Specialty Food Magazine

JAN-FEB 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 157 of 159

Q&A Snacking Central When Greg Parham started J&M Foods in 1987, his were among the first cheese straws to the marketplace. Today, the competition is fierce. Parham talks about how he keeps his business on top, stays profitable in a sluggish economy and shares the biggest perks of his job. BY DENISE SHOUKAS Q What was your inspiration for starting a company based on cheese straws? My mom used to make cheese straws when I was a kid to give to friends and family during the holidays. Long story short, everyone said, "These are great; you ought to make them." And so that's what happened. How have you remained so popular for so long? We used to enjoy the luxury of being the only cheese straw maker in the marketplace but now I think there are 28 others. We also make so many other things. Ultimately, what sets us apart from everyone else is our ingredients. We use an expensive upstate New York cheddar. And the fact that we've been in business so long means we're better off; our facility and equipment are paid for so we don't have to skimp on ingredients to make a margin. How many products have you added over the years? In total we have 15 products, not counting our private-label items. The cheddar cheese straws were the first and now we make other flavors like blue, jalapeño, and Parmesan. We've always made cookies like Key lime, and several wine biscuits too. What's your best-seller? It varies, but overall we sell more cheddar cheese straws than any- thing else. The chocolate chip cookies are second to that. Any recent interesting culinary experiences? The Fancy Food Shows—the cities that they're held in are wonderful and we get to eat in amazing restaurants. Beyond that, I'm hoping to go to the SIAL show in Paris. I'd like to find products and come home to make something with more of a European flair to it. How has the economy affected your business? The specialty retail business has had a hard time so my business has flip-flopped. The bulk of our business in the past couple of years has been private label. 156 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com Biggest perk of your job? There's not a week that goes by that someone doesn't send me samples of something they want me to make, so I see and try every- thing that's new and out there. It would only be better if we were in the wine business! Biggest challenge? Like any business, you've got to continue to make a high-quality product at a fair price. I could cheapen my product and probably sell more of it at a lower price point but that's not the way we do it. Running a business means doing it right and being profitable while standing the test of time. If you knew you were having your last meal, what would you choose to eat? A really good steak. |SFM| Denise Shoukas is a contributing editor to Specialty Food Magazine. COURTESY OF GREG PARHAM

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