San Francisco, CA
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Organic and natural meats
For founders Rob Engelhart and Phil Gatto, old-world methods bring organic, farm-to-table meats to the top of the food supply chain.
Engelhart and Gatto both had backgrounds in the meat industry before starting True Story Foods in 2011. "We saw an opportunity to bring natural, organic, non-GMO meats to the marketplace, using old-world quality attributes and manufacturing skills," says Gatto. Without divulging their actual methods, Gatto says it generally involves producing deli-style meats, sausages, and hot dogs using small-batch, traditional methods. Automation would enable True Story to generate even higher output, but at the expense, Gatto fears, of quality and taste.
In addition to specialized techniques, the company’s chicken, turkey, beef, and pork all come from animals that are never caged, or raised in a crate. According to Engelhart, the company is determined to keep True Story Food's supply chain transparent, supporting farmers who apply land-management practices that promote animal health and protect delicate rangeland ecosystems.
With a variety of farms delivering product from across the United States, processing is done at the company’s San Francisco facility. An experienced staff is one component of a refined production capability that enables the company to sell and deliver directly to large accounts such as Costco. Distributors are used handle customers who purchase product in smaller quantities. Most of the company's varied product line goes to retailers in Western states, but the company is beginning to enter markets in the Midwest and East with a direct sales team that is helping them to expand.
Even as the organic label drives interest, taste is True Story Foods' differentiator. "I think at the end of the day, it’s all about the eating experience," says Engelhart. While the products may cost a bit more to produce and purchase, consumers are demonstrating a willingness to pay for higher quality.
To further expand its market share, product awareness is key, and the company leans on social media to communicate both the product story and the passion that informs operations. "We like to tell our story, that we love what we do," says Engelhart. "I think there’s a lot of consumers that want to connect and associate with that. We ask them to support us by buying our products.
He adds, "We really feel that food connects everyone, so we want to be part of that meal. We hope those good eating experiences will open their eyes and curiosity about where their food comes from." The fact that both co-founders heartily agree that they like to have a good time and enjoy their work bodes well for further developing strong bonds with their customers.
Needs: Expansion of the customer base will mean a need for facility expansion. The current location allows for that growth, and a ready market of potential employees means True Story Foods should be able to meet increased demands for their products in the future.
Challenges: Informing consumers about the benefits of the company’s organic products is a challenge it’s working to change. "There’s so much confusion in the marketplace about whether it’s organic or natural,” says Gatto. Beyond that, we want customers to open up the package and say that beyond those attributes, this is a really delicious product."
Opportunities: By implementing a one on one relationship with consumers through social media, the company feels it can strengthen and greatly expand its customer base. The True Story website has information on their processes and where the food comes from, keeping it transparent to a growing consumer base wanting true farm-to-table products.