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Rumiano Cheese Company Goes ‘Non-GMO’ | by Warren Goldie

Customer Case Study, FoodChain ID

Challenge: Growing beyond local to national markets

In response to customer inquiries about GMO use, and with an eye toward providing greater supply chain transparency, business owner Joby Rumiano set out to earn Non-GMO Project (NGP) verification for several organic cheese products.

joby-closeRumiano’s hope was that the NGP-verified seal would help the company expand beyond a base of groceries and co-ops in a 5-state Western region to larger national markets, including chains such as Whole Foods. The family-run operation, founded by Rumiano’s great-grandfather, had been unable to get thFourth generation owner, Joby Rumianoe attention of larger industry players. “We would walk the aisles of natural foods expos and try to sell our cheese to anyone who would listen,” says Rumiano, who handed out business cards by the thousands.

Rumiano enrolled with FoodChain ID to earn Non-GMO Project Verification in 2011. Within a few months, much would change.rumiano-profile-box

Solution: Taking part in the NGP’s first animal-derived product verifications

Since the Non-GMO Project had not yet verified animal-derived (AD) products, they called on technical administrator FoodChain ID to craft new requirements for the NGP Standard and help pioneer non-GMO best practices for dairy farmers. To begin the verification process, Joby Rumiano collected and uploaded required documents into FoodChain ID’s SupplyTrak data management system, initially enrolling 53 cheese varieties.

Rumiano, a strong advocate of natural and organic practices, assisted in confirming the cows’ non-GMO diet, traced the manufacturing path of microbial coagulants and enzymes used in cheese production, hosted a factory audit, and drilled down into manufacturing and production details — all with FoodChain ID’s expert guidance. All of the company’s management supported the process, including Baird Rumiano (president) and John (VP), Tony, and Raymond Rumiano, who run the cut-and-wrap distribution plant in Willows, Calif. Rumiano Cheese also operates a manufacturing plant in Crescent City, Calif.

“You think you know everything about your products,” says Rumiano. “Now I really understand my vendors and what goes into their products.” Rumiano’s line of organic cheeses were the first Non-GMO Project Verified cheeses sold in North America.Rumiano factory cheese wheels

cheese-wheelOutcome: Market reach into all 50 U.S. states

Now marketing NGP-verified products, Rumiano began to receive inquiries from around the U.S., starting with requests from stores in New York and Florida. Over the next year the East Coast would become a significant market for Rumiano Cheese, with the company also breaking into Whole Foods in the Northwest.

Today, Rumiano’s 20+ verified cheeses are sold in all 50 U.S. states, and the company is fielding interest from Walmart, Target, and Starbucks. According to Joby Rumiano, earning Non-GMO Project verification with FoodChain ID was the key. “We can absolutely tie our sales increases to that,” he says. “The stores all want the seal.”Joby Rumiano and his dad, Baird.

Rumiano, ever the natural foods and non-GMO evangelist, encourages fellow small businesses to follow his lead. “The hurdle is getting them over the paperwork. Once they’ve done that and gotten verified, their products become more recognized. FoodChain ID were great partners. You can send them an email or pick up a phone and in a reasonable amount of time you’ve got the answers you need. I can’t speak highly enough about their knowledge and support.”

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