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Sep 1, 2015 8:29 AM ET

Archived: Sfoglini – A Brooklyn-based company dedicated to making pasta using traditional Italian methods: The name for our company comes from the Italian word that describes the sisterhood of pasta makers in Bologna who make pasta by hand

iCrowdNewswire - Sep 1, 2015
Personal Story

When I was 18, I was lucky enough to have an aunt who pushed me to try culinary school. It was a good fit and from there I went to work in Philadelphia at Le Bec Fin and then with Marc Vetri. Then, I went to New Paltz NY where I learned to make pasta from an Italian, Alberto Vanoli, who is an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. He sent me to Italy. In Sardinia, I fell in love with traditional dishes that are rooted to that place, made with local ingredients like bottarga, capers and fava beans. And that’s what I do now – work with local grains and ingredients to make unique pastas that reflect the season and the farm. Working with locally grown and milled flours isn’t always easy, but it’s what we need to do to revive a regional grain system. Part of my vision for Sfoglini involves working with farmers and flour mills all over the country to create different pastas that reflect their locality.

When I wanted to start Sfoglini, I turned to my friend and co-founder Scott Ketchum to help me with the graphic design. Having working as a creative director and graphic designer for 18 years he had a good eye for developing a new brand. Scott has focused on startup consumer brands over the years, so he had a knack for building out our young company.
Part of what we have loved about starting Sfoglini is that pasta is the perfect way to open a conversation. It is an almost universal food, beloved by small children, picky eaters and foodies alike. If you take a familiar shape – macaroni for example – and make it with locally grown emmer flour, it allows you to teach people about local farming, ancient grains and traditional pasta techniques in an approachable and easy way. It’s a powerful model that will allow us to strengthen our local food system and educate a new generation of eaters.

Business Description

Sfoglini is a Brooklyn-based company dedicated to making pasta using traditional Italian methods. The name for our company comes from the Italian word that describes the sisterhood of pasta makers in Bologna who make pasta by hand.

Most pasta available on grocery store shelves is made with commodity flour using automated production lines. We launched in July 2012 with the idea that the best ingredients, and proper extrusion and drying process heightens flavor and nutrition. We work with several local flour mills in upstate New York to source whole grain flours, including ancient grains like emmer and einkorn. We’ve also partnered with the Bronx Brewery to make a pasta using their spent grain. Our seasonal pastas are made with fresh ingredients sourced from small family farms, such as ramps, mint and chili peppers. We are the first producer to make dry pasta in New York City. That has resonated with our local customers, who have been instrumental to our early success.

Sfoglini can be found on the shelves of Gourmet Garage, Union Market, and many small specialty shops. We also sell our fresh pasta to local restaurants including Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Chefs Club by Food & Wine. We work with two New York based distributors, Food Matters Again and Baldor.

Our biggest challenge is educating consumers about the difference between industrially made pasta and our products, that are often more expensive. The differences in our techniques, especially our slow drying process, and the ingredients we use do make a difference, but that’s a big story to tell. We don’t cut corners and the resulting product is one that we are incredibly proud of. As we grow, we’re trying to find ways to streamline and become more efficient which might allow us to lower our prices and expand our audience.

What is the purpose of this loan?

The $10,000 will go towards buying updated packaging for new retailers.

Making pasta is, by its very nature, a machine-heavy business. We use an extruder to push the pasta dough through traditional bronze dies that create the different pasta shapes. The pasta then goes onto racks and into a custom designed drying room that controls the temperature and humidity so that the pasta dries slowly, preserving flavor and nutrition. Right now, all of our pasta is packed into bags by hand, but we would like to buy a packing machine that will allow us to complete that step more efficiently. We’ve signed a lease on a larger space that will allow us to buy two additional drying rooms and the packing machine. All of these improvements will allow us to produce our pastas on a much larger scale. A Kiva Zip loan would go towards the purchase of these machines and the outfitting of our new space.

By increasing our production capacity, we will be able to work with new partners. We are most excited about the possibility of working with large grocery chains. If we could partner with a large retailer, that has consistent and significant volume, it would allow us to do some advance planning with our grain farmers. By making advance commitments for the grain crop, at the beginning of the season, local farmers can put more grain in the ground, knowing that it has a guaranteed buyer at the other end.

For Sfoglini, growing our scale is partly about improving our efficiency, but it’s also about becoming a partner that can help move forward substantial projects in the local food system.

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