In 2011, Blount Fine Foods received Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year award. At the time, the Fall River, Mass., producer of gourmet soups, sauces, sides and entrées for retail and foodservice just completed a major plant expansion that nearly doubled its capacity.
At A Glance
Company Name: Blount Fine Foods
HQs: Fall River, Mass.
No. of Employees: 330
No. of SKUs:726
Products: Gourmet soups, sauces, sides and entrées for retail and foodservice
Brands: Blount Fine Foods, Panera Bread, Legal Sea Foods
Today, Blount Fine Foods is putting the finishing touches on another capital expenditure that will give the company more than 40% more production space. The expansion includes a larger chilling stage, two additional spiral chillers, a high-efficiency refrigeration compressor, more high-pressure steam and upgraded power handling.
“These upgrades were funded in large part by the energy rebates the company has enjoyed as a result of the solar panel system and other eco-friendly investments made in the 2011 expansion,” says Bob Sewall, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “Blount is not just a fast-growing company that makes great soups and sides. It is a family-run business with a long-standing commitment to the environment. Blount works continuously to reduce waste at the source, and engineers new products to minimize waste and emphasize the use of recyclable packaging materials.”
It’s this continued growth that put Blount Fine Foods back on the cover of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods.
Blount Fine Foods began processing soups in 1946. It operates out of two facilities—the Fall River headquarters and Warren, R.I. Today, it is said to be the largest manufacturer of lobster bisque soup in the United States, producing more than 350 proprietary soup recipes (75 varieties of clam chowder alone) and 726 different SKUs across soup and side dishes. Of those 726, 424 are for foodservice and 302 for retail, sold under the Blount Fine Foods brand and through licensing agreements at retail under the Panera Bread and Legal Sea Foods brands.
Last year, Blount Fine Foods expanded beyond soups with the launch of Signature Sides, a line of premium, certified-organic side dishes that are shipped and sold frozen and available for foodservice in cases of four 4-pound bags, or in a 32-ounce bag in a tray for retail club stores.
Blount Fine Foods also developed its first premium single-serve, 10-ounce grab-and-go retail soups. Influenced by its line of Blount Fine Foods brand foodservice soups, the new offerings boast a 70-day shelf life and are shipped and sold fresh and available for retail in cases of eight 10-ounce cups.
Shortly before press time, Blount Fine Foods introduced Blount Organics, which consists of 16-ounce retail cups of Organic Vegetable Chili, Minestrone Soup, Tomato Bisque and Lentil & Chick Pea Soup.
“Over the last several years, Blount has grown from a regional provider of good soups and chowders to today being a national manufacturer and marketer of restaurant-quality soups and side dishes,” adds Sewall. “The refrigerated soup category continues to be among the fastest-growing categories in the retail channel. It is also very strong in foodservice, where a hearty soup served in a bread bowl is an easy-to-market meal.”
Soup marketing for the soul
As for packaging, Blount Fine Foods has long marketed its soups in transparent cups, but the introduction of the 10-ounce soups represents the company’s biggest packaging innovation in years.
“Blount developed proprietary processing and packaging technology to ensure product quality and consistency without any sacrifice in ingredient distribution,” Sewall says. “The challenge was getting each hand-crafted batch of soup into the small cups before the cuts of meat, vegetables and pasta began to settle, which can lead to product inconsistency. The result is a 10-ounce, single-serve cup with a 70-day shelf life.”
Blount Fine Foods isn’t just winning over consumers with soup.
“A good soup is a good meal, which consumers are coming to understand,” says Sewall. “Blount will continue to innovate and meet the demands of its customers, which in turn raises the bar for the entire soup category.”
Learn more about how and why Blount Fine Foods initially received Refrigerated & Frozen Foods' 2011 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year award.
This is just one of the six refrigerated and frozen food processors selected as Refrigerated & Frozen Foods' Processors to Watch in 2015. CLICK HERE to learn more about the other companies.