The National Provisioner editor-in-chief Andy Hanacek visited Rupari Foods in August to tour the facility and learn about the company’s restaging of its Tony Roma’s brand of products. What follows is a Q&A with Jack Vogt on the changes made and the reception of the new line.

Andy Hanacek: The reason I’m out here is the big news around the Tony Roma’s line of products that you guys do. Tell me and the viewers what you have done to restage, renovate the line, what the big deal is and why you guys have done that.

Jack Vogt: The restage that we launched is Tony Roma’s all-natural products. We have the ribs, the pulled pork and boneless ribs. Again, they are all-natural and gluten-free. We launched this product for consumer trends that we did some research on. It’s a product need in the category, so we would be the first in the category, which is gluten-free and all-natural.

Hanacek: So it’s a better-for-you formulation.

Vogt: It’s better for you. So we removed high-fructose corn syrup, and our products are gluten-free, and also, with our products, we stuck to the hardwood smoke… all the things we are good at with barbecue.

Hanacek: Excellent. So you just debuted these products, and you were telling me off camera about an event you attended out in California. What event was that and why did you go out there?

Vogt: This event was an opportunity in Arizona and California to launch and see how our products do. The products that are all-natural and gluten-free are regionally inspired, so we really took the opportunity to go out and find out how these products do. Overall the response… we found out 80 percent of the consumers that tried the product tended to buy it. What really makes it stand out is really barbecue at its simplest form. We season; we hardwood smoke; and we sauce. Basically, everything you do in your backyard is what we do. Also, it’s regionally inspired between Kansas City, Memphis, Kentucky and Texas.

Hanacek: The last question I wanted to ask regarding the restaging was… you mentioned the clean label. How challenging was it to get to that from what you were doing?

Vogt: The challenge was to remove the ingredients, so we could make the claim of all-natural and the clean label. We collaborated with our suppliers, food scientists, and really the ultimate goal is to fall in line again with what we do best… authentic hardwood smoked barbecue done well that we are really good at and to keep the same flavor profile that our Tony Roma’s consumer shoppers love.

Hanacek: And you were saying, to you, the new sauce, the reformulated sauce almost tastes better in some ways.

Vogt: It does taste better when you start taking out the synthetic sugars, adding natural sugar back into it. It really brings out the flavors of the other ingredients that make up the formulation and added with the smoke.

Hanacek: Thanks, Jack, for having me out letting me tour the facility and congratulations on a relaunch of the product.