In the last installment of our three-part series with CEO Matt Caputo, we talk about the specifics and the goals, the mission and the attention to detail, that make Tony Caputo's Food Market & Deli a fixture in Utah’s craft food landscape.
Q: I often read about the shrinking center store, the growth of prepared foods, the explosion of specialty cheese; in what ways is Caputo’s reacting to these large-scale grocery trends? In what way has the company anticipated and helped nurture these trends?
Matt Caputo: Yes, we started without much from center store. We are all specialty. We focus on very few categories but really flesh them out. This can be really overwhelming to customers if you don't have staff with the expertise to help people decide. At Caputo's that is the key. We have a giant selection that is a connoisseur's dream, but we make it approachable for those that may not know much about the category. We are doubling down more than ever on these categories and are also starting a merchandising program to help keep it from being overwhelming.
Q: Tell me a little bit about Caputo’s approach to merchandising and assortment: Would you say that you are focused on metrics? Creating an experience? How would you describe the chain’s approach to presenting products to shoppers?
MC: Recently, Caputo's has made a concerted effort to double back on our efforts to re-focus on our core products of chocolate, cheese, local products, and Southern European items. Unfortunately, this means passing on opportunities to carry items from other categories that we love to eat, but we have found greater success by focusing on fewer items in those core categories that mean the most to us.
With the roll out of our new branding over the past two years, I've taken the opportunity to consider what matters most to the Caputo legacy. Caputo's is fiercely protective of the cultural history that Southern European food traditions were built upon—this is the very foundation upon which Caputo's and A Priori were built, and I feel it is exemplified in Caputo's Preservation Program and the shield in part of our re-branding.
In short, we are focused on mission, not metrics.
The shield is an integral figure of the Caputo’s brand, representing our never-ending fight to preserve the culinary traditions of our ancestors. When I lay on my deathbed and look back at my life, I need to know that the Caputo’s shield was not merely an idea, but rather a reason for preserving and protecting the foods that connect us to our heritage. I want to know we helped to defend biodiversity in our food system and provided vital support to true artisans, maybe even helped to resurrect long lost gastronomic treasures. When you see the Caputo's shield, know that it is ultimately our reason for being.
Every few months, we identify a handful of products for the Caputo’s Preservation Program. These products may be anything from a chocolate bar using a strain of cacao that is under threat of extinction or a traditional recipe at risk of being lost to history.
As this Preservation Program comes to fruition, look within our markets for displays that designate these special products as CPP foods. These foods are the kinds that carry whole histories in each bite, from unique terroir to artisan spirit. And please know the goal of the CPP is not to maximize sales. In fact, we rarely choose popular items. Much of the time we are highlighting items that would never sell otherwise. The goal is simply to sustain our ability to carry these items at all and to have them on our shelves without going past their “use by date” before they sell. Although business may proceed as usual (or even better) without them, our mission fails without them. We hope these CPP foods provide a useful cultural nexus to the parts of our history that are too precious to leave behind. As always, our biggest hope is to keep the flame alive.
Q: Is there anything new in the works for Caputo’s? What does the future hold for the company?
MC: Our future is bright because the traditions of the past are alive and well within these walls. Our fight to protect the sanctity of food is not new, but it is the most important contribution we can make. We will never stop supporting the people and places that have supported us on our journey, just like we'll never stop seeking out the best and brightest makers in each of the categories we hold most dear. We will probably open more stores, but our system is not turnkey. It relies on strong GMs that know us through and through, are part of the good food tribe.
We love connecting with other shop owners and deli people. We invite them to stop in and say hello if they are ever in our neck of the woods!
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