America’s Butcher on a Global Scale
Rastelli Foods Group
Rastelli Foods Group has come a long way from its early days as a single butcher shop in South Jersey, having become an international presence whose reputation for outstanding products, expertise and service precedes it.
Customers around the world have come to rely on, and share in, the passion for great food that continues to drive Rastelli Foods Group. The company continues to innovate, vertically integrate, and grow to bring the foremost in food and service to domestic and international e-commerce, retail and foodservice markets.
When Ray Rastelli Jr. embarked on this venture in the mid-1970s, he was motivated by the desire to support his wife and growing family. Only 19 at the time, with a child on the way, Rastelli identified a demand for a premium butcher shop in his hometown and he set out to take advantage of this untapped market.
“I didn’t really know anything about the meat business. I only knew that the town we grew up in really needed a butcher shop, so I learned the business very quickly,” Ray Rastelli Jr. said. “It started as a family business and continues today as a family business.”
Under the name The Meat Stop, Rastelli was met with tremendous success. He was joined by his brother Tony and together they opened a second location to bring their premium meats to a growing customer base, which included an increasing number of local restaurants.
“I brought him in to help support our operations at that time. In the mid-1980s, we began to service the foodservice industry. Local restaurants around all of our butcher shops began coming to us to cut steaks for them, chops, ground beef, and patties. We went from retail to what started to look like a foodservice organization,” noted Rastelli.
By 1990, the operation had grown to eight storefronts and the Rastellis identified a need for a larger scale distribution system that would support greater efficiency across a growing market footprint that included restaurants, hotels and other foodservice customers. The standard of quality and commitment to service was never compromised despite the company’s growth.
As Rastelli recalled, “We were faced with a decision to continue down the retail path with butcher shops or really move into a full-fledged production facility. We decided to do [the latter] and it wasn’t very big but we opened up a 6,000 square foot production facility that became a USDA inspected facility.”
Demand continued to increase, and in no time the production facility was expanded to 14,000 square feet. With each evolution, Rastelli Foods Group continued to incorporate state-of-the-art processes and technologies to gain operational efficiencies where possible.
“We were delivering directly to the restaurants on a day-to-day basis up until the late-1990s when we decide to make a shift in our business model,” explained Rastelli. “Instead of working directly with the restaurants, we would work directly with the foodservice distributors,” such as U.S. Foods, which today remains one of the company’s largest customers. “Our main focus could be on supporting the distributors and manufacturing instead of trucking and distribution, which was not really our mainstay,” said Rastelli of the new distribution system and business model.
Having cemented itself in the domestic market, the next wave of growth for Rastelli Foods Group would be on an international scale. “Our first customers were the U.S. Military in the first Gulf War and straight through to the conflicts we’ve had in the Middle East, until today. We support our troops and we’re very proud to do so,” said Rastelli.
Using the same framework that was employed to serve the military abroad, Rastelli Global was able to seamlessly create a program to support foodservice chains such as TGIFridays, who were domestic customers with an international reach.
Partnerships have been established with slaughterhouses in Ukraine and Poland and a processing facility in Dubai that satisfy Rastelli’s strict food safety and quality standards, and these facilities help meet the needs of its global customers in the Middle East and North Africa.
Having grown to become the largest food and beverage supplier to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rastelli Foods Group purchased a 110,000 square foot fulfillment center and made the decision to relocate its U.S. Military Prime Vendors distribution to this new facility. It was at this time that Rastelli Foods Group expanded its product offerings from the finest quality beef, pork, veal, lamb, game and poultry to include seafood. Black Tiger Seafood was acquired in 2006 and the Egg Harbor, New Jersey operations were renamed Rastelli Seafood.
To reach consumers more effectively, Rastelli Foods Group also launched an ecommerce platform. Rastelli explained that, “Our e-commerce component started somewhere around 2009 when we developed our Rastelli Market Fresh online direct component.” This platform also played an important role in the growing meal kit market. “We developed our own website for customers to buy our products and have them delivered directly to their home. That grew very quickly and has catapulted into being the ecommerce hub for many large customers such as the Costcos, BJs, the Amazons of the world, and Jet.com.”
Rastelli Foods Group’s Market Fresh products and Rastelli Seafood are also a mainstay on QVC where Rastelli and his daughter-in-law Brittany are the on-air talent. In a very short time, the company has become one of the network’s largest food providers and is referred to as ‘America’s Butcher.’
“Those segments have allowed us to really create a brand awareness for our customers all around the country and it has helped to create a model whereby other customers have come to us for help supporting their programs and manufacturing those products for them, developing products and fulfilling them,” said Rastelli.
Rastelli Foods Group’s expansive market reach is supported by two state-of-the-art USDA-certified processing facilities, proprietary partnerships with farms, warehouses and distribution centers, a robust ecommerce presence, and partnerships, all of which help to bring its exquisite products and offerings all around the world.
“People like UPS have been instrumental in doing that; they have been very supportive in helping us put together our logistics center to be able to support 30, 40, 50,000 packages in a day directly into the home of the consumer. We’ve been proud that that particular piece of our business continues to grow.”
The brands that are sold under Rastelli Foods Group include Pureland Black Angus Beef, Pureland Prime Pork, Tony Luke’s, Suma Trading, Sustainable Catch Seafood, Egg Harbor Seafood, Pure Land America Organic Grass Fed Beef, O’Deli Organic Hot Dogs, Bubba’s Q Boneless Ribs, and Craft Burgers. All of its meat products are ethically produced, while its seafood offerings are sustainably sourced.
Indeed, great care and attention are paid to the sourcing, processing, packaging and delivery of its meat and seafood, as well as its ‘heat and serve’ offerings. Rastelli Foods Group is USDA and FDA inspected, HACCP and FoodChek certified, BAP certified, and SQF Level III certified, in addition to EU certification and organic certification.
“These are not just symbols on our website. They are things that we are trained on and audited on a regular basis, so it is part of our culture and we expect that same from our suppliers,” said Rastelli.
“Our business starts with the sourcing of a raw material and in our case, whether it’s an organic product or one of our black angus products, we work directly with slaughterhouses, so our quality assurance team works diligently with the farmers that meet the requirements – not just by USDA but by our internal requirements.”
The secret to Rastelli Foods Group’s continued success is the trusted relationships it has worked tirelessly to build with its customers, suppliers, distributors, and employees alike. Whether it is through direct ownership or partnerships, quality and food safety are of the utmost importance.
Rastelli Foods Group’s efforts have been recognized through a number of awards and recognitions such as The National Provisioner’s 2015 Plant of the Year. The company was also a 2016 finalist for Marcum Innovator of the Year. “We recognized that if we weren’t the biggest guy out there, we wanted to be somebody that was innovative, somebody who would have something different. We were large enough to produce the volume but we were small enough to be nimble and flexible for our customers and that’s what really helped set us apart,” shared Rastelli.
Recently, Rastelli Foods Group doubled its production facility from 60,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet, and continues to identify ways to improve efficiency and output without compromising quality. Over the next six to 18 months, the goal is to staff a much-needed night shift, as two shifts are now required to sustain demand.
“Long-term goals are really to continue to build our brands and become a household name,” shared Rastelli, who is focused on engineering and building automation on-site to improve throughput, drawing on its in-house engineering talent while training new employees and continuing to grow Rastelli Foods Group’s already impressive market reach.
Customers in the retail and foodservice markets in North American and abroad depend on Rastelli to deliver products of the highest quality at reasonable prices and, just as Rastelli said, “If it’s not good enough to give our mom, then it’s not good enough to give our customers,” proving that the passion for good food runs as deep as the company’s family ties.