Speaking With Furmano Foods

Initially, Furmano Foods packed their tomatoes in glass jars.

I had the privilege to speak with Frank Furmano, the Director of Sales for Foodservice Corporate Accounts at Furmano Foods. This dexterous OU kosher-certified domestic and international food service manufacturer, which offers retail products as well, specializes in producing top-grade beans, grains, tomatoes and sauces.

We discussed the nature of their business as it relates to the plant-based arena, their strict production standards, customization abilities, solution-based ideology, pouch packaging that avoids landfill waste and the future. In a plant-based world where health is a top priority, and in times where companies are looked to for reliable quality control, in terms of testing products, as well as avoiding packaging that can affect the environment, Furmano Foods is an excellent model.

OU Kosher: You’re a 4th generation family company that began in the summer of 1921. You began the company based on core values, such as caring for your workers, nurturing the land and focus on addressing consumer needs. Have those same values continued until today?

Frank Furmano: We are thankful for our value system. J.W. Furman founded this company on those principles, and we continue to live by them up until today.

OU Kosher: You produce and sell a wide portfolio of beans and grains. Plant-based eating, due to its health benefits, has become a mainstay in how food is consumed today. Can you comment on the synergy between the bean and grain market and plant-based consumption?

Frank Furmano: Beans are the perfect plant-based food. They’re nutritious and adaptable in many ways. For instance, black beans can be used to make black bean burgers. We also have many customers who use chickpeas to make hummus. Our grain line, which we added a few years ago, has now become popularly used to make grain bowls or added to salads. Grains are high in protein and have that advantage of being more economical than meat protein. In addition, many beans are very high in antioxidants and fiber, a significant nutritional benefit.

OU Kosher: For your beans, you have very specific criteria that must be met in order to reach the final product. Can you describe the process?

Frank Furmano: When we fulfill orders, we have a special process to ensure that the batch resultant beans that are chosen are the best. We notify our supplier of what kind of beans we need, and they provide samples from various lots. We hydrate or soak these samples, can and cook them and then compare the results. Out of the various lots, we choose the best. Then we ask the supplier to send us more samples from those approved lots. Once the approved beans are received, we test them again using the same process. From that final lot, we choose the best quality and tasting beans.

OU Kosher: You primarily manufacturer for domestic and international customers. However, you have retail products as well. Do you feel that being in the retail market has been an advantage?

Frank Furmano: Yes, we are in stores as well, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Retail played an important role during the Covid pandemic. People were eating from home and looking for readily usable products. Our canned beans and tomato products became an important seller during those times. In addition, being in both markets gives us diversification.

OU Kosher: Many of your products are packaged in pouches. Can you elaborate on how that evolved and whether there are environmental benefits in doing so? 

Frank Furmano: In 1921, we packed tomatoes in glass jars. Then everything moved to cans. Back in the 1990s, we started packaging tomato sauces in pouches. At that times, the beans were still canned. Then in the early 2000s, we offered beans in shelf-stable pouches as well. They have the same drain and net weight as the cans. In terms of the environment, pouches don’t take up much room and therefore don’t present a threat to filling up landfills. Landfills are a major cause of noxious chemicals entering the environment. Of course, cans, which are still used on the retail and foodservice side, are 100% recyclable.

OU Kosher: You provide to distributors that also supply to healthcare facilities and you also distribute to restaurants. Does this coincide with any part of the vision of your company?

Frank Furmano: In terms of healthcare, we are proud to offer a low sodium bean line. This is surely something distributors purchase for the healthcare clientele. In terms of restaurants, based on a neighbor-friendly philosophy to help them with manpower shortages, we sell ready-made pizza and spaghetti sauces and various seasoned bean products. Of course, we can customize products for any of our customers. We have corporate chefs on staff that present multiple different formulas based on customer needs.

OU Kosher: Do you have a relationship with a specific network of suppliers?

Frank Furmano: Our tomatoes are mainly grown locally, that would be Central and Southern Pennsylvania, and Southern New Jersey. Our dry beans come from the MinDak region, located in Minnesota and North Dakota. This region is known as the top area to grow and harvest beans. We also source beans from other regions of the United States, including California, Michigan, the Pacific Northwest and New York.

OU Kosher : You’re established in a food service that is growing due to the unchanging variables in terms of the health benefits offered. How do you see the future?

Frank Furmano: Beans, grains and tomatoes will be something healthy people will continue to want to consume. So, in that regard, we feel we’re in a good place. We are working on new products as well. We will also remain focused on trying to help restaurants solve any labor shortages by offering our ready-made sauces and seasoned beans, as an inherent mission of our company is to offer viable solutions to the food service market.


Steven Genack
Steven Genack has worked at OU Kosher for more than ten years with a specialty in ingredients. He is an attorney and former editor of a newspaper. He has a wide array of interests including playing tennis, golf and basketball and reading biographies and memoirs.