July 21, 2017
Lewis, Francesca and Joseph Bianco III have taken on the family business in an attempt to free up time for their father, Joseph II.
“It’s a very simple formula. We want to go from being a small family owned business to becoming a larger and more capable family owned business.” With that statement, Joseph Bianco III adeptly sums up the vision for the sausage and meat company founded by his grandfather, Joseph Bianco Sr., in 1960 in Revere, Massachusetts. The CFO of Bianco & Sons notes that the company has overcome many challenges and points out that some of the largest lie just around the corner.
On April 27, the business shut down all production at its 5,000-sq.-ft. Revere location and moved into a 29,000-sq.-ft. former bakery facility in nearby Medford.
“We were able to secure a $5.1 million tax-exempt bond from Mass Development to purchase and renovate the Medford property,” the 23-year-old explains. “This will give us a larger and more efficient layout for expansion of our sausage production and give us room to not only meet our customer demands, but become more capable of realizing market expansion plans.”
Bianco says his family hopes to have the new facility running with two production lines for sausage by mid-summer.
“While this is very exciting for us,” he shares, “we do not want to lose the perspective of who we are...a family-owned producer of high quality Italian sausage.”
Now if the magical growth the Bianco family developed at its former location is any measure of good management and capability, the Medford location could be a slam-dunk success in short order.
In a 600-sq.-ft. sausage area, they were cranking out as much as 12,000 lbs. of Italian sausage daily. With only a small dry storage area across the street and a bit more storage a few blocks away, the Bianco family vaulted into prominence not only in the Boston area and in nearby states, but secured accounts for restaurants in New York and Florida.
Their fleet of seven trucks delivers fresh product to local supermarkets and restaurants in the Boston area and they sell to nine independent vendors outside of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, and almost every New England fair ground.
Joseph III, his brother Lewis (company CEO), and sister Francesca are mindful of the company’s expansion and reputation under their father Joseph Jr. and feel a key part of their role is to “free up” time for their father.
“It’s time he got help. He’s been tasked with not only running and thinking the business since he was a teenager, but working the counter, the production lines, closing doors, driving trucks...or whatever it takes,” Joseph III says.
Making Italian sausage, using the original recipe “with a little tinkering now and then” has been the driving and signature product for the company, Bianco & Sons has moved heavily into marinated meats in the past decade. They have also grown strong in the chicken-based Italian sausage line-up.
“Our new facility will give us room and time to develop new product ideas,” Joseph III explains. “But we have to respect that our older customers loved our basic sausage and helped us build the company. We have employees and families, both husbands and wives, who work here and take great pride in what they make. You could say they are passionate about it.”
He believes that younger customers want more variety in flavor profiles and tastes and that they will carefully experiment and possibly develop new meat items in the coming years, but still remain true to their original customer base.
Bianco & Sons is working toward producing 25,000 lbs of sausage a day.
Bianco & Sons has 35 employees, but believes that about a dozen will be added when full production and efficiencies take hold at the Medford facility. Joseph III says the family is targeting a daily run of about 25,000 lbs. of sausage a day when they get to full throttle.
“We are certainly looking at more automation in our processing in the future,” he forecasts. “Still, we have a tradition of making a hand-worked product. We get fresh American pork in almost daily and we want to continue working with our same casings and our original spices. Much of our reputation comes from the fact that we hand sort through our pork as our way of inspecting our quality and consistency.”
The company’s strong institutional customer base includes Market Basket stores, Stop & Shop locations and various restaurants. They also work through several distributors and many local butcher shops around Boston and New Hampshire as well as area retailers.
The former Revere location offered 5-lb. minimum boxes of product that shoppers had to get by coming through the back door and getting directly from the production area cold storage. That accessibility was grandfathered in over the years and the company will offer retail shopping at the Medford plant.
Other Bianco sausage products include breakfast, sweet, hot, cheese and garlic, chicken and Chinese, as well as spicy chicken and gorgonzola cheese, and broccoli-rabe cheese and garlic. They also provide 5-lb. minimum retail orders of tips in pork, turkey, lamb, steak, Chinese pork strips and beef bourbon and beef teriyaki flavors. Bulk hamburger and meatballs are also available, as are patty boxes in 4-, 6- and 8-oz. portions. The growing poultry section provides split wings, boneless breast, chicken cutlets and boneless teriyaki breasts.
The company’s well-illustrated website, biancosausage.com, shares company history, pricing, store hours and shipping information.
For the future, Joseph III indicates more case-ready tray packaging for flavor options that will be coming for their commercial accounts. He cautions that while his firm sells to retail customers, “we do not want to step on the toes of our supermarket accounts.”
“That means we really don’t advertise as such,” he points out. “At Fenway Park, the vendors have our products but also have the Bianco name on their hats, shirts or aprons. We want to get our name out and not be working against our commercial account customers.”
The firm gets strong mileage from its social media play and believes strongly in what one visitor commented: “People talk!”
The Medford plant was largely gutted from its days as a baking operation. The Biancos utilized the existing large freezers and dry storage areas, as well as cooler and office space, but beyond that worked around duplicating their original production area for sausage and meats on a larger scale.
“While we have expanded, we recognize that there are many competitors that are much larger than us,” he concludes. “We want to remain known for our original products and keep them authentic. Beyond that, we want to grow but still be known as a family business.”