- THE MAGAZINE
Quick. Name a long-standing Dallas organization identified, in part, with the color, silver?
Never mind the city’s pro football team. The answer is Food Source LP, a McKinney, Texas, private label frozen entrée processor celebrating its 25th silver anniversary.
Founded in 1984 by Italian immigrant and life-long chef Gaetano Riccardi, the business began as a co-packer and supplier of in-flight entrees. By 1995, it had doubled operations and expanded into foodservice sales. Food Source then became a private label supplier in 1998, added 50 percent more production in 2000 and purchased a second facility - including a state-of-the-art, European-designed plant - in 2002.
“‘Thats amore,’ is the best way to describe our company history,” says son Richard Riccardi, a former attorney and certified public accountant who joined the company as president in 1991. “Food Source got its start from my father - out of his love and passion for cooking delicious food.
“This year, we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary. We attribute this success to three factors: our loyal customers, dedicated team members and an effective supplier base. We are passionate about serving our customers and our team members and suppliers allow us to achieve those goals. Our customers have fueled our success by faithfully allowing us the opportunity to prepare their products. We respect the trust they place in Food Source.”
For the record, Food Source has two McKinney plants with about 150 team members. The company processes and nationally ships more than 75 SKUs including multi- and single-serve ethnic and homestyle entrees as well as a range of stuffed pastas, soups, side dishes and dips. Gaetano still leads the business as chief executive officer and head of culinary R&D.
“We are a very hands-on operation,” Richard notes. “Our food preparation area is designed to cook and prepare components ‘restaurant-style.’ By sautéing ingredients in a kettle and adding spice and meats at just the right time, we continue to achieve that ‘white table cloth taste’ that keeps consumers coming back.”
Food Source effectively prepares all products from scratch. Riccardi says both plants cook fresh meats; make fresh sauces; and prep and blend everything else from fresh vegetables to real cheese. Not surprisingly, the business follows its own pasta recipes starting with semolina durum flour and eggs.
Meanwhile, the company’s recipe for success with retail private label customers is just as basic: give them what they want.
Richard reports on talks at the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s annual convention last fall.
“Let’s face it. Every penny counts more today than ever. I believe that our economic times have caused consumers to switch to private label but they have become repeat customers because of the quality along with value,” he says. “What we heard from most customers was an emphasis on growing private label business because of consumer interest in high quality entrees at a better value. Retailers also talked about lowering costs and collaborating with suppliers to gain efficiencies.”
Food Source indeed is working more closer to its customers. Besides its work through branded companies, Food Source recently established direct private label supplier relationships with three of the nation’s top 10 retail chains.
Behind the scenes, Riccardi says Food Source stepped up its measured performance in food quality and food safety. Already reviewed by several external audit firms, he notes that company operations successfully passed a more robust SQF Institute audit on the first attempt.
Likewise, Food Source’s R&D program has added staff (food scientist, certified chef) and has worked more closely with customers on new products, packaging and healthier items that meet strict nutritional values with clean labels.
“From all indications, we are on track to launch more products with current [private label] customers and add new customers,” Richard concludes. “Meanwhile, our team is achieving higher food safety and quality goals and increasing our per-shift throughput.
“Wherever I travel, I visit the local grocery stores to see what is going on. It is very humbling and rewarding to see our products in every part of the United States.”