Upscale Foods, of the St. Paul, MN suburb of New Hope, was established in 1998 when the Orthodox owners of a kosher food distribution company acquired a kosher food manufacturing facility with a product line known as “The Old City Café.” Old City was originally a restaurant, but over time it evolved into a producer of frozen foods, most notably frozen pizza.
Shortly after the acquisition, the new owners arranged for Orthodox Union supervision, which — in a major business development for Upscale — enabled the new company to produce pizza for “Empire Kosher,” which uses OU certification exclusively on all of its poultry and frozen food products.
Upscale currently manufactures a variety of products under a number of different national brands and private labels, including its own “The Old City Café” award-winning pizza and burrito lines. The company’s production line is run on a day-to-day basis by Managing Partner Rabbi Yaakov Roberts, who worked under the guidance of his late father, Rev. Shepsel Roberts. Yaakov Roberts is no stranger to the food industry, having over thirty years’ experience with food processing and distribution. “There is no question that the OU is the best known and best recognized kosher certification available today, just as it was thirty years ago when I went into the business,” declared Rabbi Roberts. “Having OU certification in our plant has enabled us to enter into relationships with companies whose customers demand the highest level of kosher supervision.”
In 2002, Upscale Foods began plans for upgrading and relocating its plant in New Hope to a new state-of-the-art facility with greater capacity and improved capabilities. From the initial design elements to the finished construction, the Upscale Foods facility was built to be a fully certified USDA meat and poultry processing plant, with pareve and dairy components as well. The company specializes in all-natural, ethnic, and gourmet frozen specialties — all kosher, of course.
Products manufactured at its facility in New Hope include pizza, burritos, wraps, enchiladas, macaroni and cheese and other varieties. They are manufactured for the retail, foodservice and private label trades and include a wide variety of items made for nationally known OU certified companies.
Given the fact that Upscale Foods manufactures pizza to be sold under a variety of brand names, it uses different recipes given the requirements of each of the brands. For example, some of the brands will be made with an apple cider mix, others with a water mix; whether the pizza includes apple cider or not sometimes determines the kind of blessing to be made over the pizza when it is eaten. Nevertheless, there are certain characteristics that all of the Upscale Foods pizza lines share, according to Vice President of National Sales, Yaakov Bellinsky. “All of our pizzas are produced under OU supervision, at an Orthodox-owned, Sabbath-observant company,” he explained. “Likewise, all of the pizzas are not only kosher, but are all-natural – that is, they contain no preservatives. So you will find us in two locations in a store, the kosher section, and the all-natural section,” Mr. Bellinsky explained.
Regarding the Upscale Foods-OU relationship, Mr. Bellinsky declared, “From our perspective, it has been a pleasure working with the Orthodox Union. The OU is always available to answer our questions and is very responsive to our needs. We’ve enjoyed our relationship with the OU and look forward to extending it as we add more private label brands to our product line in the future.”