n interview with Chef Norm Strim, Vice President, Nonna Pia’s Gourmet Sauces Ltd., Red Seal Chef
In case you missed it, Nonna Pia's Balsamic Reductions Strawberry Fig was chosen by Phil Lempert as one of our Pick of the Week product reviews. We reached out to Chef Norm Strim, Vice President of Nonna Pia’s Gourmet Sauces Ltd., Red Seal Chef, to learn more about how they develop products.
What inspired you to create your new product? Is there a particular niche or segment of the market you were focusing on?
I was inspired during a trip to Italy 20 years ago where he tasted, and fell in love with aged Balsamic Vinegars. I returned to Canada and not only found it difficult to find these aged Balsamic Vinegars. They were very expensive, so I set about emulating the aging process and created Infused Balsamic Reductions by cooking his Balsamic Vinegar for 12 hours. I created Balsamic Reductions that are thick, velvety and robust in flavor. I wanted everybody to be able to enjoy the incredible characteristics of aged Balsamic Vinegars at an affordable price!
What makes your product different and able to stand out against similar ones? How important has differentiation been in developing this product?
Our direct competition is a Balsamic Crème or Glaze. They typically use between 15-50% Balsamic Vinegar (often a less expensive one that has not been aged and can therefore contain caramel to speed up this process) and then thickening agents such as xanthan gum, guar gum and modified cornstarch are added. They also often sweeten their crème or glaze with fructose and /or sucrose.
With our Balsamic Reductions we begin with 100% aged Balsamic Vinegar imported from Modena, Italy. We slow cook it for 12 hours, infusing it with fresh fruits and herbs, taking the moisture out. We do not use thickening agents. Our reductions have a very clean ingredient list, are Non GMO and Gluten Free.
What was the process like of designing your package, and how do you feel the final result has impacted perceptions of your product?
We recently rebranded our product. It was a long process, and we spent a lot of time doing extensive consumer research. We found that most of our consumers preferred to have our product in an easy to drizzle, convenient squeeze bottle. Our branding has been extremely well received, and we are thrilled about it! It is more authentic and speaks to who we are.
Does your product have relevant health attributes? What are they?
Our products are gluten free, Non GMO, and low in sodium and fat.
What sustainability efforts have you made with your product/packaging?
We use PET bottles which are recyclable. We have also started ordering our Balsamic Vinegar in 40ft containers imported from Modena, Italy. Our Balsamic Vinegar arrives to us in 1000L tanks. Previously we ordered our Balsamic Vinegar in 5L containers. We have had a positive impact on the environment from a recycling perspective (no more 5L containers and cardboard boxes). We have also reduced the number of deliveries we have each month, so ultimately we have helped recognize a break on the carbon footprint.
Through creating a new product, what would you say were the most difficult parts of the process and what came the easiest?
Finding the perfect ingredients was a big job. We sourced our Balsamic Vinegar looking for a good quality one and tested Balsamic Vinegar from approximately 70 suppliers. Also creating the prefect balance between sweet and acid when creating the recipe took time and patience. The easiest part is being confident that we create a consistent product to our consumers every time as we have a lot of check and balances in place and do not let any inferior product leave our kitchen!
Anything you would change if you were starting from scratch again?
No, We have made a few costly mistakes like any growing small business, however, we have minimized these by always asking a lot of questions.
Besides your product, what's one out on the market that you admire?
Arctic ice cream. They have managed to create a great tasting dessert with minimal calories among its many other attributes. The employees and owners are also very genuine people that are generous with sharing knowledge.