There’s a new player in the ever-growing product line of pasta sauce.
Her name is Mia Sebastiani , who sells her pasta sauce under the name Mia’s kitchen.
Q - Mia, I became aware of your sauce when I saw it on the shelf of Price Chopper supermarket. Have you heard of that supermarket chain?
A - Yes I’ve heard much about Price chopper.
Q - Your sauce was selling for $7.99 a bottle making it the most expensive pasta sauce in the store. That’s more than Ragu and Patsy’s, why is your sauce so expensive?
A - The politically correct consumer answer I would have to start off with is that truth be told we do strive to make one of the freshest tomato sauces out there. That does get reflected in the price unfortunately with the price you get quality. We package our tomatoes much differently than most all of our competition, most all of our competition gets their tomatoes canned and in large vats. When they need it they pull from their storage it’s chilled and stored and then they cook it up. The problem with that is when you put it into a can it reduces it and it cooks it in the can itself. Plus they have to add other flavorings just to preserve it for that amount of time. What we do is we get our tomatoes fresh right out of central California what the packaging facility does is they seal it in plastic bags so there is no cooking process that goes on while the tomatoes are stored waiting to get cooked up in the batches so that’s mostly the reason our prices are so high. It’s because of quality of our product. That’s the long answer. Also we are shiping across the states so you got to keep in mind trying to get it from California to New York it’s slightly more expensive then to sell it in our backyard.
Q- How long has your pasta sauce been in the marketplace?
A- It’s been out and running for about a year and a half almost 2 years.
Q - So it’s taken you a while to get the sauce from one end of the country to the other?
A - Yeah in fairness it took a while to get a national sales manager when we first started off I was delivering out of the back of my dad’s truck from grocery store to grocery store.
Q - You and Mia developed this sauce?
A - Yes
Q - How long did it take you to get the sauce the way you wanted it?
A - It didn’t really take that long for just sauce itself I had a recipe that my grandmother used Nonnie’s special. I don’t know if that’s in price chopper it’s a family recipe it’s not necessarily something that’s written down it’s a way of cooking that we’ve been taught and handed down from mother to daughter to daughter. I came in with a sample of what I cooked I write down everything I put in it and how I did it and then our production facility went back to this little lab put together 10 or so that were similar to it and we tested them down and we told them to either bump up the garlic or take out the bell peppers so it didn’t take much more than a month to get down to a single recipe.
Q - How many pasta sauces do you make?
A - We have Bistro, Marinara, Nonni’s Special, Tomato Basil, Vodka, Mushroom and a Garlic and Onion.
Q - You have two brothers in the food business. Did you have to do some convincing to get them interested in the pasta sauce business?
A - I didn’t have to do much convincing a think they knew it was the right thing to do we’ve been selling wine forever. It was something different it was something unique so I think it fell together very nicely. Plus on the business end doing one offs with wine and pasta sauce, pairing on the grocery shelf not much convincing at all.
Q - What did you start off selling in your company?
A - We had a product that’s now discontinued. It was wine reduction which is how we got into all of this wine reduction cooking sauce then we came out with a balsamic historically speaking that’s what we did. We got to the balsamic and we needed something that wasn’t so gourmet so we came out with pasta sauce.
Q - Are you selling your sauce overseas?
A - Were in the U.S. for right now. Were in T.J. Maxx in Canada they do a lot of their business in the US so it wasn’t too big of a reach for us.
Q - You’re in a crowded field with this pasta sauce. How are you marketing it?
A - Well when it came between pasta sauce or selling wine I’d rather be in the pasta sauce category then the California Chardonnay category as far as competition goes. I think we gained a lot of knowledge from our wine background as far as how to distinguish ourselves on the shelf. As far as advertising goes one is super competitive and we’ve known that from the get-go it’s something we’ve always been super aware of and frankly when it comes to selling pasta sauce and distinguishing ourselves on the pasta sauce shelf, I find it kind of second nature. Before we even came up with a recipe I remember thinking what if they came up with a white label on the pasta shelf? There’s no white on the pasta shelf. So small things like that the category seemed very tiny compared to the wine category so it’s not too scary.