Talking Shop with… Tony Catelli

Tony Catelli, president, Catelli Brothers, says a branded veal program can entice consumers to buy more veal. 

What are the latest trends in the veal category and what is driving sales?
Tony Catelli: Until recently, because of limited manpower that affect many retailers’ cutting capabilities, supermarkets could offer consumers only a small variety of veal cuts. Now, veal can be customized to the retailers’ exact specifications and prepackaged at our state-of-the-art plant. This enables the supermarket to improve and expand the veal category with a wider variety of cuts at different price points and attract more upscale consumers, who traditionally spend more at retail. A branded program—attractively and prominently displayed—so that the consumer is drawn to the product is driving sales.

What does Catelli Brothers do to help educate retailers about the veal industry?
We know our customers do not like surprises, so we make a considerable effort to personally communicate what is going on in the veal business and what they can expect in the future. We can do that because we control all phases of production and supply—from the finest quality feed, humane farming of premium veal calves and customized cuts and packaging. We know what is going to affect the price of product and we keep our customers informed so that they are featuring the right cuts at the right time. We are proactive in the veal industry so we explain and discuss emerging trends, safety issues, consumers’ seasonal preferences, projected value cuts—and even how government regulations affect the veal business.

How can retailers get the most out of the veal category?
What we have learned is that it is important to create a destination for veal. If customers see an attractive Catelli branded display, they are much more likely to put a veal package in their carts. We provide managed programs that offer retailers the choice of doing their own cutting or taking advantage of our custom pre-cut, pre-packaged service. However, if the category is to be profitable, the retailer has to help too. First, by regularly featuring veal so more customers are encouraged to experience the product; secondly with more aggressive pricing to help reduce shrinkage and drive more consumers to buy the product.

What does Catelli Brothers offer retailers?
Three things: size, experience and quality. Catelli Brothers can offer our customers more in terms of products and services because we are part of a large integrated company with farm to flavor capabilities. Our organization produces the largest amount of veal in North America with more than 75 corporate farms in the U.S. and in Canada. As a large organization, we can and do invest in research and technology so that we are operating both efficiently and safely. We are committed to advanced technology and automation that ensure efficient production, which is essential if we are to keep veal competitively priced at retail. Catelli Brothers is the processing and distribution arm of the Fontelli Food Group and we have been in the veal and lamb business since 1946. We started as a family business and we still are, so quality and safety are part of a tradition that we take pride in. We are also proud that we have earned a reputation for being a step ahead, like our pioneering efforts in case ready 15 years ago and more recently the introduction of such veal products as veal meal kits and cooked veal meatballs.

How do you see the veal category evolving in the future?
The veal category can grow, but there are challenges. At retail, aggressive pricing, featured product, branded programs and exciting displays will expand the customer base. There is a major challenge in production, not only for veal, but also for all protein. We are proud of our commitment to animal husbandry policies that include non-tethered calves, group housing and no growth hormones. Many of our calf raising practices have evolved from our Canadian expertise that includes production methods developed in France, where the world’s largest consumption of veal has made it a great source for ideas and best practices. However, it is still going to be increasingly difficult to maintain feeding traditions. Our calves are milk fed, but as costs increase a mixture of solids and milk may be required to keep veal prices competitive. However, our industry has overcome challenges in the past, and I am confident that our combination of research, skilled specialists and commitment will enable us to make the veal category stronger than ever.

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