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Ragozzino Siblings Stay Fresh with Food Business Venture

As the third generation of Ragozzino Foods, Hamden Hall alumni and siblings Amy Ragozzino Lawless 1995 and Joe Ragozzino 2001 understand the ins-and-outs of the food industry. Their grandparents, Joe and Anna Ragozzino, established the Meriden-based Italian cuisine food company in 1952 after tasting canned spaghetti sauce that a salesman was peddling to them for their small grocery store.

So it’s safe to say that the siblings knew the industry when they ventured in 2012 to the production side and started their own company, Stay Fresh Foods.

“Since Amy and I had been ingrained in food manufacturing since childhood, we understood the industry from an insider perspective and saw a need that was not being met,” said Joe. “We took the opportunity to seize a market opportunity with new technology that had not been utilized much and planned out how we can best use it and provide service to food manufacturers.”

Stay Fresh Foods was created on the principle of delivering safety and freshness of packaged food and beverages through the use of High Pressure Processing (HPP) technology. The company partnered with Avure Technologies, who provided the high powering machine systems, which use high water pressure as opposed to heat to destroy harmful bacteria and increase the shelf life of food and beverages. The extra safety steps also allow food manufacturers to eliminate preservatives, chemicals, and other additives from their recipes.

With the success of their first location in Meriden and a rising customer base, Amy and Joe opened a second facility in Pennsauken, N.J. The value-added services allowed Stay Fresh Foods to work with a variety of food processors to bring safer and better-tasting products to customers including deli meats, deli salads, soups, cold-pressed juices, spreads, and more. Amy noted that since HPP does not use heat, the packaged products retain their taste and nutrients, which are top priorities for customers.

“Since the food preservation technology is non-thermal and non-chemical, all the products retain their nutrients, texture, and flavor,” said Amy. “The effectiveness of the technology depends on the amount of pressure applied, packaging, and vessel-holding time. As the water pressure is evenly distributed, deli meats, salads, and other high water activity foods are safely packaged and rid of bacteria.”

After seven successful years, Amy and Joe sold the business in 2019 noting that it was time for a change. The company was acquired by Universal Pure Holdings LLC, which absorbed and operated all the facilities. Joe stayed on to oversee operations as the general manager before eventually transitioning to Guida’s Dairy as the plant manager. Amy retained her position as president of the company but has since founded an e-commerce fulfillment business.

“Joe and I had been discussing internally for about two years the idea to sell the business as we were both ready to venture to different industries,” said Amy. “The opportunity eventually presented itself and we sold it to our largest competitors, who had the same vision as we did.”

After leaving Hamden Hall, Amy graduated from Villanova University in 1999 with a degree in finance and management information systems. She went on to work at Ernst and Young in management consulting for five years before transitioning to healthcare consulting at Navigant Consulting. She returned to Ragozzino Foods for three years as the director of purchasing before co-founding and serving as president of Stay Fresh Foods. Joe graduated from Northeastern University in 2006 with a degree in electrical engineering technologies. He worked as the plant engineer at Ragozzino Foods before transitioning to the role of vice president of operations at Stay Fresh Foods.

Amy and her husband currently live in Cheshire with their two children. Joe and his wife Catherine live in Haddam with their three children, 11-year-old twins Joey and Maria and 7-year-old Charlie Jane. Joe was recently appointed by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont to the Milk Regulation Board, where he serves as an active member engaged in the processing of milk and reports to the General Assembly.

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