The ‘King of Sausage'
By Sam Gazdziak, Senior Editor
Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom, Los Angeles, CA
Plant size: 20,000 square feet
Regional Distribution: Storefronts sell sausage sandwiches throughout California and other U.S. locations; national distribution companies sell sausages to grocery stores and the foodservice industry.
Jody Maroni’s started from a single location on the Venice Beach Boardwalk in Southern California more than 25 years ago. From those humble beginnings, the company has grown in size and recognition to the point that Zagat Survey called it “the king of sausages and the sausages of kings.”
What makes your sausages stand out from the competition?
Rich Leivenberg, executive vice president: We encompass all of the major intangibles. That would be the highest quality, the most flavorful, and flavors that try to reflect what’s going on in the market. We have a new Cuban sausage with plantains and rice, and a pomegranate sausage with almonds.
We grind our products more coarsely, so we have dispelled any notion of mystery meat. We’d rather when people cut open or eat a sausage that they actually see what’s inside. They can see the fruits, vegetables, and the colors.
How do you come up with new flavors?
Jody Maroni, president: I see things I like in other food, usually in fancy restaurants, and I try to figure out how to get that into the casing so that the whole experience can be eaten. Either the sausage is going to have that whole experience, or if it’s impossible, I try to figure out a condiment that’s really appropriate for the flavor of the sausage.
With my pomegranate sausage, it was from a dish when I worked at a French restaurant 30 years ago. Now I see pomegranate as a current item that people are into, and I went back, remembered what was there, and experimented until I found a good mix. Then I looked for background spices that matched the ingredients and played around until I found what I liked.
Where are your franchises?
RL: We’re as far east as St. Louis and Cleveland. We’re in airports, casinos, entertainment malls, and other tourist locations — like Universal City Walk and Venice Beach, where we began. We’re also in stadiums, arenas, convention centers, and other public venues. Basically, [our products are enjoyed] wherever people want to have fun, enjoy themselves, and are looking for a great item that’s a value-added product.
How do you market your sausage?
RL: With regard to our wholesale business, we’re pretty traditional. We’ve done a cookbook that Jody put together. We have a great line of distributors selling our products. We rely on them as a sales and marketing entity for us.
We’re sponsors of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings. We’ve been sponsors of the Dodgers and will probably do so again in the future. The more we can do with public venues, the more visibility we have. The thing I think makes the most sense is “grass-roots” marketing. We make sure we are highly represented in our community, whether it be in schools, churches, or other similar situations. We’re sponsors of “Heal the Bay,” which is an environmental group in Southern California that promotes saving the Santa Monica Bay. Anything in the community, like pediatric AIDS or Planned Parenthood [is also of interest]. I can’t underestimate the value of giving back to the community if you intend to be a long-term business.
Jody, as a personality, is also a key ingredient in marketing the company. He’s a very smart person when it comes to his marketplace. He’s an original thinker, and it’s reflected in what he does. We call him our sausage evangelist.