European cooking is steeped in tradition, and so anyone anywhere who wants to cook a meal based on European traditions would do well to find ingredients that are made to the most authentic standards. Providing delicious, easy to use, authentic meats that are true to Spanish and Italian traditions is Campofrio Food Group America’s mission. CEO Chris Maze says, “We’re the specialists in European meats, that’s all we do, and that makes us unique in the United States.”
From its plant in South Chesterfield, Va., Campofrio Food Group America supplies restaurants and retailers across the country with a full line of Italian and Spanish meats under the Fiorucci and Campofrio brands, respectively. Heritage is respected at Campofrio. The plant was built in the mid-1980s by Mr. Fiorucci, the great-grandson of the founder of Cesare Fiorucci SpA, Santa Palomba, Italy. By law, most Italian specialty meats could not be imported at that time so the Fiorucci Family brought Italy to the United States.
In 2011, Campofrio Food Group, the largest specialty meat company in Europe, purchased Fiorucci and changed the name of the U.S. company to Campofrio Food Group America. The name change signaled an important shift in the company’s focus from Italian to European. The first expansion was into Spanish Specialty Meats under the Campofrio Brand, No. 1 in Spain. According to Maze, this is only the beginning.
Maze has been with the company for 15 years. “I feel responsible to honor the great people who started our company while continually challenging myself and my coworkers to make us better each day,” he says, adding that the purchase by Campofrio has given the entire operation the resources it needs to become a trusted supplier of European Specialty Meats throughout North America. “Being owned by [Campofrio] has really put us in a great position,” Maze says.
He is obviously enthused about the strong relationship with Campofrio in Europe and the incredible mix of customer partners. “We have sales by channel (Foodservice and Retail) that mirror the way consumers spend their food dollars,” he says. An emerging trend can come from many sources, including Europe, restaurants, retail stores, regions of the country, and Campofrio America has connections to each. Adds Maze, “my team understands the power of listening because we have so many great sources of information.”
“As one of the largest companies in the processed meats sector, we are, in many ways, the industry standard because of our in-depth knowledge of our customers and consumers, which allows us to generate growth opportunities in all markets,” the company says.
Made With Tradition
The key to Campofrio Food Group America’s success in North America as well as Europe has been the company’s unwavering dedication to its customers and the authenticity in all of its products. Director of Quality Assurance Mark Bragalone is a 30-year veteran of Campofrio. “My job is to ensure that each product is up to the standards we demand and our customers expect,” says Bragalone. He is a 45-year industry veteran and spent time with Italian masters in the Rome plant when he joined the company. Now he frequently visits other Campofrio plants and hosts his European counterparts in Virginia. “There is a real respect for one another within our company and we appreciate good product and ideas without being concerned about who gets the credit,” states Bragalone.
For example, Campofrio imports its Jamon Serrano, the traditional dry-cured ham of Spain. The company’s Jamon Serrano is the most popular in all of Spain, and can be found in 70 percent of households there, the company says. The distinctive flavor of Campofrio Jamon Serrano comes from its 18 month, four stage dry curing method in mountain air. Many of the Italian and Spanish products are created in the United States plant using company recipes and procedures. “I appreciate how open my European counterparts are with their approach and how interested they are in our methods,” states Bragalone.
Customers and Consumers
One of Maze’s first priorities was to focus his Leadership Group on the well-being of all Campofrio associates, the customers, and consumers. Keith Amrhein, vice president of foodservice, appreciates that approach. “Each Leadership Team meeting starts with a review of our associates safety plus their insights and suggestions followed by measurements of customer satisfaction, and consumer feedback both positive and negative,” says Amrhein. Then the team reviews company results and expectations.
Campofrio Food Group America’s dedication to tradition while constantly identifying and leading on-trend change has resulted in a rapidly expanding antibiotic-free and no-nitrate-added business, and chef friendly versions and presentations of many all its products. “In Foodservice, our goal is to provide products that help our customers achieve their goals with a positive impact on their yields, labor, and logistics. To be a real partner, we have to understand our customer’s brand, their objectives, their operation, and any issues they are trying to solve before we attempt to sell anything,” says Amrhein. Campofrio has separate sales forces for its foodservice and retail businesses.
Being a Leader
Maze says authentic European cured meats are becoming more popular in North America, as evidenced by the increased interest in traditional Spanish tapas and the rise of “foodie” culture in general. “Protein, especially high-quality proteins in the authentic European and snacking categories of products are really taking off, and a lot of people are getting into that,” Maze says. “The U.S. market in this category is growing.”
Thanks to this trend, Maze says Campofrio Food Group America’s challenge is twofold; “we must provide products, expertise and resources to our customers so they can serve their consumers and profit from this amazing opportunity and, make sure our plant is ready for the increased demand” he says with a smile.
For this reason, the company is investing in $30 million in the Virginia facility. Maze says the expansion will improve the working environment for Campofrio associates, further enhance the quality of the products, allow us to respond to our customers’ needs, and increase capacity. No matter how the company faces the “rich challenges” created by its growth, Maze says Campofrio Food Group America will continue to meet them through its dedication to traditional European cured meats and by having the best people in the industry.