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Demand for meat in small packages takes Italian meats purveyor Volpi west

"You have to be a little crazy to make these products because they take so long. It’s not like you can turn on a large volume at the drop of a hat."
Credit: SLBJ
Volpi CEO Lorenza Pasetti at one of the company's locations in The Hill. The maker of Italian specialty meats is expanding in Union, Missouri, 50 miles west of St. Louis, as demand for its individually-packaged, snack-sized products grows.

ST. LOUIS — If you're in the business of making Italian meats such as prosciutto, which takes as much as a year to produce, "rapid growth" is a relative term.

"We try to do controlled growth," said Lorenza Pasetti, CEO of Volpi Foods, St. Louis' 119-year-old purveyor of dry-cured meats. "You have to be a little crazy to make these products because they take so long. It’s not like you can turn on a large volume at the drop of a hat. They have to be planned."

Yet even with the time-consuming nature of the process, Volpi is making moves to address the speedy pace of increasing demand. The company last month opened its fifth production facility. The new 89,000-square-foot "conversion" facility in Union, Missouri, will be devoted entirely to slicing and packaging Volpi meats, including prosciutto, salame and pancetta.  

The move is driven in part by rising consumer preference for charcuterie products, a movement that took hold prior to the pandemic but gained new momentum as consumers took to replicating restaurant-like meals while in isolation at home.

It also represents a significant expansion west for a company rooted in The Hill, the city's historic Italian neighborhood. It's in Union where Volpi plans to continue its growth.

"It's the future of the company, really," said CEO Lorenza Pasetti.

Heart in The Hill

Despite its expansion westward, Pasetti insists Volpi's heart remains in The Hill, where it was founded in 1902 and where the majority of its 220-person workforce operates. The company runs three production facilities in the neighborhood, all numbered in Italian: Building "uno," where it makes fresh sausage; "due," where it produces specialty meats like pancetta and coppa; and "tres," home to salame production and where it was previously managing the slicing and packaging of snack products.

The Hill, though, is traditionally a residential neighborhood that loves its food. While Volpi's presence there is likely welcome, that could easily change with growth.

"We’re really loyal to St. Louis," Pasetti said. "But a growing meat business in the city of St. Louis is not exactly what your neighbor wants."

Volpi first ventured into Union, located in Franklin County, about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis, in 2015 when it acquired a 30-acre property through its Epicure LLC subsidiary. Its initial development there, a 120,000-square-foot facility dedicated to manufacturing prosciutto, was a roughly $50 million project. The city of Union approved 15 years of tax abatement for the property, according to government documents.

The new two-story facility, built by Swansea-based Holland Construction Services, connects to the prior 120,000-square-foot building where the prosciutto is made.

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