Isernio’s Sausage Co. has always been more of a leader than a follower. While other companies experiment with trendy flavor profiles and inclusions, the company has favored classic varieties and proven formulations. It was, however, one of the early manufacturers of chicken sausage, dating back to the early 1990s. The company’s latest innovative product, the Chicken Sausage Roll, has helped the company expand into supermarkets and club stores throughout the Northwest.

“It isn’t a ‘me-too’ [product],” says Frank Isernio, president, who started making sausage in Seattle in 1980 and now has his products distributed in 30 states. “The rolls seem to fill a needed segment. They’re convenient, they’re cost-effective, and they lend themselves to any dish that calls for ground meat.”

The chicken sausage rolls come in five varieties: Italian, Hot Italian, Chicken & Apple, Breakfast, and Spicy Breakfast. Isernio notes that today’s consumer is increasingly conscious about nutrition and is getting more adventurous when cooking. However, if they wanted to use ground chicken sausage in a recipe, they typically had to open a sausage link.

“There are any number of pork sausage varieties or chicken sausage links, but very few poultry options in a roll format,” he notes. The company produces fresh sausage, so the products also appeal to consumers who are looking for nitrate-free products.

The success of the chicken sausage rolls has helped Isernio’s Sausage expand its retail presence. This year alone, the company added distribution deals with Walmart, Costco and Safeway stores throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Safeway agreement alone put its Italian, Hot Italian and Breakfast sausage rolls in 575 stores in Washington, Oregon and northern California.


New sausage consumers

Chicken sausage accounts for approximately 60 percent of Isernio’s sales. Back when the company began producing chicken sausages, there was always the concern that the product would cannibalize the company’s pork sausage sales. Isernio said that the company ended up reaching consumers who did not normally buy sausage products, a trend that has continued to the present day.

“We’re seeing loyalty card data from retailers that say a large share of the consumers who are purchasing these rolls are new to the category, which is extremely appealing to the retailer,” Isernio says. “They’re adding dollars, they’re not trading sales.”

The company helps to support its retail customers by communicating with the consumer through several different channels. Isernio’s utilizes several social media outlets, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as an e-mail list, to engage consumers. Isernio himself is the star of nearly two dozen cooking demonstration videos, each of which features a different recipe.

“I always like to say that there are recipe books galore, but if it was just a recipe, we wouldn’t have inferior restaurants,” he says. “The video, combined with the recipe, shows use and shows the versatility of sausage. It really is the original convenience food.”IP