Harvey Grossman Interview
(Viva Italia Sauce)
It started in a small restaurant in southern Italy and now it’s on grocery store shelves in the U.S.A..
We are talking about Viva Italia Sauce, as distributed by the UGO Foods Corporation.
To talk with us about Viva Italia Sauce is company spokesman Harvey Grossman.
Q - Mr. Grossman, what is your position with the company?
A - I actually work for a company called I-Trade. I’m the account manager on the UGO Foods Company. The company headquarters is in Italy. Were the U.S. representatives for them. I am the account manager for the U.S.
Q - What caught my eye is the cloth top on a jar of Viva Italia sauce. Is there a purpose behind that?
A - It’s basically to indicate like a homemade sauce, if you were making your own sauce and putting in a ball jar. In the old days they would put a cloth top on it so, it kind of tastes homemade basically. That’s the reason for it. It’s basically decoration but also we give the consumer the idea of a good old fashion, homemade product.
Q - Was the sauce always sold like that?
A - Yes, as long as we’ve been doing it.
Q - Is it distributed all over the USA?
A - Yes, we try to sell it all over the U.S. we don’t have it anywhere in California right now. We do have it in a lot of specialty stores throughout the country.
Q - UGO is the distributor of Viva Italian sauce?
A - UGO is actually the US Company. It’s owned by a company called Corex which is in Italy and UGO is the U.S. name that we named the company after. It was named after one of the original partner’s uncle who owned a series of restaurants in Italy. So, they named the company UGO foods after the grandfather of one of the previous owners.
Q - So, which came first the pasta sauce or the pasta products?
A - The pasta was first.
Q - I don’t have to tell you the makers of Viva Italia sauce have entered into a market place where there’s a lot of competition.
A - Oh, yeah (laughs).
Q - I’m not just talking about other gourmet sauces, but supermarkets who sell their own bottled pasta sauce for $.99 a jar while you’re charging what for a jar of sauce?
A - Were actually in the same category as Rao’s. Will be anywhere from $8.99 two $9.99 a jar.
Q - So how do you compete?
A - Well, basically we don’t compete with a private label. We try to compete with the premium brands that are out there, like a Rao’s or a Giarussa. Companies like that. Usually the private label doesn’t use the same ingredients. They add fillers in them. Ours are all natural ingredients. Everything we import by the way to the US is grown in Italy and made in Italy. So, everything is 100% Italian. All the tomatoes come from the Agro Isermic area of Italy which is known to have the best tomatoes in Italy. We only use fresh vegetables. We don’t use anything artificial there’s no GMO. There’s no artificial ingredient. So, it’s an all-natural product. We only use the best ingredients and we also have some unique varieties, that no one else has. We have broccoli which no one has, and we have a pink tuna.
Q - A pink tuna?
A - Yeah. In certain parts of Italy it’s a very classic sauce. We actually have nine sauces altogether.
Q - How are you marketing the Viva Italian sauce? Are you giving out coupons?
A - Basically we offer promotion through the retailer. We don’t have the distribution like a Ragu or somebody like that. Were just word-of-mouth and people trying it.
Q - Do you offer up your product to hotels or restaurants?
A - We don’t do any food service at this point. We do a little bit, but most of the business is retail and specialty stores primarily.
Q - Have you always been involved in the food industry?
A - Me? Yeah. 44 years.
Q - I guess you have been.
A - (Laughs).
Q - Always in pasta sauce?
A - No. All aspects of food.
Q - Is there someone alive today who can trace their ancestry back to the founder of Viva Italia?
A - Oh yeah. Absolutely. We also have the largest jar in the market too. Ours is 34 ounces. Most of the ones that are out there are 25 ounces. If you look at it on a cost per ounce basis, were actually less expensive than say Rao’s that we compete against.
Q - Rao’s has a restaurant. Does Viva tell you have a restaurant?
A - No they don’t. The people that were originally partners with Corex , they did own a restaurant in Italy. They didn’t go under the name UGO but they had restaurant experience. A lot of the formulas that we use for our sauces are formulas that were around in their family for years.
Q - How big would the company like to get?
A - We’d like to get as big as we possibly can. (Laughs). I know that’s around about answer. Right now were about $2 million business and we’d like to double that in the next year or two, and grow from there were still relatively new. The Viva brand itself has been around for about four years now. The sauce is only about a year and a half. But, we do have pasta and we do make a lot of other Italian items as well.
Official website: www.UGO-foods.com
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