Philip Reed of Continental Sausage Talks All About the Meat Industry
May 15, 2018
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Erik Wolf: Hello and welcome to The Denver Executive Association Trusted Advisor Podcast. twice a month 30 or so of Denver’s top execs gather in a top-secret conference room on top of Denver University. We share knowledge, share connections, we do business together. And twice a month I get to harangue my fellow DEA members on this podcast. My name is Erik Wolf and I’m with the digital marketing agency estound. We serve small and midsize business owners in Denver and all the world over with web site design, development, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, marketing automation and so much more. Today we welcome my good friend Philip Reed. He is known widely as the sausage king of Denver and I like to tell people that he is my spirit animal. But in all seriousness, Philip brings decades of experience to his current role as the Vice President of Business Development for Continental Sausage, proud producer of Charcutnuvo organic and natural foods he is a native of Lubbock Texas moved to Colorful Colorado in 1987 and has been here ever since. Well Philip, welcome to the show big guy.
Philip Reed: Thank you, my friend. I appreciate you having me.
Erik Wolf: So if you don’t mind let’s get started by talking about what you do. Talk to me about Continental Sausage, Charcutnuvo, and what you’re doing there.
Philip Reed: OK. Continental Sausage is a company that started in 1969.
Erik Wolf: Which was a long time ago
Philip Reed: It was many moons ago my friend.
Erik Wolf: Almost 50 years ago. No, wait. Almost 60 years ago.
Philip Reed: No 50, 49 years ago.
Erik Wolf: Yeah. Sorry, it’s early!
Philip Reed: And we are honored to serve. We began serving with charcuterie products that are often called sausages or bratwurst, pastrami, pate, hams. Charcuterie is the meat science of prepared meats if you will. We began serving as a production facility and deli and we ended our deli at the end of 2015. We decided that we were really good at making sausages and bratwursts and pates and pastrami and hams. But the retail business was a world of its own. And so instead of competing, we decided to join that world. We do both food service, restaurants, bars and the type, institutions, stadiums and then we do grocery retail as well. And we’re honored to serve in some of the community grocers and some of the larger national grocers.
Erik Wolf: Let’s do some name dropping. Where are you at?
Philip Reed: Whole Foods is one of our partners. We have four regions and we are honored to serve at Whole Foods with both our natural Charcutnuvo and soon our organic Charcutnuvo. We also serve at Kroger division King Sooper City markets, a Colorado vestige that has survived the grocery industry which can be very competitive and they do a really good job with two of our products there. And of course big box partner Costco. We’re honored to serve at Costco and we are in discussions right now of growing some business so we’re we’re excited about our smaller partners as well. The Mars and Tony’s Fine Foods and the Spinellis and the more regional markets around town, Alfalfa’s and so on and so forth.
Erik Wolf: Very cool. So you’ve been doing this for, not at Continental Sausage, but you’ve been in the food and the meat business for decades. What, how does a young man from Texas end up spending his life in the meat business.
Philip Reed: Yeah I’m still asking myself that question. I agree that it’s an interesting choice of professions. In fact, my wife and I have fun with that. She’s a vegetarian so I claim that’s why I’m so fat because I eat all the meat. But, you know Lubbock Texas, which I still hear the Matt Davis line, that happiness was Lubbock, Texas in my rear view mirror. I still recognize the value of Lubbock because it was a cattle and cotton-based economy and you either served in the production of cattle or cotton or in one of the supportive industries. And I grew up around that mentality. And so eventually I found my way to colorful Colorado and finally to the dynamic Denver and I just gravitated towards the perishable industry. Philosophically I thought, I like the natural and organic side of things a little better than the conventional. There’s a customer for all three but the value placed in animal and land husbandry and regional sourcing and leaving a place better than we found it, that’s all part of the natural and organic industry. And I mean it’s good stuff.
Erik Wolf: That is good stuff. What’s something and hopefully not terrifying but what’s something that most people don’t know about the food business or meat business?
Philip Reed: I think what everybody should know is that any producer in the perishable protein industry that you’ll find in both restaurants and at grocery retail are inspected by the government. Our federal government, the USDA, is very interested in how well we do HACCP which is cleanliness, ensuring micro don’t infect and cause problems with our food supply. So both retail and food service purveyor is inspected by our federal government and everyone should know that. In America, it’s hard sometimes to please the USDA. And you know what? That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. I’m proud to work in an industry that takes pride in and has balances and checks.
Erik Wolf: And food safety is just so critically important. People don’t want to go to King Soopers and buy something that might make them sick.
Philip Reed: Of course and that’s another thing that I like about the protein industry, if you will, is that it is an expression of love. I mean we are in our own way loving our families by the choices we make at both restaurants and grocery retail. And I’m a part of that and that’s a good feeling. I like that.
Erik Wolf: So you have the distinction of working with some very large retailers. You’re working with, I mean really some of the biggest in the country right now. Retail buyers have a certain reputation and I know this well I used to work in a company that manufactured products for mass retail, retail buyers have a certain reputation for being demanding, potentially unreasonable at times (The air quote unreasonable). So I imagine that you’ve got a really great hero story somewhere, in you about helping out. You know the buyer calls with an emergency and you come out just killing it. And no pun intended, that’s a bad word to use in the meat industry. But give me a really great hero story.
Philip Reed: Well I don’t know if I have any heroes stories. I’ve had the advantage of being in this industry for decades and I’ve seen a variety of things happen. And one of the things that I love about this industry is I get to problem solve. I get to help not only ma and pa consumer but as you put it these buyers which, yes sir, they can be demanding. The thing I like about buyers though is that they know what they want.
Erik Wolf: And they know their business inside and out. They’re in charge of a certain number of feet of that store and they know that aisle better than anybody else knows anything.
Philip Reed: They know their business you’re right and they are very intentional about taking care of their business. I appreciate working with folks like that because it’s clear. I can clearly identify a resolution and make that happen. So renting a whole truck, having productions stay over, creating a second shift. I mean all of those things are part of the meat industry when for a variety of reasons, a buyer might have under ordered or there are things that happen, a promotion really hit and they were left with empty shelves and all of a sudden they are looking to me to wave my wand and make it happen. And it’s a joy when I’ve worked in organizations that there are several overachievers. There are several people that are focused on excellence and are willing to put in the 12, 14 sometimes 16 hour days, that are willing to make that customer happy and that’s a cool thing. It’s a cool thing to be a part of that industry.
Erik Wolf: Cool thing it’s a special thing and I’ll understand if you decide to decline but as a quick follow up question, what is maybe the strangest thing that a retail buyer has ever asked you to do? Something that that just made you scratch your head?
Philip Reed: Well you know I mean retail buyers are people too and we all have our thing.
Erik Wolf: Are they? We use to sell to Wal-Mart. So my perceptions may be a little bit skewed. But go ahead. I’m going to accept your premise for now that the buyers are people.
Philip Reed: The variety of our needs and wants are vast sometimes. And I’ve you know I’ve been fortunate enough to take some category managers and some buyers and department heads to dinner on occasion. And after the Bubbly Bubbles and the ties get unloosened and we start talking about real close to the vest type topics, I’ve been a part of interesting conversations. I think one of the most fun was when I had a buyer one time tell me about a hunting experience and a tree stand. He climbed up into this deer stand to take its position early in the morning and an owl jumped out at him that had been there all night. And he almost fell. He almost fell. And it was an amazing story and amazing insight into buyers are people too and that’s one of the cool things about my job is, yeah I prepare to find a win-win opportunity for my products and whoever I am chatting with at that time. But the things that happened in the meeting or the things that happen after that partnership is agreed upon, as far as the people piece, is powerful.
Erik Wolf: Very cool. See that was good. I’m glad that I asked. This is, as you know a trusted advisor podcast and I’m going to ask you to be my trusted advisor. What advice would you give to somebody, some sort of like a quick tip for someone who has either maybe looking to get into the food distribution business or someone who is maybe considering selling a product to mass retail? What would you say?
Philip Reed: Well two questions. If I were counseling somebody that wanted to do what I do, I would ask them to go to a grocery store, any grocery store and handle some products. Look through there and find some things that they like, products that they like personally and then read the front and the back and the whole labeling that’s on there. Go to their website spend some time reading every single page on their website. Look at what makes that company strong and in your opinion what they need and what you might offer to them that they need. That would be the way I would prepare to enter into this business. The other question remind me again?
Erik Wolf: If you were going to sell to mass retail.
Philip Reed: Mass retail has huge numbers that they have to qualify the real estate, if you will, on their counters is so expensive, so pricey. And if a product doesn’t perform in three months it’s out.
Erik Wolf: And of course there’s also that aspect of it. There’s that eat or be eaten aspect of the retail world where people are thrilled to get their stuff into the store. But of course when that buyer signs that purchase order for you that means that he just killed somebody else’s products. And of course that cycle is going to perpetuate and if you don’t meet your numbers the same thing is going to happen to you. You’re right they don’t make. They don’t make more space in the store because they like your stuff
Philip Reed: Unfortunately. And that is the reality of the grocery business. So for a person who’s taking a product to market, meaning going to a meeting to talk about a partnership with a major grocery retailer, they have spent time, not only learning their product line and their strengths and their weaknesses as far as production and shipping and all of the things that need to go into making a manufacturer a good partner, but they have also assessed that prospective partner, that grocery retailer and they’ve gone to many of their stores, spent hours analyzing the customer base at that store. The products, the promotional schedules, the demo performances, every single thing, the way the thing is lit, the square footage, the parking lot cleanliness, every aspect that they can absorb from observation and light communication through the cashier’s line or at the customer services desk. Make yourself an expert as you can with that perspective partner and then go into that sales meeting being an expert not only on your product but what you think that prospective partner needs from you. Look for a win-win always.
Erik Wolf: Thank you so much for joining us, Philip. We love you, buddy. You’re the best.
Philip Reed: I love you too young man young man.
Erik Wolf: How can the people who listen to this get in touch with you and the good folks at Continental Sausage.
Philip Reed: What we’ve got a Web site. Thank you estound and a beautiful partnership with you. Thank you for helping us market and be effective in that way. But you can reach us at Continentalsausage.com or Charcutnuvo.com. And we’re excited about our transition from a natural company to an organic company. So that is on our immediate horizon and we’re scheduling meetings now with major distribution and grocery retail partners for our organic Charcutnuvo.
Erik Wolf: That is absolutely incredible and Charcutnuvo for those of you who are not spelling inclined is Charcutnuvo.com. Thank you, Philip, thank you everyone listening to the DEA trusted advisor podcast. We will catch you next time.