Take a look inside the New Mexico grocer Statewide Products’ warehouse

Statewide Products CFO Zane Van Winkle and Statewide Products President Debi Bartucci walk through the Statewide Products warehouse in Albuquerque. (Chancey Bush / Journal)

At grocery stores across the state, colorful displays of salsas, chiles, condiments, chips and other New Mexico-made items lure shoppers to buy locally. And an Albuquerque-based family business is proud to be a part of it.

“We’ve really encouraged and developed all sales for local products,” Debi Bartucci, president of Statewide Products, told the Journal. “We’ll get credit for that.”

The nearly 55-year-old grocery wholesaler buys snack foods like cookies, pretzels and beef jerky from manufacturers and sells them to grocery stores. In addition to physically placing items on store shelves, the Company conducts in-store demonstrations and other promotions to increase awareness of the brands it represents.

“It’s not just about getting the product and putting it on the shelf. That’s not how we do business,” Bartucci said. “We look at the market completely and then advise.”

Statewide Products is a resource for the food manufacturers it works with, helping with pricing, testing, certification or label design when needed, said Zane Van Winkle, the company’s chief financial officer.

Cases of El Pinto Hot Salsa at Statewide Products in Albuquerque. The New Mexico wholesale grocery business has been family owned and operated since 1968. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Founded in 1968, the company began when Joe Smith, Bartucci’s father and Van Winkle’s grandfather, brought Pepperidge Farms branded cookies to stores in New Mexico. In the beginning, the company focused on specialty brands. But in the ’90s, as larger master distributors took over those lines, Statewide Products transitioned to snack foods and then local items, Bartucci said.

“We have to change,” Bartucci said. “As our business and grocery store needs change, we must change with them. … I think the reason we’ve been successful is that we adapt.”

When it comes to local products, Statewide Products started with just a few items from a handful of brands like Sadie’s of New Mexico and Chile Grande. As these products grew in popularity and other restaurants and manufacturers in the state wanted to be featured in nearby stores, Statewide Products changed its approach. Instead of offering individual local brands to the stores and fighting for shelf space for each one, the company started to present several brands together as a local product program. Sales increased and stores created areas dedicated to local goods. As more manufacturers began making multiple products, Bartucci said Statewide Products was able to grow and grow.

“The local business is huge (and it’s in the millions of dollars now,” Bartucci said of the niche her family’s business has created.

Statewide Products CFO Zane Van Winkle and Statewide Products President Debi Bartucci walk through the Statewide Products warehouse in Albuquerque. (Chancey Bush / Journal)

Why do you think Local has been successful and have you seen such growth?

Bartucci: “In New Mexico, food is such a part of our culture that consumers want local produce. They want to support their local community. I mean it’s just kind of a move now. I think consumers are really asking for local products and it’s still growing. It grows in double digits almost every year.”

Why was it difficult to get started?

Bartucci: “We had to convince the grocery stores that local products were a viable category. … If you are a smaller manufacturer or retailer, you have to be very persistent. And you really have to prove yourself.”

How did you prove your worth?

Bartucci: “Based on sales. I am very analytical with sales data. …You have to sell your program. You have to be a salesperson for everything.”

What are some of the most important moments in the company’s history?

Bartucci: “I think one of our key moments was when we became distributors of Synder’s (Hannover).”

Why was that a key moment?

Bartucci: “That was really when we changed from specialties to snacks. It just changed the whole profile and direction of our company. When you look at what category you serve, you don’t want to serve so many categories that you’re all over the store because that’s not efficient. … This allowed us to expand in the chips or salty snack category. We’ve kind of been moving in that direction and that’s really been our direction since the mid-’90s.”

What’s on the horizon for nationwide products?

Van Winkle: “We are actively trying to expand the areas in which we can provide services. We hope to begin servicing some out of state accounts. We’re looking to expand the local section in New Mexico into our contiguous states and see if we can get a foothold in those areas. … We are always looking for ways to better serve our customers and are looking for new quality manufacturers to work with and bring to market. We have a growing e-commerce channel that is actually open to the public so that no matter where they are outside of New Mexico, they can go online and buy their favorite New Mexico grocery products. And we want to expand that further.”