Caputo Brother’s Creamery: A Q&A with the 2014 Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition Winners
While on their honeymoon, David and Rynn Caputo made a big decision; they would quit their Fortune 500-company jobs and enroll in culinary school in Calabria, Italy – they haven’t looked back since! Based in Spring Grove, PA, Caputo Brothers Creamery (named for their two young sons) makes the country’s only fermented cheese curds that can be stretched into fresh mozzarella cheeses, providing a high quality cheese product for cheese lovers and restaurants around the country.
The Caputos competed in (and won) our 2014 Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition, which earned them a $10,000 business grant and extended business coaching and mentoring from our team. We had a chance to chat with Rynn about their cheese and how Brewing the American Dream is helping their growing business.
Q: How did you and your husband get into cheese making?
A: Cheese making really found us. We had gone to culinary school in Italy and as part of our program, we spent time making cheese. At that point we weren’t like, “oh yeah this is what we’re going to do” – but basically, when we came back to the states, we couldn’t find the type of mozzarella that we had in Italy. We started out of pure necessity – to have it at home for ourselves. We got a great response from our friends, so we started researching artisan cheese making and worked with master cheese makers in Italy to bring it to the states.
Q: What makes your product special?
A: We make the country’s only fermented cheese curds, that we know of, that can be stretched into fresh mozzarella. Every other mozzarella cheese curd for sale is made by taking milk, and adding vinegar and citric acid to it – it never goes through fermentation. It would be likened to taking grape juice, adding citric acid to it, and putting it in a wine bottle. When people try our cheese for the first time they often say, “wow this tastes like cheese,” which sounds silly, but that’s what it is! It’s made with higher quality milk, and real culture, but the key difference is the process of fermentation.
Q: Where is your cheese available and how do most people use it?
A: Most of our product is sold wholesale to restaurants. Celebrity chefs have picked it up and ran with it, but we also have a chef at a biker bar down the street from us who stretches it out to use on pizzas -it really depends on the chef and what they’re into.
We also do sell directly to consumers – it really just takes hot water and salt to stretch it out. Caprese salad is the number one way people use it at home, but we’re going through the process of showing people how to make caprese with things that are in season throughout the year – like with strawberries in the summertime or beets in the wintertime with walnuts and balsamic vinegar.
Q: How will the $10K grant you received from Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream have an impact on your business?
A: We are in the process of building out what will now be our third plant. We started small, and then we grew into a plant that we’ve now outgrown. We’re about to go much larger – and there is significant capital that goes into that, so these funds will immediately go towards supporting that project. In general, I find it really exciting that Jim Koch and his team took the time to invest their energy into something that has a direct impact on the small business world – it’s very encouraging.
Q: What is your advice for delivering a great business pitch?
A: Figure out what the most important point about your product is, and make sure there is a hook to get their attention so they’ll want to keep talking to you. And practice! We actually had the grand opening of our brick and mortar the day before the Pitch Room Finals, so that helped me hone my pitch for the national competition.
Do you have a food, beverage, or craft brewed product that you’re passionate about? Our Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition will be back for 2015! Check out the website for more details.