Peek inside the warehouse at New Mexico food distributor Statewide Products - Albuquerque Journal

Peek inside the warehouse at New Mexico food distributor Statewide Products

Zane Van Winkle, CFO of Statewide Products, and Debi Bartucci, president of Statewide Products, walk through the warehouse of Statewide Products in Albuquerque. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

At grocery stores around the state, colorful displays of salsas, chiles, spice mixes, chips and other products made in New Mexico beckon shoppers to buy local. And one Albuquerque-based, family-owned business is proud to be instrumental in that.

“We really nurtured and developed all the sales for local products,” Debi Bartucci, president of Statewide Products, told the Journal. “We’re going to take credit for that.”

The nearly 55-year-old wholesale food distributor buys snack foods such as cookies, pretzels and jerky from manufacturers, and sells them to grocery stores. In addition to physically placing items on store shelves, the company runs in-store demonstrations and other promotions to build awareness for the brands it represents.

“It’s not just getting the product and putting it on the shelf. That’s not how we do our business,” Bartucci said. “We take a complete look at the market, and then we advise people.”

Statewide Products is a resource for the food manufacturers it works with, helping with pricing, testing, certification, or label design if needed, said Zane Van Winkle, chief financial officer of the company.

Cases of El Pinto Hot Salsa at Statewide Products in Albuquerque. The New Mexico wholesale food company has been family-owned and operated since 1968. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Founded in 1968, the business started when Joe Smith, Bartucci’s father and Van Winkle’s grandfather, brought Pepperidge Farms brand cookies to stores in New Mexico. In the beginning, the company focused on specialty brands. But, in the ’90s, as larger master distributors took over those lines, Statewide Products moved into snack foods and then local items, Bartucci said.

“We have to change,” Bartucci said. “As our business changes and grocery store needs change, we have to change with it. … The reason we’ve been successful, I think, is that we adapt.”

When it comes to local, Statewide Products started with just a couple of items from a handful of such brands as Sadie’s of New Mexico and Chile Grande. As those products gained popularity, and other restaurants and manufacturers in the state wanted to be in area stores, Statewide Products changed its approach. Instead of pitching individual local brands to stores and vying for shelf space for each of them, the company began presenting several brands together as a local products program. Sales increased and stores created sections specifically for local goods. As more manufacturers started making multiple products, Bartucci said Statewide Products was able to grow and grow.

“Local business is huge (and it) makes millions of dollars in sales now,” Bartucci said of the niche her family’s company helped create.

Zane Van Winkle, CFO of Statewide Products, and Debi Bartucci, president of Statewide Products, walk through the warehouse of Statewide Products in Albuquerque. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Why do you think local has been successful and you’ve seen such growth?

Bartucci: “In New Mexico, food is such a part of our culture that consumers want local products. They want to support their local community. I mean, it’s just kind of a movement now. I think that consumers really demand local products, and it continues to grow. It grows double digits almost every single year.”

Why was it difficult to get that started?

Bartucci: “We had to convince the grocery stores that local products were a viable category. … When you’re a smaller manufacturer, or distributor, you have to be very tenacious. And you have to prove your worth, really.”

How did you prove your worth?

Bartucci: “Based on sales. I’m very analytical with sales data. … You have to sell your program. It’s with anything, you have to be a salesperson.”

What are some of the key moments in the company’s history?

Bartucci: “I would think one of our key moments was when we became a Synder’s (of Hanover) distributor.”

Why was that a key moment?

Bartucci: “That was really when we changed from being specialty to snack food. It just really changed the whole profile and direction of our company. When you look at what category you’re servicing, you don’t want to service so many categories that you’re all over the store because that’s not efficient. … So that allowed us to expand in the chip or salty food snack category. We kind of moved in that direction and that’s really been our direction since the mid-90s.”

What’s on the horizon for Statewide Products?

Van Winkle: “We’re actively looking to expand the territories that we can provide service to. We’re hoping to begin servicing some accounts out of state. We’re looking to expand the local New Mexico section to our bordering states and see if we can get traction in those areas. … We’re always looking for ways to provide better service to our accounts, looking for new high-quality manufacturers to partner with and bring to the market. We have a growing e-commerce channel that is actually open to the public so, no matter where they are away from New Mexico, they can go online and purchase their favorite New Mexico-made food products. And we plan to keep growing that.”

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