Santucci Associates started business in 1959 as a nut and dried fruit broker, and formed the Specialty Food division in 1964. It introduced specialty foods and confectionery products to department stores such as Wanamakers, Strawbridge & Clothier, Gimbels, Hutzler’s, Hoschild Kohn’s, Thalhimers and Miller & Rhoades, along with German delis, cheese/gourmet shops, gift shops and upscale independent grocers. As times changed, and the department stores faded away, Santucci Associates began focusing on grocery chains through Specialty Food Distributors.
“Today, it is primarily supermarkets through distributors with most of the old department stores and German delis gone,” Jerry Santucci says.
Santucci Associates is a food brokerage house. “We are the manufacturers’ representatives,” Vice President Stephen DeLeo explains. “We are basically a salesforce for hire. We contract with different vendors who we represent and sell their product within a defined geography or by account.”
DeLeo describes it as an exciting business with many product offerings. “You have to have a passion for fine food and specialty natural, organic, ethnic and Kosher varieties,” He says. This includes dried fruit, nuts, cookies and crackers, preserves, coffee, tea, specialty sauces, pasta, spices, cereals, juices, snacks and cocktail mixes, among other products.
Specialty foods are fast-moving product categories with trends quickly changing. Santucci Associates was among the first to help introduce balsamic vinegar to the U.S. food market. “Now, it’s found everywhere,” Jerry Santucci says. “We also brokered Extra Virgin Olive Oil when no one knew what that was. Many of the lines we represent have become category leaders.” These include Twinings Tea, Walkers Shortbread, Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Rao’s Pasta Sauce, Near East Rice Pilaf and Cous Cous, Maille Mustard, Bonne Maman Preserves, Kitchen Basics Soup Stocks and Mariani Dried Fruit Snacks.”
“Everything is always changing in this business,” notes Steve Santucci, Vice President. “Demographics, lifestyles and consumers are changing so we stay flexible. People are eating fewer big meals and snacking more.” This trend bodes well for Santucci Associates.
“In fact, snack items, in particular, healthy snack items, are a huge growth area in the food industry.
Many Moving Parts
“We concentrate on product, innovation, quality, excitement and market fit,” DeLeo explains. “Our formula is simple: service. We present our products to the Specialty Food Distributors and also to the trade they cover, providing retail coverage such as setting stores, obtaining off-shelf displays, working out promotions, educating store personnel and managing product demonstrations.” Jerry Santucci adds… “And at times, we have been known to unload trucks.”
Steve DeLeo notes “Promotions have lots of moving pieces. It is our responsibility to walk these promotions through as simple or complex as they are and make sure they are effective,” “It is a very important aspect of what we do. Manufacturers are spending dollars to promote their product. If these efforts do not end up at the store level, the dollars are wasted.”
Santucci Associates excels at honest, transparent representation, he says. “We communicate very well with vendors, distributors and retailers to face any issues at hand and manage through them,” DeLeo says. “Vendors, Distributors and Retailers form the triangle of who we deal with and all three are part of the formula of bringing innovative product to market.”
Santucci Associates is a rapidly growing, family owned company that emphasizes long-term relationships for long-term success.
The company was founded in 1959 by the late Anthony Santucci, one of the founders of the National Association of Specialty Food Brokers. Jerry Santucci, Anthony’s brother, is a two time past President of this Brokers Association and was initiated into the Specialty Foods Hall of Fame in January of 2015. Jerry Santucci joined the business in 1964, starting the Specialty Food Division. Steve Santucci, Anthony’s son, got started in the business in 1975 and worked under his uncle Jerry Santucci, learning the specialty side of the business. He now manages the nut and dried fruit division, both retail and commodities. His son, Colin Santucci, entered the business in 2008, and is involved with both sides of the business. Stephen DeLeo joined the company over 29 years ago and spearheads the Specialty Food Division and is largely responsible for its growth.
“We are a family business and all our employees are considered a part of the family and a large part of our success is due to their hard work and dedication,” Jerry Santucci says. We currently have 23 salaried associates and our salesmen are not on commission as we want them involved in all accounts. We take pride in providing a dedicated account manager at all our chain accounts and are not afraid to get our hands dirty. We all feel lucky to be a part of a business that we love.