Emily Buckley Interview
(La Pasta Inc.)

La Pasta Inc. has been producing pasta and sauces for more than 30 years. In the ever growing gourmet pasta sauce business that’s certainly a plus.

Emily Buckley is La Pasta Inc. marketing and sales director. She was gracious enough to give us some insight into the company.

Q - Why did the company decide to enter the pasta sauce business?
A - The business itself was started to cater to restaurants in the area (the Washington, D.C. area). Basically, the owner’s cousin owned a catering company and she had a pasta machine in the back. She moved to New York. She left him the pasta machine and he started making it out of a garage like space in DC I believe they started making sauce to have more of a complete line. The sauce really got going when they created the retail line which is about 10 to 15 years ago. It’s really starting to grow right now I would say in the last five years. But, they wanted the shelf presence. What really sells pasta is convenience. And what’s more convenient then picking up a package of pasta and having the sauce to go with it?

Q - What does a jar of La Pasta sauce sell for?
A - $5.99. Some stores you’ll find it for $6.99. Some a little cheaper, but, I would say thats the average retail price.

Q - How do you combat the retail supermarkets that make their own sauce and undercut your price?
A - The product really does sell itself. So, what we tried to implement as often as possible are demonstrations in stores. We do have a premium price. You can taste the difference. So, if were able to get that product into our consumers mouth we see huge spikes of sales. It’s funny because there really is a niche market; it’s really not even niche, pretty fairly large market for our product that will pay the premium price. The direction has really changed in the last few years, the trends in health and people are becoming much more brand loyal. So, I find that our sauces or pastas really do sell well next to lower end products. It’s really not a competition. It’s a different market that’s buying our products than searching for the best deal on the shelf.

Q - What retail markets carry your products?
A - We are in Whole Foods in the Mid-– Atlantic region. Our 2 best markets are the DC Maryland, Virginia area and then the New York, New Jersey area. Were in a lot of independent markets, that have as few as one store and as many as 30. Were in Earth Fair, Mrs. Greens, Morton Williams, Gourmet Garage. Were in a few markets in Southern California. In Texas we are in Central Market and United Market. The biggest player were working with his Costco. Costco is a bit of a treasure hunt. They like to bring in products for a month, two months and rotate them for new items. I guess the appeal is to try and keep the category fresh and to keep their customers constantly in a search for new products. So, were in and out. It’s hard to say were in Costco because we could be in today and out for three months or in its ring we could have three items in there. It’s a bit of a challenge. So, those are the markets were in.

Q - How much of a struggle is it to get your product on a grocery shelf?
A - Its tough. We find ourselves flying all over the US for meetings that can last upwards of 15 minutes and the buyer seems to love our product, wants to start, and we don’t hear from them for another four months because they just haven’t had the time to devote to that category. It’s a struggle. A lot of those shows, a lot of those meetings is just to remind the buyers that were there so that when they’re ready to focus on that category freshen up there fresh pasta category, then La Pasta pops into their mind. They seem to be so busy and a lot of these buyers are just completely overwhelmed having spent a lot of their time on new store openings or going to stores. They don’t have a lot of time to sit at their desk and review their product and see what’s selling. It’s a matter of being there at the right time. So, it’s been a struggle but I feel like there its definitely a learning curve for us. We really started to try and grow our retail line in the last three years and doing that by going to food shows and investing in more marketing so we have more of a presence in the industry and were starting to get recognized so it’s becoming much easier.

Q - Since you in the Washington DC area, are there any famous politicians who use La Pasta sauce?
A - I would love it if there were but, I have no idea. And, I don’t know how I could find that out. That would be great for marketing purposes.

Official website: lapastainc.com
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