Rumiano Cheese Company Goes Non-GMO

Case Study: A Non-GMO Pioneer Boosts Sales

In response to customer questions about GMO usage in foods, and with an eye toward providing greater supply chain transparency, business owner Joby Rumiano set out to obtain the Non-GMO Project (NGP) Verified label for several of his company’s organic cheese products.

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

Rumiano’s hope was that Non-GMO Project verification would help him expand beyond a 5-state base of groceries in a Western region to national markets, including into chains such as Whole Foods. The family-run operation, founded by Rumiano’s great-grandfather, had thus far been unable to get the attention of large industry players. “We would walk the aisles at natural foods expos and try to sell our cheese to anyone who would listen,” says Rumiano, who distributed his business cards by the thousands.

In 2011, Rumiano enrolled in the Non-GMO Project’s product verification program with FoodChain ID as technical administrator. 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 FoodChain ID to craft new requirements for the NGP Standard and help pioneer non-GMO best practices for dairy farmers.

When Joby Rumiano enrolled, his first task was to collect and upload required documents into FoodChain ID’s SupplyTrak compliance management system. Initially, Rumiano enrolled 53 of his company’s cheese varieties.

blog-rumiano-2Rumiano, already an advocate of natural and organic practices, confirmed the cows’ non-GMO diet. As required, he traced the manufacturing path of the 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.”