Sierra Meat & Seafood continues to evolve
The key to staying in business as long as Sierra Meat & Seafood, according to its president and chief operating officer Chris Flocchini, is its’ ability to continually evolve.
But it doesn’t hurt to have some helpful advice from a successful business magnate.
“I read a quote once from Warren Buffet that said, ‘The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,’” Flocchini said in an interview with NNBW at Sierra Meat & Seafood’s facility off of Corporate Drive in Reno. “At first I wondered, ‘Did I read that right?’ But after I gave it some thought, it made sense to me.”
Flocchini explained a trend had developed among food manufacturers such as Sierra Meat & Seafood was to branch out into all kinds of different products from meats, to things like French fries or deserts.
But after contemplating Buffet’s quote, Flocchini figured scaling back was the right thing to do for his multi-generational company.
“I made the decision going into other products may distract us from doing what we do really well: meats,” Flocchini said. “We narrowed our focus but expanded the specialty meats we had to offer such as bison, venison, elk, and wild boar.”
Flocchini added the company also experimented with what he called “exotic meat” from kangaroo, camel and rattlesnake. But production was eliminated because they were only available a few times in the year and became less desirable among customers.
“There’s a growing customer acceptance to natural specialty meats that people are looking for such as bison, venison, elk and wild boar, along with poultry products” Flocchini said.
It’s not that the Sierra Meat & Seafood will say “no” all the time. It’s just from now on, they’ll only say “yes” with some prudence.
One such concept that has been very successful was adding seafood to its lineup of products.
“We stuck our toe in it and it just grew and grew. We went from doing nothing in (the seafood business) to it being 35 percent of our business,” Flocchini said. “I was able to hire some people who had worked in the seafood business for a long time around here and it really helped drive knowledge of that business to our customers.”
Another fruitful venture has been Flocchini Family Provisions, a partnership with the Tonino family operated under the Sierra Meat & Seafood umbrella. Flocchini Family Provisions produces lines of specialty sausage and deli meats based in Carson City.
Flocchini Family Provisions was recently honored as co-winner of the 2017 Food Manufacturer/Processing Company of the Year presented by NCET and EDAWN.
Many of Sierra Meat & Seafood’s specialty meats are produced at Durham Ranch, a property the Flocchini family owns located in northeastern Wyoming. John Flocchini serves as manager of Durham Ranch while Chris’ brother Stephen is the brand manager.
Sierra Meat & Seafood also gets its meats from other sources. The company imports its venison, a kind of deer meat, from farms in New Zealand.
Another part of the company’s evolution has been introducing its own line of retail brands including a variety of beef jerky and boxed ground natural beef products.
Overall, Sierra Meat & Seafood carries about 1,585,200 pounds of product in its inventory. That’s about 40 semi truckloads or 1,500-2,000 pallets in storage. The company ships about 375,000 pounds (about 10 truck loads) of product a week.
A team of national sales reps promotes Sierra Meat & Seafood products to a customer base that includes private chefs, restaurants and others in the food service industry.
Sierra Meats & Seafood’s roots can be traced back to the mid-1930s, when Chris Flocchini’s grandfather, Armando Flocchini, Sr. purchased Durham Meat Company in San Francisco, a company he had worked for several years.
Later, his two sons Armando “Bud”’ Jr. and Richard came aboard at Durham to carry the family tradition. Chris Flocchini is Bud Flocchini’s son and has taken on the leadership role with the company.
In 1986, the Flocchinis purchased Sierra Meat based in Reno, to stretch its reach to northern Nevada, although its headquarters remained in San Francisco.
By the 1990s, the Flocchinis sensed established manufacturing companies were phasing out of the Bay Area in favor of high-tech entities.
“At the time, it was getting harder and harder to run a business in the Bay Area,” Flocchini said. “California was making it clear they didn’t want businesses like ours.”
For one, they had to deal with a competitive labor market that drove wages higher than they could afford. Coupled with other factors including skyrocketing workman’s compensation rates, the Flocchinis finally decided to make a change.
Thus, the family consolidated operations and moved it to northern Nevada under the Sierra Meat name.
The company later built a state-of-the-art 50,000-square-foot facility in southeast Reno. They have invested heavily in technology that has become a necessity in its business operations, such as implementing bar coding and picking systems to keep track of inventory.
The company also invested in what Flocchini calls smarter equipment, including a packaging machine that automatically applies labels to products and found more efficient food processing equipment.
Chris Flocchini joked about how times have changed when, at first, his father was resistant to new technology.
“I remember hearing my dad on the phone with IT salespeople telling them ‘No I don’t need this stuff and I never will!’” Flocchini laughed. “But he got to the point where he checks email or asks questions like ‘how do I attach something to this email.’”
Flocchini has high hopes the family’s brand will continue to flourish. A fourth generation of Flocchinis are already integrating into the business.
Chris Flocchini has been pleased with the early results of other aspects of Sierra Meat & Seafood ventures including the Flocchini Family Provisions and its foray into retail beef market.
“Our local and national is the best its ever been,” Flocchini added.
“They are all prepared to be our future leaders and decision-makers and will see first-hand the complexities of a growing and industrious region,” says Chamber CEO Ann Silver.