Byproduct Becomes a Product: Broccoli Cole Slaw
by Loree Dowse | September 2016
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 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.
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.
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.