St. Louis-based marketer of charcuterie products Volpi Foods is entering its 120th year, and in line with Volpi’s ongoing sustainability efforts that milestone brought to mind the question of what would the company’s next 100 years look like.
Answering that question was the driving force behind Volpi’s Raised Responsibly program. Raised Responsibly prioritizes animal welfare, including commitment to agricultural biodiversity, comprehensive animal care from birth to harvest, no steroids ever, primarily vegetarian and grain-fed diets, humanely harvested and third-party animal welfare audits.
“Raised Responsibly is the culmination of a lot of work that we did to start vetting our suppliers at a bit of a higher level than conventional standard,” said Volpi Foods' fourth-generation Marketing Manager Deanna Depke. ”We primarily make charcuterie items, which 99% of what we sell is pork, and we really wanted to dive in to that ingredient and figure how can we make our product better by helping our community, helping the world and really become a more sustainable company.”
Depke said companies looking to up their sustainability game need to make sure they have their timeline built out with their supplier partners.
“Inflation is driving costs up, lead times are getting longer for everything,” she said. “There’s shortages everywhere. So we need to have that great communication with vendors as well as with customers.”
Volpi Foods launched its Raised Responsibly program by tapping into some industry experts, bringing together a tight-knit group of academics, farmers as well as some of their own in-house experts on pork and animal welfare. That collaboration led to recognizing a couple of dozen requirements that Volpi’s suppliers must commit to and comply with. Responsibly Raised was three years in the making, Depke, said, establishing parameters and getting a full read on the market.
“Every farmer that we talked to is at a different stage on their own sustainability journey,” she said. “It’s not as simple as we want to be certified humane, or all organic or animal welfare approved. We couldn’t pick one of those certifying bodies and kind of stick with it because there was so much backstory to each one of those certifications as it filtered down to those farmers and the implications for them.”
That process led to Raised Responsibly incorporating what is the most important for the animal among its compliant attributes: what is key for that animal-welfare standard, what is possible now, and what to look to include in the future, Depke said. Volpi Foods continually fine-tunes its Raised Responsibly program with an eye toward how the program might be different a year, three years or further down the line.
“If you have a plan together, even if it’s 80% of the way there, that’s something you can approach your customers about and start feeling that demand out,” she said.
Volpi Foods revamped its packaging (its paper-based Eco-Packs use 70% less plastic than standard deli packs) to take the Raised Responsibly message right to shoppers. A consumer survey Volpi conducted at the beginning of 2022 found that consumers (particularly those in younger demographics) increasingly have a preference for all-natural products produced using sustainable practices.
“As part of the rollout, we revamped all of our packaging and put that Raised Responsibly claim front and center,” Depke said. “It was important for us not only to have Raised Responsibly as a callout on pack but then to qualify what that means in a very short way on package.”
Product labelling contains wording about Volpi products being “gestation crate-free” and “not treated with hormones” and other messaging Volpi has found resonates with shoppers. Volpi provides further information under the company website’s Our Food Philosophy section, where consumers can learn more about what Volpi Food’s Raised Responsibly pledge means.
The Volpi Foods’s story dates back to 1899, when John Volpi immigrated to the United States from Milan, Italy, bringing with him knowledge of the centuries-old tradition of dry-curing meats. In 1902, he opened his first store in St. Louis’ historic Italian-American neighborhood on The Hill. The family-run company carries on the tradition by hand-making all Volpi products using the same methods and recipes that started it all more than 100 years ago. Volpi Foods’ product lineup includes various types of salami, pancetta, pepperoni and prosciutto available sliced, chopped, in bulk, as snacks and as chubs (made using the colon for a very short stick of salami).