The story of how Paul Guglielmo grew his family’s marinara sauce recipe into a rapidly expanding food production business starts at the Cornell Food Venture Center (CFVC) in Geneva.
Armed with the recipe he learned from his grandfather, Guglielmo approached the CFVC in 2014 looking for help turning his family recipe into a jarred sauce sold on supermarket shelves. He credits Bruno Xavier, associate director of the CFVC and member of the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture staff, and the CFVC team with validating the safety of those early batches and for continually helping as the company grew to more than 15 varieties of sauce.
“If there’s a recipe that someone wants to make shelf-stable, Bruno can look at it and know within seconds if it’s possible and if it is, how to make it,” Guglielmo said. “Bruno helps whenever there’s a question of food safety.”
For more than five years, Guglielmo had the sauce made at Permac Enterprises in Bergen, a small town about 20 miles southwest of Rochester, where Guglielmo made a name for himself as a radio personality.
The sauce is still made there today – sort of. In 2020, Guglielmo bought Permac Enterprises and grew Guglielmo Sauce into Craft Cannery. The sauce is still made there, but now Guglielmo and his team produce close to 150 other products -- mostly condiments, sauces, salad dressings and non-carbonated beverages.
Craft Cannery grows
Craft Cannery produces products for large companies like Wegmans and RealEats, but also works with small producers and restaurants in Western and Central New York, such as Agatina’s, Sticky Lips Pit BBQ, Lloyd Taco Factory, Rubino’s Italian Foods and many more. All told, Craft Cannery produces food and beverage products for around 60 clients.
When Craft Cannery started on May 1, 2020, the company had three employees. They’ve since grown to 10 employees – with plans to add at least four new positions this year. Thanks to the $500,000 prize Craft Cannery won at the 2022 Grow-NY food business competition, Guglielmo said the company is adding additional kettles, expanding its building and purchasing a new bottling line that will allow them to fill small pouches, such as ketchup packets.
While the presentation that netted him half a million dollars only lasted 20 minutes, Guglielmo worked with the CoE for months leading up to the competition to practice and perfect his winning pitch.
CoE Business Development Specialist Ed Maguire heard an early version of Guglielmo’s presentation during a visit to the Craft Cannery facility in Genesee County and offered feedback on how to make the pitch even better. When Guglielmo visited Cornell AgriTech in early November, a week before the Grow-NY finals, he ran through the updated presentation a final time. Maguire told him the pitch was much better the second time.
“Ed helped through the whole stage of Grow-NY,” Guglielmo said. “It’s unbelievable that his knowledge is available to me for free.”
Looking to the future
The goal of Craft Cannery, Guglielmo said, is to help food producers grow from the very beginning up until they’re ready to work with a large copacker, such as LiDestri Foods in Rochester, which Guglielmo cites as an inspiration.
“I want Craft Cannery to grow into a copacker that can take someone with a dollar and a dream,” Guglielmo said.
This year, Guglielmo started Craft Cannery Brands. Guglielmo’s Sauce falls under that umbrella, but Guglielmo said he’s interested in adding new product lines and brands as well. Guglielmo recently acquired SalsaCuse, a Central New York-based brand of jarred salsas, with plans to produce and expand that product line in the future.
And when the time comes to complete a scheduled process or do other food safety testing for those new salsas, Guglielmo will turn to the CoE and CFVC to make it happen – just like he always has.
“It’s unbelievable that you guys exist,” he said. “It’s impossible for us to exist without you.”
Jacob Pucci is the marketing and communications coordinator for the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.
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