Insight on Business

The August 2011 Insight on Business

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Sargento’s Natural Blends are among a line of specialty cheeses available in the Slide-Rite Freshness Seal packages, a company innovation. Artisan Blends, Bistro Blends, Classic ChefStyle, Fancy Shredded and Reduced Fat and Low Sodium cheeses are among many others. commodity to a desired product,” Carpenter says. It all started over Romano and Parmesan. The company’s roots go back to 1949, when Leonard Gentine Sr. launched the Plymouth Cheese Counter, a deli and mail order giſt house. What Leonard Gentine noticed was a lot of repeat orders from small packages of Italian-style cheeses. He seized the opportunity. Partnering with Joseph Sartori – the founder of Sartori Cheese, also based in Plymouth – the company began by selling small packages of Romano, Parmesan, Mozzarella and Provolone cheese. It would be the first of many innovations for the company that consumers nationwide take for granted today, including packaged shredded cheese, vacuum packaging to keep cheese fresh, zippered packages and the peg-bar system for supermarket displays (see sidebar). Along the way, it also debuted new lines of blended cheeses and launched its food service lines. Recent additions there include its Artisan Cheese blends, which feature limited availability blends using cheeses from some of the best artisan cheese makers. Many of the company’s innovations have helped other cheese makers, says Carpenter, especially when it comes to packaging. “That just benefits the entire industry,” she says. “Wherever you can make it economical to use, store and ship cheese, it’s good for everyone from the dairy farmer to the end consumer.” In 1965, Sargento became wholly- owned by the Gentine Family when it purchased Sartori’s shares. The two cheese families “are still good friends www. insightonbusiness .com SARGENTO CHEESE PACKAGING INNOVATIONS Sargento pioneered the cheese packaging industry with many innovations, including: » 1955 Leonard Gentine develops vacuum packaging for cheese to keep its freshness, allowing it to be shipped greater distances and stored longer. » 1958 Sargento becomes the first to market shredded cheeses, launching a product that now accounts for up to 30 percent of sales. » 1969 Sargento introduces the peg-bar system for supermarkets to display packaged cheese. » 1986 Sargento debuts zippered, resealable packaging for its cheeses. » 2001 Sargento launches its Slide Rite Advanced Closure System for cheese packages. and enjoy a very friendly rivalry,” Lou Gentine says of the fellow Wisconsin cheese maker. “Absolutely, it is friendly,” says Jim Sartori, CEO of Sartori Company. “The families are great friends. They have been a great corporate citizen and we have worked together on many things for the community. We compete in a few areas – their business model is different. But, they are also a customer of ours as well, so we do some business together.” Indeed, there are several major cheese makers and packagers in the Sheboygan County area, which at one time billed itself as the nation’s cheese capital. INNOVATOR IN CHEESE PACKAGING For the Gentines – both father and son – the recipe for success has been to follow in the footsteps of the company’s founder and encourage a climate of innovation. As large as the company has become, it still tries to live up to that culture. “They have done a wonderful job of growing their segments of the industry,” Sartori says. “They have driven a lot of growth in this state and others for cheese makers to supply them with cheese for all of their products. That helps the cheese makers, and in turn it helps the dairy farmers. Augus t 2011 • INSIGHT | 32 3 COURTESY OF SARGENTO

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