Read how Carbone has saved $500,000 in avoided out-of-stocks for their rapidly growing, A-lister adored sauce line. Only the finest retail analytics will do.
Carbone Fine Food is a line of jarred pasta sauces created by Michelin-acclaimed chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, the culinary visionaries behind the iconic New York City restaurant, Carbone.
Since opening their first restaurant in 2013, the Carbone brand has expanded its presence to Miami, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, captivating markets with their Instagram-worthy plates of pasta and impeccable dining experiences. Recognizing the demand to savor their flavors beyond the restaurants, the brand ventured into retail with Carbone Fine Food, and has experienced remarkable growth in the two years since.
The sauces – the same as those crafted in the A-lister-adored restaurant – are made with the finest ingredients to evoke the great Italian-American restaurant experience of midcentury New York.
We spoke with Carbone about how the adoption of the Crisp data platform a year into launch played a pivotal role in forging strong relationships with major grocery retailers and distributors – and how it’s paving the way for the brand’s placement in 20,000 store locations by the end of 2023.
Beyond the boroughs
Carbone Fine Food first ventured into retail in New York City, where the restaurant brand was established among locals. Here, the team’s first salesperson successfully secured placements with major grocery chains like Ahold, Stop-n-Shop, and Giant Food stores.
A new chapter began two years ago when Chris Wendling joined, who stepped into the role of Head of Natural and Specialty. Richly-experienced in CPG food sales, Chris initiated a national growth strategy by activating distribution through UNFI and KeHE, and prospecting business with Whole Foods.
In the early days, when the brand was represented in just four chains with two or three items, sales data analysis was a manageable task, Chris remembers. But as Carbone grew quickly to national distribution, visibility into product inventory and store fill-rates became a must-have.
“We’re one of the few brands in recent years to go from no Whole Foods distribution to full-chain acceptance,” Chris explained regarding one of the brand’s big breaks. This, along with growing opportunities in their distributor network, amplified the need for an accessible and actionable data source.
Recognizing the value of a centralized data platform, the team onboarded Crisp in August 2022. The timing coincided with their Whole Foods deal, enabling them to fully execute the nationwide rollout and maintain crucial visibility from that point on.
When the brand was represented in just four chains with two or three items, sales data analysis was a manageable task, Chris remembers. But as Carbone grew quickly to national distribution, visibility into product inventory and store fill-rates became a must-have.
KeHE to unlocking saucy success
Carbone’s methodical growth through national distributors involved identifying warehouses that hadn’t yet stocked their sauces, then closing their top two or three accounts to activate distribution in the region.
In areas where Carbone’s brand was less recognized, Chris would send buyers the award-winning sauces and often receive a resounding ‘yes’ after family dinner, with the growing celebrity influence only adding to their enthusiasm – along with impressive turnover rates in stores.
This approach has led to expansion into major grocery chains like Publix, Sprouts, and Safeway-Albertsons through KeHE, with each offering thousands of points of distribution (PODs) and extending Carbone’s reach to a wider customer base.
Now we’re going to let Crisp’s numbers do the talking. In the last 12 months – coinciding with the adoption of the platform – Carbone has increased distribution through KeHE by 86%, with 13 distribution centers experiencing over a 70% boost in business. The brand has expanded by 9800 PODs, and has experienced a 189% increase in overall sales.
Still, Carbone’s use of Crisp isn’t just about expansion; it’s also about optimization. Using the platform’s KeHE dashboards, the team has been able to track their out-of-stocks and successfully make a case for larger purchase orders across the board, using the irrefutable data as evidence.
“Every single warehouse has increased weeks of supply on us because of how fast we’re moving,” Chris explains, “Without Crisp, we couldn’t make such requests.”
With greater purchase orders comes the need for more robust order fulfillment. This is a joint effort when working with distributors, who maintain the fill-rates to the individual store locations.
Thanks to Crisp, Carbone’s team can track these store fill-rates daily, swiftly communicating with their KeHE account managers whenever there’s a discrepancy or a need to ship out products. By leveraging Crisp to enhance inventory flow and keep shelves stocked, the team has successfully boosted their fill rate by 10% – to an impressive 92% average – over the last year.
“Every single warehouse has increased weeks of supply on us because of how fast we’re moving. Without Crisp, we couldn’t make such requests.”Chris Wendling, Head of Natural and Specialty at Carbone
The winning formula at Whole Foods
Chris uses Crisp every morning to monitor inventory and sales, especially during promotional periods. “I’m on Crisp right now because we’re in the middle of a three-week endcap promotion with Whole Foods,” he tells us.
Crisp gives him real-time visibility into how his products are performing so he can keep the high-visibility endcaps stocked and looking stunning.
He also describes an instance when a merchandiser sent him a photo of an empty shelf, across the country in Portland, Oregon. With no need to scramble or speculate, Chris tapped into Crisp to track the store’s sales, calculate the number of cases needed, and promptly expedite a purchase order (PO). The result? An out-of-stock situation on Tuesday was resolved with products to the store by Friday.
“The value of those instances is just immeasurable,” Chris states, and continues to explain that syndicated data is simply not as actionable. “I can see that we hit our goals during promotional periods instead of waiting 6 weeks to see how we performed.”
As for Carbone’s monetary return on investment in Crisp, Chris highlights the endcap promotions for starters.
He explains that each endcap campaign generates around 600-700k in sales, and that without Crisp, the out-of-stock rate would be around 30%.
Putting it all together, Chris declares that “When it comes to managing out-of-stocks, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Crisp has translated back $500,000 in sales.”
A savings that far outweighs the cost of the service, he notes.
“When it comes to managing out-of-stocks, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Crisp has translated back $500,000 in sales.”Chris Wendling, Head of Natural and Specialty at Carbone
Simmering in-store stardom
Looking ahead, Carbone Fine Food is primed for continued expansion, with an exciting new chapter entailing the launch of their highly-anticipated Vodka sauce. The shimmery, blue-labeled product will be available in Whole Foods nationwide starting in August, and additional retailers including Safeway-Albertsons in the Fall.
A sensation at the New York Fancy Food Show, the team ran through 300 pounds of pasta sampling the new sauce to raving attendees.
Using Crisp, the team will execute the product’s rollout, ensuring successful shipment and placement with every retail partner. Chris explains that they’ll be ensuring the products arrive and are selling through Crisp before launching any social campaigns or targeted media.
As for what else is ‘in store’ for Carbone, Chris will be relying on Crisp’s easy-to-use platform to manage a growing team. “We have six salespeople now, and they all have Crisp logins. If they have questions, I’ll be directing them to it,” he concludes.