Accurate data and analytical assessments allows Lipari Foods to quickly integrate new brands.
If you’re craving pizza in the Midwest but don’t want delivery, chances are you’ve turned to Reno’s for a meal. Looking for other quality Italian products? Belladoro has an extensive product line of olive oils and vinegars—because you can’t have one without the other—pastas, sauces, and veggies. Need a protein pick-me-up snack in the afternoon? Pic-A-Nut may be your go-to.
For all of these unique brands, and about a dozen others, you have Lipari Foods to thank. The company and its well-known grocery store showstoppers are mainstays from Minnesota and Wisconsin down to Tennessee and Florida.
Lipari Foods comes from humble beginnings, and today has a rapid acquisition integration model and a unique supply chain model that makes it stand out in the industry and on store shelves alike.
Lipari Foods' Brands
Lipari Old Tyme
Borrelli Gourmet Foods
Founder Jim Lipari got his start selling food products from the trunk of his Ford station wagon in the early 1950s. A passion for the food market, Lipari turned to operating a grocery store, often working as a meat cutter. Bazzo’s—a barbeque sauce he created with his partner—was followed by Bella Mia Spaghetti Sauce. These products, too, went into the station wagon for sale.
Lipari Food Distributors opened its doors in 1963, and other products joined the Lipari line. Frank’s Tea & Spice gave the company its big break in 1967 by appointing Lipari Food Distributors as its distributor. Lipari became the “spice man”, and his business continued to grow.
Lipari’s son Thom joined the business in the early ’70s, and an expansion allowed for the start of its deli business. This division was a mine for the family-run company, allowing for further expansion.
The early ’80s provided a new stream of revenue—selling frozen dough to bakeries—and the company had to move once again in the mid ’90s to accommodate growth.
This growth trend has continued to the present day, and has included acquisitions of distribution businesses, partnerships with several wholesale warehouses, and product expansion into packaging, seafood, and confections.
The company, now known as Lipari Foods, settled into its current space in 2006 to customize space, technology, and accommodate anticipated future growth.
“We look at companies that fit into our footprint, but also expand on what we do. First and foremost, however, we consider the value that we could bring to that retailer. Everything we do is retail-centric,” said Michael Hegarty, Director of ERP and CRM Corporate Strategy.
Making an acquisition and integrating a new company into the current culture can be a challenge. It’s imperative that Lipari Foods gets its hands on as much data as possible from its new brand, as fast as possible.
“The key to a successful acquisition—and transitioning it into our culture fast—is data,” said Joe Beydoun, Director SCM and BI Strategy. “Knowledge of these systems that are new to us is critical. But we’ve done a lot of acquisitions. At this point, we know what data points to ask for. Once we have the data in our system, it frees up people and departments to move forward with the integration.”
The speed with which Lipari can integrate a new acquisition almost has to be seen to be believed: the company has brought on a new brand in seven weeks before, and I’d expect they’d be able to do so again.
“We’ve had a lot of experience with acquisitions,” Hegarty said. “Speed is a competitive advantage. If we can work through the unknown quickly, we’re ready to get the brand back to business, just our way of doing business.”
“When we are transitioning retailers, we want to make sure that we keep their—and now our—customers in mind,” commented Beydoun. “The longer the process takes, the more agitated our new customer base becomes when their purchasing patterns have to change for a period of time.”
Cost is another factor. When you’re operating two facilities instead of one—and yes, Lipari Foods runs out of one distribution facility, but we’ll get to that in a minute—costs are doubled. Better to integrate quickly to drive down costs.
Lipari Foods’ most recent acquisition, Jim’s Cheese, is a specialty cheese cutting facility in Wisconsin.
“This is an exciting acquisition for us,” Hegarty said. “This is getting us more into the retail space. Every acquisition we’ve done has always been a little bit different from what we’re offering at the time.”
Yes, Lipari Foods really does run its sprawling operations from one distribution center in Warren, Michigan. Over 230 trucks deliver products to 14 states, six days a week. The company knows it’s a unique model.
“We’ve attended a lot of seminars and still haven’t been able to find anyone who runs their business like ours,” said Beydoun. “We have the single distribution center and then a moving warehouse system: we load our trucks and send them to 40 depots across the Midwest.”
Of its 230 truck fleet, only about 150 actually meet the customer in final-mile delivery. The rest of the fleet hauls products between depots. So why does this model work for Lipari Foods? Simple answer: it just does.
“The main thing is when you have a brick and mortar location, you have a lot less flexibility. We understand that there’s a very costly margin of error, but it’s a minimal margin. We’ve been pretty successful this way,” Beydoun shared.
“Plus there’s a big advantage to having all of our consumer tastes and trends under one roof—it’s definitely easier to keep track of everything,” commented Hegarty.
Partnerships with companies like NCR Corporation help Lipari Foods keep all of its cogs running. For its warehouse management, transportation, purchasing, and much more, Lipari relies on NCR’s systems to ensure full visibility, accuracy, and speed in its warehouse and depots.
Tech Helping Supply Chain
- Roadnet Truck Routing – Ability to route to exceptionally tight time windows while obtaining optimal trailer capacity
- XATA On Board Vehicle Monitoring – Truck performance and diagnostics along with driver performance and DOT compliance
- GPS Vehicle Tracking – Real time vehicle management allows immediate truck locator to identify shipment status
- Syntelic Report Writer – Report writing tool that draws from our databases for reporting that adapts and adjusts for variables to improve operating performance
- NCR Power Warehouse – Real time warehouse management for inventory and labor tracking
- Fully RF Integrated Facilities – Inventory tracking to assist with consistently achieving a greater than 98% service level to the customer
- Vocollect Voice Selection – Voice directed selection of orders maximizing accuracy and enhancing productivity through hands free selection
Since Bazzo’s barbeque sauce and Bella Mia Spaghetti Sauce in the 1960s, Lipari Foods has been known for its delicious offerings. The company’s core products have always given its customers a good catalogue from which to choose.
These staples will continue to be pillars of the brand. But the company is also answering the call to bring trendier food into its lineup.
“We’ve been able to jump into a couple of trend waves and really right them out,” said Beydoun. “We have organic offerings, kosher products, and ethnic food. We used to sell just hams, and what we used to only carry in limited supply we now offer an entire line.”
The food industry is always evolving, but don’t worry, Lipari Foods will continue to build its legacy right alongside the leading market trends.
In the early 1950’s Jim Lipari began distributing unique products from the back of his Ford station wagon. Through the following years Jim worked as a meat cutter and operated a full line grocery store. In 1963 Jim formed Lipari Food Distributors in order to continue distributing his products.