Quality — You want people to really enjoy your products so they become repeat customers. All our products are made from all-natural ingredients and sourced from their city of origin. When I first started out, I was at a conventional grocery stores core sampling sets of balsamic vinegars and I tasted the poor quality of the different brands. I thought to myself that I can offer customers a base line balsamic vinegar that has a premium taste compared to the standard vinegars at the store and that is what I did. Our Giusto Sapore balsamic vinegar products are all-natural and our baseline vinegars have a density level of 1.14 to 1.18 which are more sweeter and smoother compared to other commercial brands that are at 1.07.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Comparetto. He serves as president and co-founder of Just Ryt Foods, a family-run business specializing in importing and wholesaling gourmet foods. In 2010 — at the age of 19 — Comparetto, his grandfather, Joe Comparetto, and cousin, Ryan Braun, partnered with a family friend that ran an import and manufacturing business in Canada. The trio began selling only 12 products to farmers markets and small grocers throughout Florida. After expanding the product base and developing strong relationships within the industry, Comparetto co-founded Just Ryt Foods in 2013 with his grandfather and cousin. Under his leadership, the company launched its first exclusive Italian and Mediterranean brand, Giusto Sapore, Italian for “Just the Right Flavor” and continued growing its roster to more than 5 brands including a Caribbean brand paying tribute to Comparetto’s late grandfather.
Just Ryt Foods strives to be the nations “go to” distributor for imported international gourmet foods. The foundation of their success and continual growth lies in product sourcing and development, competitive pricing of higher quality products, and impeccable customer service. Focusing on the import and distribution of Italian and Mediterranean specialty foods, they’ve grown the Giusto Sapore brand dedicated to providing consumers access to an ever-growing catalog of products with “Just the Right Flavor”.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Born and raised in Minnesota, I have had an entrepreneurial spirit since a young age. When I was about 9–10 years old I started my own lawn and handyman service in my hometown. During the summer months in Minnesota, I would go around to all my neighbor’s houses and mow their lawns, fix their fences, and paint. During the winter months, I would shovel snow, clear up ice from driveways — I’d basically do whatever I could to make some money! Because I always made sure to do an excellent job, they would refer me to friends and family — near and far! I’d do whatever I could to get there — either riding my bike or asking my parents for a lift. At that very early age, I’d already started to understand the importance of creating good business relationships and building a rapport with my customers.
Once in high school, I began working for my stepfather at a beer company and that’s where I learned how the distribution business worked. I started working in the warehouse pulling orders and quickly moved up to riding in the delivery trucks as an assistant. In that role, I learned everything from creating routing systems to merchandising and eventually when I turned 18, I obtained my class A license and became the lead driver, and the face of the company. Around that time — right after high school — I had a close family friend, whom I really looked up to and in one occasion and unknowingly to him, I overheard him make remarks about how I would never strive to be anything great because I was never a good student and as a result couldn’t get into any good colleges. For me that served as a huge motivation and eye-opener, so I took a leap of faith and decided to move to Florida. There, I obtained a real-estate license and decided I’d go after the high-end housing market — think million dollar condos. Unfortunately, that was in 2008–2009 when the market was at a low point and I struggled to make a living. Then, opportunity knocked at my door when a family friend that owned a manufacturing business in Canada wanted to get started in the U.S. Since I was living hand to mouth working in real estate, I decided to give it a shot. At that point, I was just 19 years old, we started a partnership. He sent me a shipment of 12 different items, I grabbed some posters and flyers and got to knocking on doors of small supermarkets, mom-and-pop shops, and farmers markets.
As that business grew, I started expanding the line by adding even more Mediterranean products. We had demand to carry additional products with repeat customers requesting specific items. Luckily, through our work with the supermarkets, we had made great connections for sourcing these specialty products and were able to quickly expand our inventory. In 2013, we decided to expand further — carrying more Mediterranean and Italian products and that’s when Just Ryt Foods Company was born.
Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of the food brand you are leading?
I had my “ah ha” moment in 2013 when I realized that I wanted to build something for myself and for my future. At the time, I was partnering with a Canadian import and manufacturing business and opened a U.S. division in South Florida for them. With the help of my grandfather, Joe Comparetto and cousin, Ryan Braun we expanded their portfolio from 12 to more than 120 products sold throughout Florida and beyond. After developing strong relationships within the industry, I decided to venture out on my own and I launched Just Ryt Foods. Finally, I had built a successful company for myself and no one could take it away from me. My determination and perseverance has led me to expand my company’s portfolio to a growing roster of more than 5 brands, which includes our exclusive Italian and Mediterranean brand, Giusto Sapore.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In 2015 after we decided to get into the manufacturing and production realm, our first venture was with packing our own olive oil and balsamic vinegar. To do this, I had to learn the hard way how the whole system worked — from pulling from the bulk source to the filling heads. One of the items that was the most comical to learn from, was a balsamic glaze. Balsamic glaze is a reduced balsamic vinegar that is cooked down and becomes very sticky and viscous. To get the product to flow correctly through the machinery we had to make sure the supply was consistent. When we first started working with a new piston machine to get the product to flow evenly, we kept getting inconsistent fills. I then had to figure out how to get the product to the heads faster while still keeping even fills. I had the idea to hook up a double diaphragm pump to the bulk glaze container and cranked up the pressure and air speed to the maximum. This allowed the product to flow quickly but once the pressure was decreased it didn’t quite work. When we turned it back up, I didn’t account for the back pressure created during the resting time and as a result, the hoses blew off of the machines and sprayed about 80 feet all across the warehouse and covered everything in glaze! For months after, we kept finding bits of balsamic glaze in all corners of the warehouse. Needless to say, lesson learned. Ever since then, when new equipment gets delivered to the warehouse, the employees and me make sure to learn the safe and proper way to handle it. We all make sure we understand the instructions and take our time when filling or packaging our products.
make sure everyone follows directions at all times.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food line? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Over investing and under investing at the very beginning are the two most common mistakes I’ve seen people make when starting their own food line. You need to make sure that you are investing just the right amount of money into the products, the packaging, personnel, marketing, etc., and launch the product at the right time. Basically, you need to have all your ducks in a row. When you launch your business/product you need to do it right, because if you get it wrong it is a hard to fix.
Additionally, to avoid these errors you need to do research and understand all the facets of the business from the distribution chain to manufacturing to selling and everything in between. Understand the supply chain, replenishment time, and the demand for your products. You have to set a goal and work backwards. Think about the packaging, what is going to make the consumer want to purchase your products, marketing, finding the right retailers, what are your costs and who many people are you looking to employ. People don’t think about everything that is involved in starting a food line. They are only thinking about the end goal — to be successful and make money. Do your research, set a goal, and create a game plan on how to meet your goal. This is how you will succeed.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
I recommend the first thing you do is research. Ask yourself, is there a need for this product? It is important to understand the product market, the audience you will be selling to, and what the consumers are actually looking for. Once you complete the research, write down your end goal, meaning what are you trying to achieve and how you are going to go about it. Create a reasonable budget to meet your goals and how you will allocate funds. Put a plan together that entails finances, personnel costs, marketing, and resources for scalability.
Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?
I think a lot of people are afraid of failure and that holds them back from being successful. I’m always taking risks in the business to advance my company. Not all risks have been successful, but I’ve learned from them, especially what to do and not do in the future. This has helped me go further than my competitors, most of them play the safe route, which is not necessarily a bad route, it’s just simply a slower route. I’m always on the creative edge of experimenting with new things, testing different products. Again, it hasn’t always been successful, but the few items that have been successful have truly paid off and helped set us apart from other companies.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
It all depends on their knowledge of the industry. If the consultant you are hiring has knowledge and a background in the type of product you are inventing then it can be beneficial for you. However, there are a lot of consultants out there that are just looking to make money, so you need to do your research and make sure the one you hire will do the job right. If you are new to running a business, you can hire a consultant to help you set up best business practices and give you pointers on how to best operate your business, I would definitely recommend that option.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
If you have the personal funds to finance your business, that is the best route to go. I believe that going with low overhead and low debt is always safer, however sometimes you need to borrow money to successfully launch a business. If you are going to borrow money, talk to a banker or financial officer and see if there are any programs out there that will work for you specifically to start your business. I would never suggest getting stuck with a high interest rate loan or use a loan shark, which can keep you in debt that you will never get out of.
Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?
The best advice I can give about filing a patent is to get a good attorney. Make sure this is a seasoned professional who specializes in filing patents.
I am very passionate about sourcing good raw ingredients, that is why I go straight to the origin. For example, we source our truffles straight from the Umbria region in central Italy, where family-owned and operated truffle farms produce our deliciously tasting truffle products. The same is true about our vinegars, they come straight from Modena, Italy making them authentic and superior quality.
Do your research when looking for retailers and distributors. I personally used google and of course word of mouth. When you know someone who has worked with a certain retailer and/or distributor you already know what type of reputation they have and if your companies will work well together.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Quality — You want people to really enjoy your products so they become repeat customers. All our products are made from all-natural ingredients and sourced from their city of origin. When I first started out, I was at a conventional grocery stores core sampling sets of balsamic vinegars and I tasted the poor quality of the different brands. I thought to myself that I can offer customers a base line balsamic vinegar that has a premium taste compared to the standard vinegars at the store and that is what I did. Our Giusto Sapore balsamic vinegar products are all-natural and our baseline vinegars have a density level of 1.14 to 1.18 which are more sweeter and smoother compared to other commercial brands that are at 1.07.
- Consistency — Create a flavor profile that will never change for your consumers. People build dishes and recipes around your products so you need to make sure the flavor profile and consistency is the same every time they purchase your product. If the flavor profile is different when they use the same product it can ruin the dish.
- Packaging — Package design is important as it draws people in to look at your product. The brands package design should reflect its quality not only in the way it tastes but by the way it looks. My brand utilizes BOPP labels, making the products durable while stored at all temperatures, and are appealing. This category of material is water- and oil-resistant, preventing any distortion to the product label.
- Availability — You need to make sure all your products are accessible, whether on amazon or your brand’s website, not only in gourmet markets and national grocery stores. I believe it is important that we sell our products online, they are always accessible and are the same quality whenever you buy them. A friend of mine lived in Virginia. Her local grocer was Harris Teeter and she was able to purchase her favorite Giusto Sapore items there. When she decided to move to a different state, our products were not sold at her local grocery store. However, since we sell on Amazon, she was able to purchase her favorite oil and vinegar and more from our online store.
- Pricing — You need to offer competitive pricing for higher quality products. You should want everyone to be able to afford your brand, do not limit yourself to a certain demographic. Our variety of products from all our brands are priced to appease a wide array of people. We started bundling products, especially for the holidays, making our gourmet items more desirable and affordable as gifts for any event. Customers can know enjoy luxurious truffle sets, olive oil sets, vinegar sets, and spice sets that are all available now.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Look at what’s trending, trends that will be around for a while, and what the industry is calling for. A great example is plant-based protein, all-natural, and vegan products. When I heard this is what consumers were looking for, I decided to launch a new chickpea pasta. Our deliciously wholesome, organic Chickpea Rigatoni caters to this trend as it is rich in plant-based protein, has fewer carbs, and is an excellent source of fiber.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have always been very independent, very dedicated, focused, great goals to strive for, and have always wanted to do something to give back to the community (i.e. hiring people). I have built a corporation that employ 25+ members and creates a future for others.
My company also supports many non-profits within the community, including Feeding South Florida, a community program that provides immediate access to nutritious food, leads hunger and poverty advocacy efforts and helps transform lives through innovative programming and education. We also support Cocktails for Humanity, a non-profit pop-up bar that supports one new charity each month within the South Florida community; and Glam-A-THON, a non-profit that raises funds and awareness for breast cancer.
I am also committed to creating more organic and non-GMO products in the industry. Just Ryt Foods takes great pride in offering products with only the freshest ingredients, leaving no room for additives. Our Giusto Sapore brand’s recipes contain the most natural ingredients, making many of their products organic, Non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan. Additionally, we pay special attention to our packaging to be more environmentally friendly. We are utilizing products that are recyclable and biodegradable such as glass, paper, and aluminum.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d like to call it a “food-thropic movement” — philanthropy through food!
We’ve started incorporating this in several ways. First, through quality of product. This means giving our customers access to the best quality products, such as organic, non-GMO, heart healthy, no sugar added foods. Secondly, we place attention on packaging — staying away from plastic and other products that aren’t biodegradable. We are utilizing more glass and aluminum packaging both which are recyclable. Last and certainly not least, we want to develop a non-profit initiative. I’m still sketching that out in my head, but I’d love to create a product line that would benefit the less fortunate in South Florida and beyond. This might involve taking profits from that line of products and donating it or allocating a portion of our inventory for donations — overall my vision is to help, while also inspiring others to join the movement.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to sit down and eat pasta with Jeff Bezos. It would be a dream come true to get advice straight from the source on how/what I can do to make my business more successful. What I can do to propel my business forward not only on Amazon but on other platforms. I would like to hear his philosophies on business and the best business practices he follows. I would definitely ask him about any tips and tricks he has to increase my Amazon rankings!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.