25 shapes to 8 or 9.

Up until then, i used to joke around that I wanted to be the Orzo King, because we had Organic White (Semolina) Orzo and Organic Whole Wheat Orzo, and I also wanted them to come out with Organic Rainbow Orzo and Organic Multigrain Orzo. Alas, it was not to be.

Then the new owner decided he didn't want to produce bulk pasta in our Natural Value brand...he wanted to come out with his own brand and simply take our business away. I told him that we had worked hard for 16 years building up our pasta business, and that we would sooner go somewhere else than turn our business over to him in exchange for.... nothing.

At first, it looked like we were going to have to source our pasta from Italy. They obviously make good pasta in Italy, and the pricing was very attractive, but Jody and I want to continue supporting American farmers and American manufacturers. We're proud of that. We feel like we're doing our part in helping our country and our people.

Right now, though, we are in transition, and will be out of product for another 2 weeks until the new US producer's product hits the market.

In the meantime, I still dream someday about being the Orzo King :)