Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 77

Protocols have changed so much now that
people are greeted at the front door via video
camera instead of a receptionist behind a desk.
John understands the stress level is
high at a fresh meat manufacturer during
normal times, but the pandemic took it to
another level.
"It's a very, very stressful environment.
Every day the price is changing," John
said. "And then with COVID, forget it, that
was even more stressful. I mean, these
guys were working 80 hours a week and
that's unbelievable."
Even with all the tension, demand shot
through the roof as Cola Foods was able to
keep local store shelves stocked while other
parts of the supply chain were slowing down
due to major outbreaks.
At one point, the company went from
selling about 500 cases of meat to local
locations per week, up to to 2,000 cases.
"They had to fill up the case with
something, and they were filling it up with our
product because we didn't miss a beat," John
said of the company's retail customers.

BUILDING ON SUSTAINED SUCCESS
Cola Foods originally started as Lincoln
Packing Co. back in the 1950s with John's
father.
After slinging beef and sausage and
breaking down cattle for the first 20 years on
Canal Street in Providence, RI, Lincoln Packing
moved over to its existing location.
In the next decade, the company expanded
and even built a distribution center by the mid1980s, selling a range of products including
bologna, salami and cheeses.
The traditional meats that the company still
cuts to this day include a variety of fresh beef,
shaved steak and Italian sausage.
In 2007, the company was approached to
sell the operation's distribution end to stop
competing with distributors like Sysco and
US Foods. John could then concentrate on
producing quality foodservice, retail and
private label products.
"Once I stopped competing with them,
we were able to secure some more of that
business," John said.
In August 2017, Lincoln Packing changed
its name to Cola Foods with the acquisition of
another local brand, Marcello Sausage. This

gave the meat manufacturer a larger retail
footprint in the local market.
Essentially, anything that goes into foodservice is the Lincoln Packing brand; anything that
is purchased at grocery stores or convenience
stores is now the Marcello brand. There is
also a Giovanni brand and private label brands
available for other customer needs.
Although Cola scrambled to figure out
market conditions during the COVID-19
pandemic, having a 50% foodservice business
and 50% retail helped it adjust.
John also said that the company shut down
for one day early in the first week of COVID-19.
After that, for part of the pandemic, Cola ran
six days a week, 13 hours a day.
What helped Cola's business was its ability
to supply niche foodservice operators, like
pizza parlors and sub shops. The demand, even
in those locations, maintained throughout
the shutdown. People were picking up
their traditional pizza and sub sandwiches
regardless of the restrictions.
"When they closed within the first four
weeks, we felt it, but then it started to come
back little by little because those people
already had delivery down pat," John said of
the foodservice business. "You know a white
tablecloth place; you can't deliver a steak. It

At left: Father/son duo John
and Gio Colagiovanni had
to make some adjustments
to their business because of
the pandemic. Below: Cola
Foods produces a variety
of patties including chicken
and traditional hamburger.

www.meatpoultry.com | 09.20 | MEAT+ POULTRY

77


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Meat+Poultry - September 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - September 2020

Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 2
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 3
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 4
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Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - VDG1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - VDG2
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 51
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