Savoie’s Sausage and Food Products Inc.
A grand total of 22 parishes encompass the region in Louisiana known as Cajun Country, and the city of Lafayette is the heart and soul of Cajun and Creole culture. Just 30 minutes away is Opelousas, La., home to Savoie’s Sausage and Food Products Inc. (Savoie’s). Over the course of the last 60 years, Savoie’s has become a staple in Cajun cuisine, cooking up everything from the popular roux used in gumbos and gravies to smoked sausage, boudin, dirty rice dressing and tasso with the authentic flavor that’s become an intricate part of family meals and gatherings.
Lafayette’s first woman-owned food business
The regional supplier has expanded considerably throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas since Eula Savoie and her husband Tom started the company as a small country store in 1949. With the financial support of their families, the Savoies purchased the adjacent 187 acres to start a hog farm.
“Eula started one of the area’s only woman-owned businesses in 1949,” reveals Robert Van Leeuwen, vice president of corporate strategy for Savoie’s. “When the hog farming market fell through, they started doing boucheries between families. Each family was granted a part of the pig for sausage, roast, boudin, hoghead cheese, cracklings and so on; nothing went to waste.”
In 1957, Eula expanded Savoie’s into Baton Rouge, La., selling more retail items and in 1962, she moved into dressing mix and roux; key elements in Cajun cooking. “You can’t have a gumbo without a roux and you can’t have dirty rice without dressing mix, so it was a natural add-on to the operation,” says Van Leeuwen.
By the late 1980s, the USDA-certified Savoie’s plant started pumping out more retail items than ever before. “We expanded into Texas and the Mississippi gulf coast in the early 1990s and now Savoie’s has two distribution and two production centers, serving retailers throughout the region,” notes Van Leeuwen.
Savoie’s has developed relationships with major retailers, such as Walmart, Winn Dixie, Kroger’s and Albertson’s. “It’s a huge plus for us and for consumers,” Van Leeuwen explains. “As more stores move here and the area continues to grow, so do we.”
As growth for stores and products continue, Savoie’s also grew in becoming SQF-certified in 2012 in both processing facilities. “SQF-certified suppliers allow to demonstrate their excellence in adhering to the highest standards of food operation processing and handling,” he continues.
Grounded in tradition
Savoie’s now covers a broad area, serving retailers and the food service industry, but the company remains grounded in a tradition of excellent Cajun food products. Savoie’s produces a consistent and beloved profile of products, which includes such traditional Cajun staples as smoked andouille sausage, Tasso, dressing mix and roux.
Savoie’s particularly specializes in smoked meats and sausages utilizing the same recipes that have been handed down and perfected for more than 58 years. “We tend to stick with the same ingredients and recipes, because we know it makes for a consistent product,” says Freddie Lafleur, executive vice president at Savoie’s. “We work with the same suppliers when purchasing ingredients. After you’ve developed that relationship with someone, you trust them; we trust they are consistently giving us quality ingredients.”
The company prides itself in delivering food products that are as much of a family tradition as delicious. Savoie’s specializes in smoked sausages, dressing mix (for dirty rice) and roux (a gumbo base). Also, in 2001 the company launched a line of frozen entrees, which includes chicken and sausage gumbo, shrimp etouffee and pork stew.
“In the early 2000s, we started to grow in the frozen foods and prepared meals sector,” reveals Van Leeuwen. “We place an emphasis on meeting consumer demands and there is a great deal of demand nationwide for prepared meals. We’re constantly innovating and expanding from single-serve items to snacks; Savoie’s adjusts to whatever the shopper behavior is.”
The company is now creating a line of premium frozen appetizers, including Cajun boudin bites made with ground pork, onion and rice and seasoned and fried to perfection. “We’re also doing jalapeno boudin bites and fried seafood appetizers,” adds Van Leeuwen.
Amy Fontenot, marketing services coordinator for Savoie’s, says the company has also progressed on the social media front since 2013, under the supervision of Eula’s grandson Matthew LaFleur. “We completely revamped our website and it’s now more vibrant and easy to navigate,” she reveals. “We’re also on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.”
While Savoie’s has welcomed recorded growth, Van Leeuwen says the company does face the challenges of being in the food processing business. “Right now, food commodity prices of cattle and pork are quite high because they are an indirect result of corn prices, drought and other circumstances,” he explains. “We’ve seen the prices dramatically rise over the last six months and we have to do our best to keep our products at a price the shopper can afford them.”
But at the end of the day, consumers are going to go for Savoie’s for authentic Cajun consistency and a trusted name that’s been in the area for close to 60 years. “We’re now in the second generation of family ownership, moving into the third and growth is on our minds,” adds Van Leeuwen. From small grocery store, to a major regional brand, Savoie’s Sausage and Food Products continues to be a household staple in Cajun Country.