A Fresh Veg Blog

Byproduct Becomes a Product: Broccoli Cole Slaw

by Loree Dowse | September 2016

cow-with-broccoli

Broccoli and cauliflower stalks used to be hauled away for livestock feed

Sustainability and food waste may be huge buzz words today, but back in 1990…not so much. That’s when Joe Nucci, son of Mann Packing partner Don Nucci, began working at the family business. At the time, Mann’s was one of the world’s largest shippers of fresh broccoli and broccoli florets. Once florets were cut and shipped out, the leftover broccoli stalks were being hauled away and fed to livestock. Don gave Joe the task of putting the perfectly edible stalk – and some say best part of the broccoli plant – to good use.

joe-with-brocc-slaw

The late Joe Nucci is widely regarded as the Father of Broccoli Cole Slaw, one of the industry’s leading examples of product innovation

Joe began by hiring chef consultants, and the “Hearts of Broccoli” line was born. Other produce companies had attempted to sell broccoli sticks and various cuts before, but positioning it as the “heart” rather than the “stalk” made all the difference in the perception of the product. Joe’s sister, Lorri Koster, starting working at Mann’s not long after the initial launch, and she helped market the item to the industry.

Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw was born.

Initially, the Hearts of Broccoli line included diced, coin cuts, and sticks but the cole slaw – a blend of broccoli hearts, shredded carrots and red cabbage – quickly became an early favorite so the other cuts were dropped. Joe and Lorri thought it would be used by large, institutional feeders such as schools but were pleasantly surprised when several of Mann’s retail customers said they would give it a try. Back then, fresh-cut produce was just being introduced to the marketplace, and both foodservice customers and consumers quickly fell in love with the product.

sysco-vhs-cover4

A super-cool VHS training video for Sysco

The instant popularity of Broccoli Cole Slaw sparked many imitators, but none of them had the technology or expertise behind it to provide the flavor, quality, or cult status of the Mann’s product. Over the years, we have received hundreds of letters from customers extolling the virtues of our slaw, and the love affair continues 25 years later.

hearts-of-broccoli-ad

Famed Disney, New Yorker and Playboy cartoonist Eldon Dedini created the artwork for the first packaging and advertising. His work in the produce industry was exclusive to Mann’s

Broccoli Cole Slaw not only created an entirely new category – vegetable-based salad blends – but it is still the undisputed category leader today. In fact, 46% of the broccoli cole slaw sold in the US comes from us. Mann’s has added to its line-up with Rainbow Salad and the nutrient-dense Veggie Power Blend™, with more in the works.

Ironically, these days we sometimes find ourselves running low on stalks because of demand. As Lorri Koster (now our Chairman and CEO) likes to say, “The byproduct has become the product.”

How’s that for a sustainability success story? Sorry cows, you’re not getting any.

8 Comments

  • Gina says:

    Great job Loree! ❤️❤️❤️

  • Lorri says:

    Wonderful memories and to see the item still so popular is heart-warming. I LOVE broccoli Cole slaw with poppy seed dressing, red grapes, pineapple chunks and sliced almonds. Even better when it sits overnight. Broccoli Cole slaw soaks up the flavor and doesn’t get soggy!

  • Bonnie Bell says:

    I can never make
    my mind up about whether my taste buds are in the mood for broccoli, broccolini or some delicious broccoli Cole Slaw. I still love broccoli Cole slaw in tacos. Yummy!

  • Maryellen Gray says:

    I had this slaw with my salmon at The Green Turtle. I had to ask the chef what it was and where can I get it. He said he gets it from Sysco. Luckily my husband has a small meat and grocery market. I asked him to ask the Sysco rep if he can get it for the deli and for him to bring some home. Well low and behold he brought me a big bag of the broccoli slaw home tonight. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Can’t wait to make different recipes with it. If you have any good recipes that use the slaw I would greatly appreciate you sending them to me. My e-mail is
    Maryellengray57@gmail.com
    Thank you so much,
    Maryellen Gray
    Gray Brothers Market
    4000 Chicamuxen Rd
    Marbury,MD 20658

    • Loree Dowse says:

      Hi Maryellen – I love this story! Thank you for sharing. I do have a Broccoli Cole Slaw recipe guide with some yummy recipes that were created by our employees. Look for it in your Gmail inbox. Best, Loree

  • Michele Cole says:

    I want to buy a huge bag or two for my daughter’s grad party. Does anyone know where I can find something bigger than their tiny bags?

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