PORTLAND, Ore. -- Zupan's Markets here has become the first chain food retailer to partner with noted Italian specialty food retailer and importer A.G. Ferrari Foods, based in nearby San Leandro, Calif.
Zupan's now carries 120 of A.G. Ferrari's products, about 80 of them grocery items. The total selection includes oils, vinegars, bagged pastas, fresh salads and even fresh sauces made in A.G. Ferrari's commissary. Frozen products include lasagna, ravioli and polenta.
"They've been doing very well," said Michael Meeker, supervisor and the person directly in charge of service delis, bakeries and floral for the six-unit independent Zupan's.
Paul Ferrari, chief executive officer of A.G. Ferrari Foods, and Meeker are cousins, "but it has no bearing on our professional relationship," said Meeker, who worked for A.G. Ferrari Foods for 10 years, giving him a familiarity with the business and the products that would be unusual for any other retailer to have.
Zupan's buys direct from A.G. Ferrari, and its stores are the only ones in Oregon to carry the products. For the shelves in Zupan's markets, "We had them design point-of-sale signs for us so the customers know it's from A.G. Ferrari," Meeker said, noting not all of the imports have Ferrari labels. "Now they are making associations between the products." The prepared items all bear the A.G. Ferrari name, however.
In a recent visit, SN noticed Ferrari's Freschissima, chopped tomato sauce in a glass bottle, marked "Product of Italy," priced at $4.99 for 24.3 ounces. This is only 4 cents higher than Ferrari sells it online, which Meeker said is intentionally low. "We could have increased the price, knowing that we are the only ones who have it, but we want people to try it."
A.G. Ferrari's own purple-label, extra virgin olive oil was offered at $11.99 for 750 milliliters. Aceto Balsamico di Modena, with a picture of casks on the label, also with the Ferrari name, was $9.99 for 500 milliliters.
Feedback on the line has been very good, Meeker said. A.G. Ferrari's executive chef, John Luca, held four or five demonstration classes at Sur Le Table cookware store here for employees from all six Zupan's markets. Each class had about 30 attendees, "and he taught them all about A.G. Ferrari foods. He got the whole store excited about the products. That's important, especially for products you might not buy."
He gave each person a bag of pasta, a jar of sauce and some other groceries to try at home, Meeker said.
"We've partnered with Zupan's because it's, first of all, a very quality-oriented group of retail stores that are similar, in that sense, to what we're doing in the San Francisco Bay area," Ferrari said. A.G. Ferrari would prefer to work exclusively in each market, he added.
"Zupan's gives the same sort of detail to their vendors as they do to their customers. It took a long time to work it out, but it's the right kind of relationship," said Ferrari.
After an investment of $12 million by Opera SpA in Milan in 2001, A.G. Ferrari expanded its facility and built a wholesale division. The company has done some distribution in California, to small specialty stores, and is looking to do more after the first of the year, Ferrari told SN.
"It's been a really good relationship with Zupan's, a real good fit, for them and for us," he said. "We'll slowly be looking in other markets for similar fits."