Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Sausage, meatballs, and other pork products
Vice President Melodie Polidori Harris is guiding her family's venerable sausage maker to national growth as it nears the century mark.
Though more than 90 years old, this Colorado-proud, family-owned sausage manufacturing company is anything but stuck in its ways. Polidori Harris and her brother, Steve, have continued to build the business around the heirloom Italian sausage their Sicilian great grandmother first sold at Polidori's Grocery and Meat Market on the north side of Denver back in the 1920s. But over the years, they've significantly expanded the company's product line as well as its physical and distribution footprint.
"My great grandmother was making raw sausage in casing as well as bulk sausage," Polidori Harris says, "but she was just doing Italian sausage. Everything else in our product line has evolved around that."
That evolution has led to the manufacturing of more than 60 different types of sausages as well as chorizo, pizza toppings, and meatballs. While Italian sausage -- ranging from mild to spicy to extra spicy and available in bulk, patties, and strips -- continues to account for the largest share of the company's sales, Polidori Harris says the bulk chorizo is the single biggest mover.
These and the company's other raw products are currently produced in a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art USDA manufacturing plant the company moved to in 2016. "We were previously in a facility that was about 3,000 square feet in what we all affectionately know as LoHi," Polidori Harris says. "We wanted to stay in Denver, so we found a larger facility and renovated it. We're just about to celebrate our second anniversary here, and we're already out of cooler space, though we've gained a lot of efficiency."
The team produces about 40,000 pounds of raw product each week, while co-packers around the country manufacture close to 20,000 pounds of Polidori Sausage's meatballs, pizza toppings, and other pre-cooked products using the company's proprietary recipes. "Our grand total is a little over 3 million pounds of product a year," Polidori Harris adds.
All of Polidori's products utilize a lean cut of pork shoulder, making them lower in fat than the sausages sold by competitors. They're also created with all-natural spices, are gluten-free, and never contain MSG or preservatives. Because there are not enough farmers in Colorado to supply the quantities of pork that Polidori Sausage needs, Polidori Harris says the company buys it from PETA-friendly, ethical, and sustainable producers in the Midwest.
Polidori Sausage products are distributed to thousands of restaurants and over 2,500 grocery stores nationwide. "If you're in the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Southern California, Arizona, or the Midwest, you can typically find our meatballs in the Kroger deli section," Polidori Harris says. "On the fresh side, if you go to a King Soopers, City Market, or Safeway, you'll find our raw sausage products."
She adds, "For food service, there's Shamrock, Sysco, US Foods, and PFG, all through the state and even regionally as we've expanded into Texas, Southern California, and Arizona."
Challenges: Polidori Harris says that the company is currently dealing with two challenges. The first is making sure they have enough raw materials on hand to meet spikes in their customers' needs. The second is one of the most common in the Colorado economy: labor.
"We offer a very competitive benefits package that includes dental, health, a 401(k) and 401(k) profit sharing, but it's still challenging," Polidori Harris explained. "My strongest assets are my employees and because we are a small company, it's important that we have the right people in the mix. We need people who are team players and who don't mind working in a fast-paced, cold environment."
Opportunities: Polidori Sausage is the official bratwurst and sausage provider for the Colorado Rockies' 2018 season. "They have several items of ours that you'll find in the concession stands," Polidori Harris notes. "There's a 10-inch bratwurst, a Polish, and a hatch chili cheese sausage they are utilizing. There are also a couple of other sausages and a chorizo crumble that they're using on a mac and cheese."
Safeway shoppers will soon find more of Polidori Sausage's products on display as the company has picked up additional shelf space at the supermarket chain. Polidori Harris says that there is also opportunity within the meal kit provider industry. "We don't care if you're a one-man mom-and-pop place or have 15 locations, we'll treat you the same. Everybody's business is just as important to us whether you're buying one case or 50 cases."
The company is on track for 12 percent growth in 2018. "But it's not always necessarily about growth for us," Polidori Harris adds. "It's also about maintaining the business we have, and we spend a lot of time on that as well."
Needs: Polidori Harris says the company is looking at investing in additional equipment as well as continuing to work towards maintaining a strong labor force.