On Reflection: Food suppliers court high-end customers

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Seattle’s enthusiastic foodie culture embraces the concept of eating tasty food that’s locally produced. Ideally, this approach means finding ingredients from nearby farms and seafood providers, as well as making sure the items are produced organically and sustainably. A growing number of companies are emerging to help out in that regard. Corfini Gourmet and Eat Local serve businesses and consumers, respectively.

Founded by Jim Brooke about seven years ago, Corfini Gorumet partners with local ranchers and fishers to prepare truly natural meat and seafood—no antibiotics, no hormones. With 45 employees, it supplies about 800 restaurants and stores, working out of centers in Seattle and Portland. Spending time in Italy as a child inspired Brooke to value wholesome, high-quality ingredients. He started Corfini Gourmet to cater to those with similar appetites.

“The services of Corfini are multifaceted,” Brooke says. Corfini’s providers go above and beyond the fresh factor. For example, seafood is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, meaning it comes from a sustainable fishery. Corfini supplies meat for hamburgers made at Safeco Field. It also supplies hospitals, including Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.

Eat Local has a similar focus on healthy food in catering to the individual consumer. Founder Greg Conner spent many summers at his grandparents’ orchard in Cashmere, where he developed a strong sense of the importance of knowing where food comes from. He started Burien-based Eat Local in 2006 to offer organic, healthful, tasty meals made from local ingredients. Eat Local, with 20 employees, also has shops on Queen Anne and Capitol Hill in Seattle, and because the meals are frozen while still fresh, there is no need for preservatives or additives.

In-store customers order from a menu with such items as Beef Bourguignon (grass-fed beef slow-cooked with organic vegetables in red table wine; $10.98 for one serving, $21.96 for two). There’s also delivery service—items are shipped in dry ice—so consumers can enjoy without ever leaving the house.

The concept of convenience food is nothing new, but Conner says a growing number of people in Seattle are willing to pay more to get a high-quality meal without spending a lot of time shopping and cooking. “A customer once compared the price of our prepared meals to buying local, organic ingredients and making the meals herself,” Conner says, “and our meals were less expensive. And that didn’t include the cost of her time.”

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