Ian’s and Blue Horizon Wild merged to form Elevation Brands, LLC. Together, they are committed to providing all-natural, allergy-friendly products.

Golden State Foods makes their customers’ dreams a reality by producing high-value products and expanding capabilities overseas.

Smith Dairy continues to carry out the mission, goals and family recipes that the Schmid brothers created 103 years ago.

Hans Kissle’s mission is to remain top of mind for customers in search of high-quality, fresh food.

Dianne’s Fine Desserts heats up restaurant menus with an assortment of chef-inspired, thaw-and-serve offerings.

Earthbound Farm creates nearly 150 certified-organic products, all while staying true to the Earth.

New Company, Same Brands on a Mission

Ian’s and Blue Horizon Wild merged to form Elevation Brands, LLC. Together, they are committed to providing all-natural, allergy-friendly entrees and sustainably-caught seafood.

Evolution is key to keeping up with demand, especially if a portion of that demand belongs to kid shoppers. That’s why Ian’s continues to evolve its product portfolio from “gluten-free for kids” to simply “allergy-friendly foods.”

“Ian’s is undergoing a comprehensive repositioning initiative to demonstrate appeal to all ages. Additionally, we are innovating a range of center-of-the-plate meal solutions, snacks and side items to be enjoyed by anyone with food allergies,” says Chuck Marble, chief executive officer of Elevation Brands, LLC, the newly formed company that houses Ian’s and Blue Horizon Wild brands.

The Ian’s brand has certainly undergone its fair share of evolving. The Framingham, Mass., company was founded in 1991 as Five Star Foods. Then in 2001, it changed its name to Ian’s Natural Foods. In 2004, it was acquired by Claridge Foods to later become part of Elevation Brands’ portfolio.

Today, 34 SKUs are sold under the Ian’s brand, including allergy-friendly Alphatots (letter-shaped potato fries), onion rings, cinnamon French toast sticks and new French bread-style pizza. Other new products are sweet potato fries, cookie buttons, Panko Breadcrumbs and the most recent introduction of gluten-free Panko Breadcrumbs, available in Original and Italian varieties.

Nearly all of the Ian’s products are produced in Elevation Brands’ allergy-friendly, nut-free facility. The seafood is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, and the natural poultry is raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones.

“Certainly there is a need to expand into smaller towns and rural areas, as food allergies are not location-specific,” says Marble. “We are working to make our products readily available to as many consumers as we can.”

Bringing in Blue Horizon Wild

In 2005, Blue Horizon Wild was founded in Monterey, Calif. Today, it’s the leader in wild-caught, sustainable seafood sourced from artesian fisheries and small fishing communities throughout the world.

The Blue Horizon Wild brand features 17 freshly frozen items ranging from Surf Burgers, Bites and Sticks to a variety of new individual-size entrees, such as Lobster Mac & Cheese, Seafood Cannelloni and Shrimp Penne alla Vodka.

“Elevation Brands is equipped with proprietary labor and manufacturing techniques that give both Ian’s and Blue Horizon Wild products a superior ‘homemade’ taste and texture vs. products that look and taste like they were punched through large, mass-production machines,” says Marble.

The Blue Horizon Wild brand also aims to better “speak” to its consumers.

“Appetite appeal with mouth-watering food photography is paramount, but so too are the important message points of best choice, good choice and good alternative for sustainability (as defined by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program guidelines), chemical-free and premium wild-caught,” says Marble. “These key messages let consumers know their choice of Blue Horizon Wild helps ocean conservation.”

The Blue Horizon Wild brand continues to gain traction in other areas of the country, not just the coast, Marble adds.

“We do note strong interest in regions other than the coasts; areas of the country where fresh, wild-caught seafood is not readily and conveniently available,” he says. “We see opportunity for growth in [natural grocery stores and conventional grocery stores], as consumers everywhere are gaining interest in sustainable food practices and who are increasingly looking for convenient ways to incorporate more healthful seafood into their diet.”

Though separate brands at different life cycles, Ian’s and Blue Horizon Wild are committed to their respective consumer missions—Ian’s is to pioneer all-natural products for shoppers in search of great-tasting, more healthful allergy-friendly foods, while Blue Horizon Wild provides sustainable seafood that supports conservation of a variety of marine species and their habitat.

Making Customers’ Dreams Come True

Golden State Foods makes their customers’ dreams a reality by producing high-value products and expanding capabilities overseas.

Golden State Foods began in 1947 as a small meat company providing products to area restaurants and hotels. Then, it teamed up with McDonald’s, making it a major player in the food processing and distribution industries.

Today, the Irvine, Calif.-based processor and distributor supplies meat, produce, liquid products and distribution services to its more than 50 corporate customers, including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Arby’s, Nestlé, Zaxby’s, Church’s, Popeyes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Chipotle, Carl’s Jr. and Denny’s, and services more than 25,000 restaurants in more than 50 countries on three continents. But, making its customers’ dreams come true remains priority No. 1.
Golden State Foods’ objectives are simple—make the best product and provide the best service to help its customers succeed.

“We work closely with our customers to develop meat products that meet the needs and requests of their customers,” says Wayne Morgan, vice president and president of the meat products group. “Likewise, we work closely with our suppliers to ensure that we have the best quality raw materials coming into our products, so we can send the highest quality products out to our customers.”

Golden State Foods churns out more than 400,000 hamburger patties an hour, equivalent to more than 180 million pounds a year.

“Ground beef is blended to specified leanness, formed to specific patty dimensions, individually quick-frozen, inspected and packaged,” says Amy Zurborg, vice president of sales and marketing.

Golden State Foods also produces approximately 200 custom SKUs of liquid products, including condiments, dipping sauces, salad dressings, sandwich/wing sauces, toppings, jams/jellies and beverage concentrates.

“Our breadth of products covers all day-parts,” Zurborg adds.

Maintaining a prominent presence

Golden State Foods continues to maintain a prominent presence throughout the United States. For starters, it placed No. 19 in Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Top 25 prepared meat and poultry processors (check out the November 2012 issue), raking in $5.6 billion in sales in 2012.

It also is part of a joint venture partnership with Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Fresh Foods, Inc., one of the largest institutional produce suppliers in the United States, with processing plants in California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Golden State Foods is also one of the largest produce suppliers to the quick-service industry in Australia, with facilities in Sydney and Perth, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.

Shortly before this article went to press, Golden State Foods acquired KanPak China, a manufacturer of dairy-based products such as smoothies, ice cream, coffees, creamers, frozen desserts and specialty beverages for the quick-service restaurant industry. With this move, Golden State Foods will produce portion control liquid products such as ketchup, sauces, dressings and syrups for QSR customers beginning in 2013.

“This acquisition is part of our company’s strategy to meet the needs of fast-growing international markets,” says Mark Wetterau, chairman and CEO. “We are especially looking forward to building our local manufacturing capabilities in China to serve our customers in that region. KanPak has an excellent facility there, providing opportunities to produce a full-range of products.”

In 2013 and beyond, Golden State Foods will continue to make customers’ dreams a reality, Wetterau adds.

“Their success is our success,” he adds. “We will seek to meet the demands of fast-growing markets domestically and internationally, while improving the world around us through community service and leadership.”

Family Values Meet Modernization Meet Innovation

Smith Dairy continues to carry out the mission, goals and family recipes that the Schmid brothers created 103 years ago.

On Jan. 1, 1909, brothers John and Peter Schmid purchased a small dairy. With two horses, two wagons, a hand-cranked ice cream maker and a 5-gallon freezer that used ice cut from a nearby pond, Smith Dairy Products Co. was born.

But, it didn’t take long for the Orrville, Ohio-based dairy processor to become a top contender in the dairy industry. Thanks to new technologies and rapid innovation, the 300-plus employee company proves that dairy processors can advance in today’s marketplace without having to shed their true skin.

Even some 103 years later, Smith Dairy continues to make its SMITH’S brand cottage cheese using a traditional slow-cook process that takes many hours to produce, says Penny Baker, director of marketing.

“Our cheesemakers are real craftsmen,” she adds. “Making cottage cheese is an art.”

Today, Smith Dairy processes milk, ice cream and cultured products such as sour cream, cottage cheese and flavored dips, and has plans for a range of new products to hit store shelves in 2013.

Smith Dairy has always exemplified a knack for cutting-edge equipment.

In the 1920s, for example, it installed a mechanical refrigeration system that allowed the dairy to expand and make ice cream a larger part of the business, Baker says. In the 1930s, it replaced its horse-drawn wagons with trucks, including a gas-electric hybrid one for deliveries.

In 1947, Smith Dairy became a member of Quality Chekd, a dairy trade organization that uses third-party testing and audits to assure quality and food safety above governmental regulations.

Then, in the 1950s, it installed its first cooling tank for storing milk, along with the company’s first conveyor system. In the 1960s, Smith Dairy experienced significant growth by purchasing four dairies in Northeast Ohio. By 1989, it acquired Ruggles Ice Cream and opened a new ice cream plant in Orrville to produce both SMITH’s and Ruggles ice cream brands.

In 1994, Smith Dairy acquired Wayne Dairy, Richmond, Ind., enabling it to process milk with an extended shelf life.

Some 15 years later, Smith Dairy celebrated its 100th anniversary by scooping up Pacific Valley Dairy of Pacific, Mo., a producer and distributor of quality ice cream mix and frozen dessert products.

Packaging pioneers

The company’s first yellow jug for milk was introduced in 1999.

“Because light—natural or fluorescent—degrades the flavor and vitamin content of milk, Smith Dairy chose to use opaque yellow plastic packaging to protect its milk from harmful light oxidation,” Baker says. “The yellow pigment in the plastic jug prevents ultraviolet light from penetrating the container, [keeping] milk tasting fresher longer.”

For Smith Dairy, “packaging is not just a container, it also protects the product,” Baker notes. That’s why the company recently conducted several focus groups for its SMITH’S ice cream containers.

“[We] found that the old square box with the zip pull tab—‘brick’ style—package was overwhelmingly disliked by consumers,” Baker says. “Major issues were that it was hard to open, and the lid would not seal tight for storage. The new two-piece scround package is easier to open and easier to scoop from, and the snap-on lid seals tight, keeping the ice cream fresher longer.”

Creating a niche market

In addition to new packaging, Smith Dairy “created a niche market for natural, organic and better-for-you products,” Baker adds. “Some consumers, especially moms and families, are trying to be more health-conscious and make better decisions for meals. There is that consumer who wants natural products with fewer ingredients, too. [The natural, organic, better-for-you market] may be a small category, but it has registered steady gains, and its growth is outpacing conventional dairy and frozen products.”

For instance, Smith Dairy introduced Ruggles Greek Frozen Yogurt, a go-to treat for consumers looking for healthful indulgences in a refrigerated Greek yogurt format. Available in Vanilla Bean, Tart Vanilla, Peach, Blueberry, Strawberry and Honey flavors in pints and 4-ounce single-serve cups, this frozen yogurt is all-natural, low-fat and gluten-free, contains live and active probiotic cultures, maintains at least twice the protein of regular frozen yogurt and contains no high-fructose corn syrup.

“Refrigerated Greek yogurt has been one of the most exciting trends in the retail food marketplace in years,” Baker adds. “Why not bring that concept to the frozen category?”

In the refrigerated dairy section, Smith Dairy introduced SMITH’S All Natural Sour Cream in a 16-ounce size. Made with just two ingredients—milk and cream—it offers full-bodied texture with a rich taste.

Smith Dairy also debuted new flavors in the Ruggles ice cream line, two of which—Ruggles Chocolate Covered Pretzel and Ruggles Salty Caramel—feature a sweet-and-salty combination, Baker says. Other new flavors include Black Cherry, Super Kid, Luscious Lemon Bar frozen yogurt and Sweet & Tart Strawberry Vanilla frozen yogurt.

Furthermore, Smith Dairy is developing new products in the cultured category for 2013.

Under the SMITH’S brand, Smith Dairy produces milk, half and half, whipping cream, eggnog, ice cream, cottage cheese, sour cream and dip, punch and other beverages. Under the Ruggles brand, it produces premium ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and novelties.

“A majority of our milk supply comes from within 50 miles of our facility in Orrville. We are honored to be able to support our local businesses and communities,” Baker says.

Family values meet modernization meet innovation—the recipe for success for companies like Smith Dairy.

Staying Top of Mind

Hans Kissle’s mission is to remain top of mind for customers in search of high-quality, fresh food.

Trends come and go, but the desire for quality food remains. That’s why Hans Kissle Co. made it its mission to remain “top of mind” for customers in search of high-quality, fresh food.

“The focus on quality and safety has never wavered, and this focus has resulted in a high level of customer/consumer satisfaction and continuous growth and prosperity,” says Ken Venti, chief executive officer for the Haverhill, Mass., producer of deli salads, deli meats and prepared food items. “We, like any consumer product company, must deal and adapt with emerging trends, but these trends come and go quickly. The reality is that ‘old standby products’—or those recipes that were made in mom’s kitchen that we are all familiar with—are the products that withstand the test of time. These are the products that fulfill the largest share of consumer requirements, and if they are made as good as or better than mom made, then they are sure be a winner.”

Hans Kissle started in 1984 as a manufacturer of fresh deli salads. Originally, the company focus was solely to manufacture and sell high-quality and fresh deli salads in the Greater Boston retail marketplace, Venti notes.

Today, it produces more than 500 SKUs, including deli salads ranging from the traditional potato, macaroni, pasta and coleslaw kind to the more trendy edamame and quinoa, as well as deli meats (turkey breast, roast beef and honey-glazed smoked ham), prepared food items (quiches, baked bean meals and pot pies) ham and turkey dinner kits, desserts (such as bread and grapenut pudding, chocolate mousse, cookies and cream mousse and cherry cobbler) and other seasonal and ethnic-oriented products for both private label and its own Hans Kissle brand.

“We have seen very strong growth in our prepared meal offerings, as consumers seek ‘grab-and-go’ items that accommodate their busy lifestyles,” Venti says. “Everything from full dinners, which include a protein, vegetable and starch to lasagnas, quiches and pot pies, seem to be in demand for consumers ‘on the go.’”

“At any point in time, our culinary team has 50 or so items in product development—these items fulfill seasonal requirements and make sure that we are trending with the marketplace. There is always something new to refresh the line and to excite our customers,” Venti adds.

The lions’ share of Hans Kissle’s business is on the East Coast from Maine to Florida, Venti says, although in recent years, it has expanded to the Midwest and West Coast.

“Our growth has exceeded our expectations, and all signs would suggest that this will continue in the years to come,” he adds.

Safe food, quality food

What customers may not know about Hans Kissle is its ongoing efforts to make each and every product count. This means they have to be responsive to customer needs and requests and manufacture safe, high-quality food on a consistent basis.

That’s why Hans Kissle achieved SQF Level 3, and was one of five North American food manufacturers to receive Silliker’s Platinum Award in 2010.
“[Consumers] may not know or realize the efforts we make each and every day to assure that our production plant is the absolute cleanest and safest in the food processing industry,” says Venti.

Additionally, Hans Kissle received the 11th Annual Food Quality Award at this year’s Food Safety Summit, a sister organization to Refrigerated & Frozen Foods. Sponsored by DuPont Qualicon, Wilmington, Del., the award recognizes companies for exceptional contributions to food safety and customer satisfaction. A panel of industry judges selected Hans Kissle from a field of hundreds of applicants and seven finalists. According to the panel, Hans Kissle was chosen for meeting its goal of producing high-quality food in a sustainable environment, including technology improvements that reduced energy consumption by 15%.

“Receiving this prestigious award is magnificent but, more importantly, it validates the hard work and commitment we make every day to maintain the highest level of food safety and quality for our customers, ensuring them the optimum eating experience every time they purchase our product,” says Robin Beane, director of operations.

With these awards and a host of new product introductions, it’s no surprise Hans Kissle remains top of consumers’ minds.

Ripe for Innovation

Dianne’s Fine Desserts heats up restaurant menus and in-store bakeries with an assortment of chef-inspired thaw-and-serve offerings.

Exciting. Indulgent. Innovative. Memorable. Delicious. These adjectives are just a few used to describe Dianne’s Fine Desserts, Newburyport, Mass.

But, what really defines this powerhouse thaw-and-serve desserts bakery—a conglomerate of Dianne’s Gourmet Desserts, Le Center, Minn., and Alden Merrell Fine Desserts, Newburyport, Mass.—is its ability to recognize consumers’ needs, react to emerging trends and provide an assortment of chef-inspired frozen desserts.

Dianne’s Fine Desserts has been producing thaw-and-serve cheesecakes, layer cakes and tortes, pies, tarts, dessert bars, coffee cakes and scoopable fillings to foodservice and in-store bakeries since 1976. In 1988, it was purchased by H.J. Heinz Foodservice, Pittsburgh. Then, in May, Dan Scales, president, and Mike Knowles, chief executive officer, along with Superior Capital Partners, Detroit, Mich., purchased Dianne’s Fine Desserts because they saw an opportunity to expand an already strong and established business.

Today, they continue to focus on products, ingredients and packaging innovation.

“Overall customer experiences increase by 7% when dessert is included at lunch or dinner, so foodservice and in-store bakery providers look to offer enticing desserts that are uniquely their own,” says Scales. “At Dianne’s Fine Desserts, our culinary team can work with customers to develop that one-of-a-kind memorable experience. As a result, our customers benefit from increased profits, and importantly, the increased brand loyalty of their customers who seek out these signature desserts that are unavailable anywhere else.”

Room for dessert? Why yes.

“The [dessert] category is ripe for innovation. Dianne’s Fine Desserts is committed to new product innovation,” says Knowles. “As the country continues to feel the pinch of the new economics, premium desserts, [when] presented exquisitely, provide a low cost, but highly satisfying indulgence for consumers.”

For example, Dianne’s Fine Desserts’ individual cheesecakes, layer cakes, lava cakes, mini bundts and mousse spoons inspire palate-pleasing experiences, while its more sophisticated flavor offerings, such as sweet, salty and savory options, premium nuts, dark chocolates and liquors like champagne, rum, bourbon and Amaretto, act as a basis for aromatic fillings and sauces.

Its SKOOOPZ fillings line includes rich, creamy mousses, custards and fillings that “let food preparers’ imaginations run wild with limitless possibilities,” says Scales. “These fillings can be used to create unique pies and pastries, amazing mini desserts or light and eye-popping desserts in a glass.”

Plus, old-world, high-quality, real ingredients and hand-iced cakes allow consumers to re-create the memories of a simpler, more secure time when “homemade” desserts were fresh and less processed, Scales says.

Dianne’s Fine Desserts’ newest product innovations include loaf cakes (available in a variety of holiday flavor profiles), dessert bars, Irish cream cheesecake, red velvet cheesecake and a variety-pack layer cake.

Whether consumers describe their experience as exciting, indulgent, innovative, memorable or delicious, Dianne’s Fine Desserts offers an assortment of palate-pleasing offerings for any occasion.

From Farm to Freezer (or Fridge)

Earthbound Farm creates nearly 150 certified-organic products, all while staying true to the Earth.

Imagine two city kids with zero farming experience starting up an all-organic refrigerated and frozen fruit and vegetable manufacturing company on a 2.5-acre backyard garden. Well, that’s what happened when Drew and Myra Goodman founded Earthbound Farm in 1984.

Today, the San Juan Bautista, Calif., company offers more than 100 varieties of certified-organic salads, fruits and vegetables grown on more than 40,000 acres by 200-plus independent farmers. Together, these organic farming methods will keep more than 14 million pounds of conventional chemicals out of the soil, water and air during 2012 alone, says Samantha Cabaluna, director of communication and marketing.

“Fruits and vegetables have been the anchoring gateway category in organic food for a long time—it represents about 40% of all organic food sold, so that’s a great foundation. And since there’s such a rising trend in home cooking, consumers are looking for healthy and versatile ingredients that are also convenient,” she adds. “And if they’ve grown accustomed to purchasing organic fruits and vegetables in the produce department, they’re looking for organic in their frozen fruits and vegetables, too.”

That’s why Earthbound Farm offers nearly 150 certified-organic products, including fresh-cut salads, fruits and vegetables; frozen fruit, vegetables and snacks and dried fruit.

New products over the last year include 18 frozen fruits and vegetables, Power Greens (a mix of tender baby spinach, baby red and green chards and baby kale for salads, smoothies and recipes), Mixed Baby Kale and Dippin’ Doubles (carrots with Ranch dip, apple slices with vanilla yogurt and apple slices with peanut butter).

All things organic

In addition to organic farming, Earthbound Farm brings a sustainability ethic to its packaging, Cabaluna says. 

Case in point—Earthbound Farm is said to be the first salad producer to convert all of its rigid plastic packaging to 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) PETE plastic.

“Earthbound Farm has always been a packaging innovator,” she adds. “We were the first to successfully [introduce] pre-washed packaged salads in retail back in 1986, when we launched our first bags of pre-wash spring mix.”

Later, Earthbound Farm re-invented the “clamshell” package for salad, otherwise known as the resealable plastic box that protects the delicate baby greens.

“In 2009, we became the first company in our industry to produce those clamshells from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, reducing our ecological footprint significantly,” Cabaluna says. “Just this fall, we have eliminated the PCV shrink-band from our clamshells, as we transitioned to a patent-pending zip top design, which eliminated about 1 million pounds of plastic from our process.”

Earthbound Farm’s frozen products come in a stand-up gusseted bag with a resealable zipper. Earthbound Farm also uses 99% PCR paperboard for its shipping cartons and 100% PCR paper in its business machines.

From its farming procedures to its manufacturing processes to its packaging efforts, Earthbound Farm practices all-organic all the time.