By Sam Gazdziak

With consumers staying home to eat and looking for more affordable meal options, high-end steakhouses and other “premium” categories are suffering. However, for those in the deli meat sector, there are more opportunities than ever.

“It seems people are still eating sandwiches,” says Guy Giordano, president of Philadelphia-based Vincent Giordano Corp. “They may not be going out to the high-end restaurants, but they’re still casually dining and making sandwiches.”

Vincent Giordano’s specialties include roast beef, corned beef and pastrami, and the company’s list of customers includes leaders both in the retail and foodservice industries, particularly the quick-service category. Giordano says that 2009, which was the company’s 40th anniversary, was a good year, and he expects 2010 to be even better.

Giordano attributes the company’s long success to its focus on quality, food safety and customer service. The company has previously invested in a three-part post-pasteurizing system that improved product safety and shelf life. This year, though, Vincent Giordano is partnering with a third party to use high-pressure pasteurizing (HPP) on its deli meats.

“We will be the only one in our category that is offering every product we make under an HPP system,” Giordano says. “That will make it the safest product in the industry, with an unbelievable shelf life.”

He notes that retailers and foodservice operators are extremely protective of their brand and want to supply the safest food products possible to consumers. Vincent Giordano, as a family-run business, has the same concerns about its brand and products, which led to this partnership. Starting this summer, Vincent Giordano will send its products to another facility, where they will be run through an HPP system.

Giordano says his customers are very excited about the development.

“If you’re in the ready-to-eat meat business, this is where you’re going to need to go,” he says. “This is the thing that’s going to resolve [the industry’s] problems, and I think you’re going to see the major chains mandating it on their products as they go forward.”

Natural deli

One of the other benefits of the HPP system is that it extends the shelf life of deli meats without the use of chemical additives. That dovetails nicely with Vincent Giordano’s natural and organic programs. The company has seen a steady demand for cleaner labels, be it natural products or lower-sodium items.

“It’s a growing category, and I think when we come out with this HPP tie-in with our products, we’re going to be able to grow that category [further],” Giordano says. While he believes that organic deli meats are priced out of most consumers’ budgets, the natural and antibiotic-free items aren’t as price sensitive and can reach a larger audience.

From a technical standpoint, the time was right for Vincent Giordano to utilize HPP technology. The technology itself isn’t new, Giordano notes, but the older machines had the double concern of a high price tag and a small throughput. Now, though, the machines are able to keep up with a plant’s output, and he views it as an investment in the future of the company.

“I’m the third generation in the business, and my children are the fourth,” he points out. “They’re doing a great job, and I want to protect their interests, so we’re jumping in and making an investment with HPP.”

HPP is just one way that the 41-year-old processor has been modernizing its operations. Another current initiative is to go greener in 2010, and workers are replacing the plant’s old lighting with more environmentally friendly lights. Giordano adds that the company has been on a mission to get all its records and reports electronically processed. His two children, who have been with the company since they graduated from college, have led the way in that task.

“Some of my 60-year-old guys can look at a computer and actually know how to turn it on now,” Giordano says, laughing.