There are two things that Gino DeMino knows about tomato sauce: taste and price.
When locally produced Guglielmo’s sauce came onto Batavia Tops shelves, DeMino, the store manager, knew another good one had arrived.
“I’ve had it, it’s fantastic. It has great flavor, and it’s not watered down. It has a more homemade taste,” DeMino said. “His sauce is a premium. They’re starting to do better with inflation.”
Premium equals higher quality and also means a higher price. Since inflation has been driving up prices of most everything, that has helped sales of those more expensive items, he said.
DeMino has the qualifications to know products, he said: he’s been in the business for more than 20 years and “I’m Italian.”
“I tend to eat more pasta than most people,” he said.
Guglielmo’s, a generational sauce made at Craft Cannery in Bergen, is sold at a long list of stores in neighboring counties, including Tops Friendly Markets. The sauce arrived at Batavia Tops about six months ago, but DeMinio had discovered it before then, at a Rochester store.
Several small businesses bring their recipes to Craft, which manufactures their products as a safe, reliable end result. Red Osier of Stafford is another local client that has marinades and sauces in Tops and Wegmans, and more distant places, such as Hotdog Charlie’s from the Albany area, is a hot seller, Tom Riggio said.
The ever-expanding vendor list is just one sign of Craft Cannery’s robust health, said Riggio, Guglielmo’s business partner. They have more than 75 clients.
“We’re growing,” Riggio said. “As far as the size of the expansion, we’re not exactly sure of the exact size at this point in time, but anywhere between 3 and 5,000 square feet. It’ll allow us to build a separate warehouse behind our building for storage purposes and allow us to put in a second kitchen, essentially a second bottling line facility.
“Our sweet spot is the local restauranteur that says they think they've got the best pasta sauce. And it was actually very, very helpful during COVID when these restaurants weren't open,” he said. “They would come to us with their pasta sauce recipe, we would make it food safe and bottle it for them. And then they get it on shelves.”
Craft Cannery is one of six USDA-certified manufacturing canneries in New York State that allows the company to produce meat-based products. It’s a good opportunity to continue to grow the business, he said. Based at 7100 Appletree Ave. in Bergen, the site on the east end of Genesee County continues to update its products and hire new personnel, especially after the expansion is completed by the first half of 2024.
One of its more recent products has been the EZ cap using new technology “which allows people that struggle to open jars to essentially push a button and be able to open a jar with a lot less force,” he said.
“Our business continues to grow, we’re experiencing growth,” Riggio said. “We’re looking to add more people. We’re up to eight, we’re adding one new this Monday. Two more next week. And seven to eight to run the second line.”
With all of the good, there have been a few bumps along the way since purchasing the company in May 2020. Craft lost a client they had been producing six varieties of sauces for, which meant taking a financial hit. They had purchased raw materials, made product and shipped it out before learning that Real Eats out of Geneva had gone out of business. It was a loss of “tens of thousands of dollars,” Riggio said.
“It stings. It’s the cost of doing business for us. Thankfully, you know, we plan for these situations,” he said. “Our business will be fine; it hasn’t impacted our business. Our employees will be able to use some of the raw materials.”
Contrary to how some news articles made it seem, Craft Cannery is alive and well, he said. If anything, he will take a page from that other company’s last chapter and learn to move carefully with Craft Cannery. The site is big enough for options.
“We’ve got land that we could expand even further. But what we don’t want to do is, we don’t want to over-expand. We’re going to take the steps that we need to do to keep up and grow the business,” he said. “I don’t want to overstep it and put the business at risk, which is exactly what happened with Real Eats. I’ve got a background in building businesses and brands. And obviously, Paul is the face of the company. So the two of us make a good one-two punch.”
Top Photo: Paul Guglielmo shows some of his sauce that's locally made at Craft Cannery in Bergen and now available at Batavia Tops on Lewiston Road. Photos by Howard Owens.