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Intro – You’re listening to Beyond the Bench-Top, a show about food ingredients! Our conversations go far beyond the lab as we dive into topics spanning from food science, to market trends, and everything in between!
Kristi – Hello and welcome to the St. Charles podcast my name is Kristi, and I am the R&D Specialist here. And I have my coworker today here with me, Leti. She is the queen of garlic and veggies, so Leti can you please introduce yourself?
Leti – Hi, good morning. This is Leti from St. Charles Trading. I’m the international manager in charge of importing a ton of product that we put under our private labels. I have been in this company for 10 years and it’s a pleasure to have all those ingredients and our labels to be able to manage all the traceability from A to Z.
Kristi – Thank you Leti. And Leti is a very valuable asset too because she actually speaks three languages.
Leti – Oh, that’s true.
Kristi – So, she can talk to a lot of different suppliers in different languages, it’s really great because I think it makes them feel more comfortable as well as just great relations with them as well.
Leti – It’s a plus for sure. Especially when you are in international.
Kristi – Well thank you Leti for that introduction so we’re going to kind of start off with garlic. Garlic is one of the products that I think is really great because it’s pretty much used, I would say in like 70 percent of in different recipes and ingredient decks. I know it’s really common when since I’m looking at the different ingredient decks within the industry, I’ve noticed it’s pretty much in everything.
Leti – You see garlic in every recipe, and you buy something from the supermarket, you look at ingredients, it’s going to be one of the first ingredients in the list all the time. And it’s one of our first seller in St. Charles Trading for sure so we are very proud of the garlic we get from China and maybe in the future from India, who knows. We’re always searching for new things, a new way to import. And the good thing is the garlic we we’ve been importing this for maybe 15 years. A long time, maybe more, I was not even at St. Charles.
Kristi – Yeah definitely, I think it’s one thing that is really nice because it was one of the first ingredients, I think, at St. Charles Trading so you’ve really over the years been able to perfect the art really being able to be as cost effective as well as maintaining that high quality and putting forth the product that we’re proud of and we know that our consumers and customers will like as well.
Leti – Exactly and make sure you have always this ingredient on the floor because that’s I’m sure we have some garlic going out every day from the warehouse, from all our warehouses.
Kristi – Why do you think the garlic market has continued to do well despite from decade to decade?
Leti – Because it’s very easy to get the garlic and to keep it in your warehouse and to use it whenever you want, and you have all the size you need so it’s very easy to get all those dehydrated ingredients. You keep them, you use them whenever you want and say, “oh I want this size and tomorrow I need this size”.
Kristi – Yeah, I agree, and I think one thing that’s really nice about both of the markets for veggies and garlic is globally it’s widely accepted and used by everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re from North America or South America, everybody is using… it’s in all cultures.
Leti – And the good things about St. Charles Trading, the quality is very important. We, before to get anything, we have a pre-shipment sample that we are going to attach and to make sure the micros, moisture, even the granulation is correct. It has to meet the specs, so we know what we’re getting. So, we know what we’re selling to our customers.
Kristi – Definitely! Is that how you think Tuscanne Brands really differentiates itself amongst other options within the industry?
Leti – I would say the quality. Because we’re really into safety, quality for our customers. It’s number one. We have always said, we’re not the cheapest, but we sell quality we have premium qualities.
Kristi – Right, and it’s a lot of knowing your target audience and if they’re really wanting that quality and that safe product, we know that we can assure that.
Leti – And for all those out there, you recognize St. Charles Trading by the white boxes or white bags with these beautiful labels. Well now those new boxes with our logo in it, they’re going to see St. Charles Trading right away. They’re going to buy from us again and again when they’re going to compare the quality between us and the other guys out there.
Kristi – Yeah, it comes down to even the little things. I think a lot of the times people forget the importance of packaging and how it can really communicate to the consumer and educate the consumer as well as ensure that the product is safe and nothing is going to get inside. I think the nice thing about Tuscanne Brands is the variety and I think it’s really hard for other companies because once they get that variety, they struggle with the quality maintained throughout all of those. You might have one product that’s better than the other, but I would say across the board we do a great job of ensuring the safety and the quality of all of our ingredients.
Leti – And the good thing is if a customer needs several products, we can combine all those ingredients under Tuscanne Brands on one pallet or they’re going to use the same quality for product for food production for whatever, they don’t need to go to another supplier. We have everything, we offer everything. We are like a pantry; you open the pantry have everything.
Kristi – I like that slogan! “We’re like a pantry.”
Leti – Yeah right, and the pantry it’s a big warehouse with everything under Tuscanne Brands and Batavia Mills. Batavia Mills is our sweet ingredients and Tuscanne Brands is our savory ingredients.
Kristi – I like too, that you’re kind of driving that point home of that we’re for the customers, we’ll make things happen for them because we want to ensure that they’re getting what they want and what they need.
Leti – Exactly, and on time.
Kristi – Yes.
Leti – Very important.
Kristi – In a timely fashion.
Leti – Exactly, and in our truck. Isn’t it nice?
Kristi – Yes!
Leti – Our product, in our truck, and on a very good timing.
Kristi – Yeah. That’s exactly I think what customers want and need to see. What is the most purchased variant of the garlic types of products? Is it powdered-
Leti – Granules! Granules and powder for sure. Because it’s small. When you get to a bigger size it gets more for customized needs and because the granules it can- the powder disappears if we just want the flavor. The granules you have a little bit of texture, but not too much. So, yeah. The granules in Texas, they are crazy about the garlic granules!
Kristi – I agree too and I like that you said regionally it can kind of change, that in Texas they’re really known for really wanting the granules. But yeah, I agree too and I think that, like you said, it’s just really nice that they’ve over the years been able to perfect the granule and really work with the granulation that we want and the particle size.
Leti – When you when you get to minced and chopped, it’s more for visuals. Right. For any prepped food meals that they need some visual in it.
Kristi – Yeah, and I like that you said too that it’s really those type of products that I feel like vary from customer to customer, so it’s one of those that we might sell based upon our customers preferences. What sect within the food industry do you think that garlic production will grow? So maybe the health and wellness industry…
Leti – Oh absolutely!
Kristi – Do you think it will grow in the snack or restaurant now that they’re opening back up?
Leti – So, right now you can tell that everybody is going to have healthier way and eating well so you want garlic, you want veggies in all your products. So yeah, on the snack they want all those veggies, the more veggies the more healthy ingredients you’re going to see in those snacks, the more popular they’re going to get with the consumer for sure.
Kristi – I definitely agree and I think too within today’s times there’s been shifts because of COVID and what industry that they’re really being successful in, and I think like you and I were saying that it’s going to go back to a little bit of restaurant because things are starting to open up again.
Leti – Well people are cooking right now.
Kristi – Exactly!
Leti – When restaurants are open, but they learn to cook because of COVID. Probably not learn, but they are cooking more often. So, they are using all those ingredients and sometimes you don’t want to shop all those products, so those dehydrated ingredients are amazing because you have the same, all the same good thing in the veggies and garlic than the fresh one.
Kristi – Agreed.
Leti – And shelf life is amazing, it’s long and you can store it in your kitchen or in whatever warehouse at room temperature, so it’s a plus.
Kristi – Leti’s shifting a little, she also does veggies. And one thing that I had to learn the hard way is there is a million different types of veggies because you might have jalapeño and then you might have chives and then you might have carrots, but the way that they’re cut, and the process can be completely different. So, do you want to talk about a little the differences between all of these?
Leti – Let’s just say there’s a million. Like the carrots, you can have carrot crosscut, carrot shoestring, carrot flakes, carrot granules, carrot powder, really depending on the meal you’re going to- what right food production you’re going to do, what application you’re going to do. Like you said the other day you wanted to do some chips with some chives, and I have some flaked chives, it’s too big it’s going to show too much.
Kristi – I know, I know. Leti’s been helping-
Leti – It has to be perfect.
Kristi – Yeah, she’s been helping me source these really small chives for a potato chip application, and I think it’s really hard because when we typically eat those chips you don’t even realize how small they are and we’re kind of going down the line of like what type of chive products we offer and it’s just been difficult, but luckily, we offer so many. And I think too, like you were saying, the great thing about the dehydrated vegetables is they have a longer shelf life. You don’t have to really be as worrisome about the packaging, like if you go to the grocery store you better keep your broccoli really closely packed together almost like vacuum sealed or you’re going to start to see yeast and mold and different type of microbials starting to grow and I think one thing that’s really great about the- whether it be air dried or freeze-dried-
Leti – It’s easy.
Kristi – It’s really easy.
Leti – Compared to IQF.
Kristi – Exactly.
Leti – IQF for me, well I imagine those customers who have FQF that is a big freezer. Freezer costs a lot of money to maintain every month and the bill and everything. Our AD, our air dried veggies, you put that in the room temperature warehouse and the shelf life is 18 months to two years. And it can be even longer, well we have to follow up the shelf life but if it’s really well stored-
Kristi – Preserved, yeah.
Leti – Preserved, you can keep it even longer for sure.
Kristi – Exactly and I think it’s one of those products too that’s much easier to transport I know with the IQF world you have to have a specific type of truck that can handle that and that’s a whole new market and I think-
Leti – It’s insane, day one it’s so complicated!
Kristi – It is, it is. And it depends on how far your customer is from where you’re getting the product and it’s really difficult for there so I think within the, whether it be air dried or freeze dried, is I would say probably the easiest and less complicated.
Leti – Oh yeah!
Kristi – Where would you like to see the next shift within the food industry for both garlic and veggies? Are you like we kind of mentioned health and wellness but would you like to see the snack industry grow or maybe it go to pet food?
Leti – So, my, I think what I would love to see is people switching really from IQF to air dry. It’s going to give us a ton of business and we really need to educate those people and say this is the best way to store your product and you’re going to use it the same way. Less water?
Kristi – Yeah, I agree too it’s people understanding application-wise, there can be multiple ways to use it I think there’s a lot more on the line with IQF so that’s why I think it’s really a good time for the air dried to continue to flourish and grow. Do you believe that the veggie market has become more competitive over the years?
Leti – Absolutely! Yeah, very competitive. And especially right now with FSMA you need to have all the documents, it’s well regulated. So, we can tell that St. Charles Trading has a really good place in this market because we’ve always had all the documents and we’re very serious, we’re SQF, so absolutely we are going to bring to the customer the best of the best with all the documents, the quality everything. So yeah, we’re good supplier to go to.
Kristi – Yes definitely, and I think that one thing that’s really great about St. Charles Trading is we really take food safety seriously, like you were saying with FSMA. You know, that’s something that was developed probably four or five years ago, and it’s really taken off and it’s made certain companies really struggle, but I think it’s made companies like ours really thrive because we take the documentation and the food quality and safety really seriously. I know that a lot of the times, for the purchasing side of it, it can be kind of a pain, but I definitely think it helps in the long run.
Leti – Yeah, it’s difficult to get all the documents but not so much, you can tell our supplier they are used to it, they know we want quality. So, no they’re going to get all the documents for us for sure right away.
Kristi – Definitely, we have-
Leti – And if they can’t, we don’t work with them.
Kristi – Yeah exactly, Leti usually is like, well that’s not somebody we would want to work with. It’s important-
Leti – You see it right away.
Kristi – Exactly. And we have a really great team here I think that helps with the documents.
Leti – Oh yeah! Our QA team is amazing.
Kristi – When do you think was the most challenging time for the veggie market? Is there a certain season?
Leti – So, of course it’s easier after the summer when you get the new crop, you can get all the veggies you want and with the amounts going when you have less and less product available for sure because you have a lot of people out there contracting those carrot- those veggies, sorry, like we do. So now, if I want to buy something, we’re in March, it’s going to get more expensive and not so available. So that’s why it’s important for us to contract everything, I would say August/September. Best moment, the summer and you contract everything. If we have new opportunities, we’re going to get the product for sure, but maybe we won’t be so competitive as in September. Sure. Depending, depending. Because I have a really good relationship with some of our suppliers there. They can be very nice and give me some good-
Kristi – Insight.
Leti – Good insight, exactly.
Kristi – Awesome. Would you say that there is a more challenging time for garlic, and is it different from the timing of the veggies?
Leti – Same.
Kristi – Same, really?
Leti – During the summer, so it’s going to be. That’s what I did, I contracted everything in September for the whole year.
Kristi – And it’s nice to be able to have those contracts because it’s really more set in stone and as well as you have those relations with the supplier because just in COVID times, in different types of climates, you just never know. So, it’s really great to have that promise, I would say.
Leti – Well I’m sure those people who are trying to get some garlic now, that must be difficult. You can’t get it.
Kristi – But yeah, and here you are, no stress.
Leti – No, I got mine, I’m covered, I’ve got you covered.
Kristi – That’s good, that’s great. It’s really great to have kind of feeling confident and know that your containers are coming, even though there is port congestion.
Leti – Yeah, they’re taking longer, but they are coming.
Kristi – Yes, they are coming. Well, thank you so much Leti for joining me today.
Leti – You’re welcome, you’re welcome. It was fun.
Kristi – I really appreciate it and thank you for telling us more about the Tuscanne Brands.
Outro – Thanks for listening! Follow or subscribe so you can always catch the latest episode! For more information, check out our website at stcharlestrading.com.