Rumiano Cheese Company Goes Non-GMO

Case Study: A Non-GMO Pioneer Boosts Sales

In response to customer interest about GMOs, 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 of his company’s organic cheese products.

blog-rumiano-1Challenge: Growing beyond local to national markets

Rumiano’s hope was that the NGP-verified label would help him expand beyond a base of groceries in a 5-state Western region to national markets, including chains such as Whole Foods. The family-run operation, founded by Rumiano’s great-grandfather, had been unable to get the attention of large 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 in 2011. Within a few months, much would change.

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

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

blog-rumiano-2Rumiano, an advocate of natural and organic practices, assisted in much of the work, starting with confirming the cows’ non-GMO diet. He traced the manufacturing path of microbial coagulants and enzymes used in cheese production, hosted a facility audit, and drilled down into many manufacturing and production detail, with FoodChain ID’s expert guidance. The company’s management all supported the initiative, including Baird Rumiano (president) and John (VP), Tony, and Raymond Rumiano, operators of 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,” recalled Rumiano. “Now I really understand my vendors and what goes into their products.” Rumiano’s organic cheese line was the first Non-GMO Project Verified cheeses sold in North America.

Outcome: Market reach into 50 U.S. states

Now marketing NGP-verified products, Rumiano began receiving inquiries from all over 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.blog-rumiano-3

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.

Rumiano, a natural foods and non-GMO evangelist, encourages fellow small businesses to follow his lead. “The hurdle is getting over the paperwork. Once that’s done, their Verified products will become recognized. FoodChain ID were great partners. I was able to get the answers I needed. I can’t speak highly enough of their knowledge and support.”