North & South: A Tale of Two Food Families
Rastelli Foods Group, based in Swedesboro, and Nuts.com, out of Cranford, are two family owned and operated businesses that speak to New Jersey’s rich entrepreneurial legacy. With humble beginnings striving for the American Dream, Jeffrey Braverman, CEO of Nuts.com and Ray and Tony Rastelli, founders of Rastelli Foods Group, are true visionaries in the world of food. From modest neighborhood storefronts to an e-commerce enterprise and an industry leading supplier and retailer, these companies have reached enormous success. Most importantly, we love that both have remained loyal to our State and are committed to growing here. In fact, Nuts.com was just approved by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for a Grow New Jersey incentive on July 13, 2017 to open a state-of-the-art corporate office in Jersey City, where it plans to create more than 150 new jobs. Read on to learn the fascinating origin stories of these two exceptional companies.
On the cusp of the Great Depression, the gritty 22-year old Braverman family patriarch “Poppy” Sol, a son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, started the Newark Nut Company on 99 Mulberry Street. Over the years, selling nuts and dried fruit, Sol’s company became a cornerstone of the community and business thrived, but not without adversity. The company survived his deployment during WWII, economic downturn in the 40s, weathered the 1967 Newark riots during which its warehouse was burned to the ground, and endured both the opening and closing of multiple packaging operations and retail locations. Through the 80s and into the 90s, business was struggling. Sol passed away in 1995, right before his grandson, Jeffrey, led the Newark Nut Company renaissance. While a freshman at Wharton Business School, Jeffrey purchased the URL NutsOnline.com and began to slowly build the company’s online presence. After graduating, with a short stint in finance, Jeffrey came back to his family’s operation armed with a fresh business plan to boost the company’s investment in e-commerce.
Fast forward to 2017, and you’ll see Jeffrey’s ingenuity at work. From Newark Nut Company to NutsOnline.com to now Nuts.com, the 100,000-square foot warehouse in Cranford employs 158 people with more than $50 million in annual revenue. Jeffrey saw the way of the future, and continues to keep the online retailer on-trend, selling superfoods like chia seeds, matcha powder, almond flour, and goji berries in bulk, and accommodating all dietary restrictions. In the nut business, the Braverman family embraces being a little nutty. Self-proclaimed “Head Nut” Jeffrey Braverman demonstrates the importance of not taking himself too seriously. This attitude reflects in their branding, with funky handwriting and nut caricatures of each family member. Although the company has no brick-and-mortar store, you might have smelled their irresistible fresh popped popcorn at their famous stand in the Newark Penn Station where there’s always a line.
Rastelli Foods Group
The incredible story of Rastelli Foods Group began in 1976 when 19-year-old Ray Rastelli made the decision to rent out an old storefront in his hometown of Deptford to convert into a butchery with a $10,000 loan from his father. An optimistic young husband and father, Ray was taking a big risk, but believed in the reward the investment could bring. The hallmark of an entrepreneur is the ability to identify opportunity in the marketplace, and “The Meat Shop” did just that: Ray’s neighborhood was missing a place to buy premium meat. He committed himself to learning the trade, the products, and paid close attention to the needs of his customers. Soon, Ray’s brother Tony came to work with him, they expanded to a second location, and business boomed.
Today, Ray and Tony Rastelli run a corporation worth nearly $1 billion with over 800 employees. The Rastelli Foods Group is operating in nearly every facet of the food industry. Their subsidiary companies include Rastelli Foods, a national provider of meats for food service, institutional and retail markets, Rastelli Global, manufacturer and worldwide consolidator operating in trade and export, Rastelli Market Fresh, a retail grocery chain, and Rastelli Seafood, importer and processor of fresh and frozen seafood. Along with Rastelli’s earned reputation for superior, quality-controlled food, their 110,000-square foot state-of-the-art processing plant in Swedesboro sets the industry standard for cleanliness and safety. Many of the biggest international restaurant chains source their products from Rastelli’s facilities, leaving South Jersey’s footprint all over the world. Even Philly’s famous Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks are made with Rastelli’s thin-cut 100% USDA certified Black Angus rib-eye! Additionally, the family’s business model reflects food industry trends, insisting on sustainability and humane practices for their meats and seafood. Futhermore, Rastelli’s Market Fresh, an upscale grocer and made-to-order café with locations in Marlton and Deptford, touts an entire line of organic products and craft burgers to satisfy any foodie.
The transformation of Rastelli Foods Group and Nuts.com from mom-and-pop shops to formidable industry players is a masterclass in strategizing for long-term growth. Built on traditional values, these businesses have flourished by modernizing and diversifying their customer offerings. We know that innovation is key for food business to thrive in 2017. But perhaps the greatest secret to success is based in an old adage: keeping it in the family, and staying true to your Jersey roots.
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