Always looking to stay ahead of the curve, Victoria Fine Foods creates premium pasta sauces that meet the lifestyle needs of its consumers.
Founded in 1929, Victoria Fine Foods remains a Brooklyn-based company known as the leading slow kettle-cooked pasta sauce manufacturer in the United States. Victoria still uses only a handful of fresh ingredients for its specialty Italian sauces and condiments, and traditional slow kettle-cooking methods to ensure rich flavor and a homemade taste.
Committed to longstanding values of quality, honesty, authenticity and community, Victoria believes that ingredients come first. These values extend back to the company’s founding family, Italian immigrants who came to Brooklyn nearly a century ago. Although they sold the company to new ownership in 2011, the fundamental qualities that made Victoria Fine Foods remain intact.
“We have been professionalizing the company and taking this dominant Northeast-known brand across the country,” CEO Tim Shanley says. “The brand has a cult-like following in the Northeast because of its superior product and commitment to insightful innovation. Victoria has more than four times the Facebook following of our nearest premium pasta sauce-only brand, and we are only distributed in about 25 percent of the country at this point. We have maintained the authenticity of our recipes while instilling modern sensibilities into the business.”
Driven to Innovate
Victoria is focused on bringing new products and usage ideas to the pasta sauce category. The pasta sauce category has a low barrier to entry, so Victoria knows it is important to stand out.
“We have been innovative and ambitious trendsetters from the beginning,” Shanley says. “We were the first to bring restaurant designs (Vodka sauce) to the market in the 90’s, we created our first organic line in 2005 before it was trendy, the first vegan Alfredo sauce, and we were the first major premium brand to label non-GMO certified. People trust our brand to bring them relevant innovations. You can say we were Brooklyn. Before Brooklyn was Brooklyn.”
Several years ago, Victoria Fine Foods was focused on modernizing its plant and instilling quality controls to support its innovation efforts – implementing manufacturing as a science. This helped the company make sure all of its lines were ahead of the highest standards and the best in class. Because Victoria Fine Foods’ products are artisanal and cooked in a slow and hands-on manner, the company has also invested in ensuring consistency. For example, it uses imported Italian tomatoes, and it has narrowed it partners down to three processors in Italy to ensure quality in the supply chain.
“We have verifiable, trustworthy partners for all of our ingredients,” Shanley says. “We may pay more for ingredients, but there is a reason: It protects the integrity of the brand. Ingredients come first. It’s why we put them on the front of the label.”
Now, the focus is on innovative products that solve consumer problems. The company says it will soon launch products that will help it stand out in the sea of red pasta sauce.
“We want to keep ahead of the nutrition and lifestyle wave that is hitting the food industry,” Shanley says. “We are mining proprietary research and technical relationships which has led to our recent offerings – Avocado Oil Marinara and Chef’s Collection Pasta Meals. Being innovative with the brand helps us to stay ahead and be trusted. We also need to make sure we stay innovative with our accounts. By addressing their needs with items like private-label and seasonal products as well as promotions using modern lifestyle technology, we are coming up with solutions which support them, because ultimately, that is what matters.”
The company has even done in-home studies and followed consumers in stores to help understand how its products are bought and used. Some of this insight will likely come out in its next wave of offers, in the form of both products and packaging. Thought the company is not prepared to share these ideas yet, it should address the lifestyle needs of consumers by making products that are health and easier to prepare.
On the Move
Expanding the brand’s reach is a clear priority. Victoria is the second-best selling premium pasta sauce in the country with less than half the distribution of number one and three. The company would like to at least double the size of the business in the next few years and get to 50 to 60 percent of the country. Just like Brooklyn, it plans to work as hard as it can to meet its goals.
Recently, Victoria Fine Foods implemented a major change in its route to the market to best service its accounts. The company used to use its own DSD (direct store delivery) for most of its distribution. That method can be a great way to introduce the brand and get the products on shelves, helping the brand build its presence. Now, as the company develops a market, it has much more flexible options and will work with accounts to best meet their needs.
“For instance, our cult like following in the Northeast has made direct shipment to some accounts feasible,” Shanley says. “Our cult-like following pulls products off the shelf so fast that it warrants this direct distribution. However, some accounts like the extra service that comes with a third-party distributor, so we happily accommodate that as well. We are no longer a one-size-fits-all. We find the best distribution model for the market and slowly over time find ways to create the best value for the consumer.”
Victoria may seem like a high-ticket item compared to the mass-produced brands, but the company is confident that more consumers are willing to pay for a quality product with a clean, simple ingredient deck made just like you would at home. The company believes it can continue to overcome barriers as it works on growing its brand.
“What makes us different is our combination of authentic and ambitious,” Shanley says. “Italy Born. Brooklyn Raised. What could be better than that? The best of Italy and with the modern ambition of Brooklyn. We will help consumers meet their lifestyles with delicious products, traditionally made in designs that speak to their social and health-conscious needs. We will continue to lead the premium pasta sauce category.”