Food Craze that Hungry Diners and Investors alike can Enjoy

While there is little question that the average American, at least in “Blue States,” have embraced in growing numbers some form of a meatless diet in recent years; “Red States,” at the risk of oversimplifying have driven America’s obesity epidemic and their denizens don’t take on vegan or vegetarian diets with nearly the frequency. While there is little you can do to argue this, it doesn’t tell the whole picture. Eaters and diners on both coasts aren’t afraid of meat by any means.

Turn back the clock to 2008, and look to New York’s Madison Square Park. Each afternoon and well through the evening people would line up in order to visit the iconic Shake Shack, and for most, it was to get their hands on the even more iconic ShackBurger. Since the opening of that original location, the company has added locations up and down the east coast and internationally in locations such as London, Istanbul, Dubai, and Moscow. This success has Shake Shack’s majority owner, Union Square Hospitality Group, taking the chain public. While it won’t be a massive IPO, it will have big hitters onboard, as both J.P Morgan and J.P Morgan Chase will lead the offering.

While Chipotle Mexican Grill was founded in 1993, its real success has come in the same time period as Shake Shack’s. A success that has seen its shares, which were made public in at $46 rise to nearly $700 in recent weeks, including a rise from $300 a share on January 2, 2012 to that same $700 mark and now sees the company operating over 1,600 locations.

But what’s next? What’s to be the next food craze that hungry diners and shareholders alike can enjoy? If you take a look around the Internet, through the pages of college newspapers, and even entrepreneurial magazines like Fast Company, it’s looking like it will become the humble or fantastic meatball.  Speaking to the humble, though good, Ikea alone sold nearly 100 million meatballs last year. To the fantastic, childhood buddies, Michael Chernow and Daniel Holzman, opened their 39-seat eatery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in February 2010 to sell, you guessed it, meatballs. “Meatballs are delicious,” Chernow says, “so we figured locals would come for the balls, but we didn’t expect such immediate success.”

That risks gross understatement. The two now have six locations in New York City and each shop sees customers waiting in line for up to an hour to enjoy the pair’s meatball with the each location (The Meatball Shop) serving roughly 1,000 customers with the average customer ordering four meatballs each. That’s 6,000 customers a day from Brooklyn to Greenwich Village up to Chelsea and over to the Upper East Side.

Given the success of The Meatball Shop, similar endeavors are popping up nationwide: Marabella Meatball Co. –Philadelphia, PA, Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery –Denver, CO, The Meatball Spot – Las Vegas, NV, Zeno’s Meatball Kitchen –Dallas, TX,’ are just a few.

This however, is a long ways from being able to cover the love of the meatball across the nation and that means you’ll have to make your own, something that requires both a (family) recipe and hours, perhaps as many as four, to recreate these restaurant offerings that will likely fall short.

mamamancinis packaged food

MamaMancini’s sold in over 11,100 retail locations in the US

Enter MamaMancini’s (MMMB), MamaMancini’s is producing a wide-range of healthy meatball offerings cooked in delicious natural sauces that are ready to heat and serve. The company offers meatballs made of pork, beef, chicken, and turkey. Additionally, they have begun offering gluten-free meatballs in beef and turkey while adding antibiotic-free offerings in the same proteins. Recently, the company began offering both antibiotic-free and gluten-free in the same turkey and beef meatballs. MamaMancini’s is also offering a handful of pasta dishes that are just waiting to be heated up by consumers.

But the real stars are their meatballs, which are made from 100% natural meats, whole fresh eggs, Romano cheese, onion, parsley, a pinch of salt and pepper and the perfect amount of breadcrumbs. They are formed by hand just like Anna (Mama Mancini) did and lightly browned. They are then placed in the Slow Cooked Italian Sauce, which is pure Italian plum tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a bay leaf and slowly cooked for three hours before being cooled and packaged.

For the consumer, the work is done, just heat, stir and serve after 20 minutes.

The frozen food market has been stagnant for years, but the growth of the refrigerated food market has been growing in double digits over the same time period. It’s for this reason that MamaMancini’s items are around 85% refrigerated and 15% frozen.

MamaMancini’s products are currently in over 11,100 retail locations in the United States including Costco, Walmart and Whole Foods. While CEO Carl Wolf expects more than 37,000 shelf placements by end of this quarter, up from 22,640 in its December quarter with a goal of 160,000. The company has recently been making an advertising push on Sirius Radio as beef prices have steadied.  Lastly, the company has partnered with the Meatball Obsession a fast-growing chain of kiosks that are selling MamaMancini’s meatballs exclusively.

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About Carl Wolf

Carl Wolf, CEO of MamaMancini’s, recently raised approximately $5 million at $1.50 per share to fund aggressive growth strategy. Previously, Wolf founded Alpine Lace Brands, Inc. (formerly NASDAQ: LACE) in 1983 and served as the company's Chairman and CEO until 1997. Alpine Lace nutritional cheese and meat products became America's leading brand in supermarkets and was subsequently sold to Land O' Lakes.

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