It started with a simple idea that good food makes the world go round. And, that good food means no chemicals, preservatives or artificial colors, flavors or ingredients—ever. It means ingredients that consumers can pronounce. It means developing products with two pillars in mind—food safety and flavor—all while maintaining simple, clean ingredient decks.
For some folks in the refrigerated food and beverage industry, this may seem like a tall order, but for the folks at Good Foods Group, not only is this feasible, but it’s the only way to produce food.
That’s because Good Foods is on a mission to make simple, safe foods.
Company: Good Foods Group
Headquarters: Pleasant Prairie, Wis.
Top Executive: Kurt Penn, founder and CEO
Types of Products: Guacamole and avocado mash, plant-based dips, traditional dips, salad dressing, salsa, chicken and other protein salads and cold-pressed juice.
No. of Employees: 1,300 company-wide
Distribution: Nationwide, Canada
Markets: Foodservice, retail
Today, the Pleasant Prairie, Wis.-based company produces guacamole and avocado mash, plant-based dips, traditional dips, salad dressing, salsa, chicken and other protein salads and cold-pressed juice in branded and private label forms via high-pressure processing (HPP) technology for over 10,000 club stores, retail and foodservice outlets.
In 2013, Good Foods relocated from Chicago to Pleasant Prairie, setting up shop in what was then a 56,000-square-foot building with just 50 employees.
Today, Good Foods employs 1,300 people between its Pleasant Prairie plant and another one in Mexico, and has since invested more than $40 million in physical plant and equipment improvements, including doubling production space and adding its sixth HPP system. CLICK HERE to take a tour of the 100,000-square-foot Pleasant Prairie plant.
Good Foods also creates sustainable, eco-friendly packaging, is working with suppliers and customers to implement H2R (how to recycle) graphics and is targeting reduction to landfill for plant-generated packaging by 2021.
That’s why Good Foods was named Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2020 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year.
(Left to right): Jeff McMahon, chief financial officer; Danyel O’Connor, executive vice president of sales and marketing; and Kurt Penn, founder and CEO.
HPP product innovation
Good Foods was an early adopter of HPP technology, building the business from the ground up with HPP at its core.
“We have utilized the technology from Day 1, which has allowed us to really focus on developing products that are compatible with HPP technology, while giving the consumer what they’re looking for—clean labels with clean ingredients, no preservatives, no artificial anything. We call this free from bad,” says Kurt Penn, founder and CEO. “So, as consumers continue to demand clean, fresh and safe foods, Good Foods is committed to HPP as a way to solve that demand.”
HPP is said to be the most widespread emerging food processing technology in the industry, and is expected to reach a market value of $54.77 billion by 2025, according to a report from ResearchGate.
Meanwhile, data from The Good Food Institute (GFI), Washington, D.C., and the Plant Based Foods Association, San Francisco, commissioned from SPINS, Chicago, shows that the U.S. plant-based foods retail market is worth $4.5 billion, and grew five times faster than total U.S. retail food sales over the past year.
Good Foods’ Mexico team completed a reforestation project, in which team members re-planted thousands of pine trees.
What’s more is, SPINS also finds the plant-based dips category growing at 91% year over year.
This means that Good Foods “has an opportunity to solve the snacking needs of consumers by offering healthier options that are satiating, delicious and nutritious,” Penn says. “Consumers are seeking healthier snacks. Our plant-based dips and guacamole are a great solution to customers reading labels, counting calories or not wanting to overindulge without sacrificing flavor.”
That’s why Good Foods continues to innovate using HPP systems.
For instance, it announced a new line of gluten-free, clean ingredient salad dressings, three of which are plant-based (Harvest Apple, Asian Ginger and Avocado Goddess), and three of which offer classic flavors (Blue Cheese, Avocado Ranch and Caesar).
In 2019, Good Foods launched a line of plant-based dips nationwide in a variety of offerings, including Queso Style and Buffalo Style.
Good Foods also launched avocado mash in retail and club channels, and is exploring development of additional plant-based platforms and evaluating new offerings in existing categories such as salsa and traditional dips.
“At Good Foods, flavor is first. We use fresh ingredients, develop recipes with better-for-you substitutions that don’t sacrifice flavor and utilize high-pressure processing technology, so we can deliver flavorful foods that you feel good about eating and feeding your family,” says Penn. “Delicious, nutritious, convenient and safe. While many other companies and products can check a few of these boxes, Good Foods is able to check them all. This combination is what sets us apart.”
Good Foods introduced a new line of refrigerated plant-based dips made from plant sources like cauliflower and cashews. Click here to learn more.
Furthermore, Good Foods is one of the founding members of the Cold Pressure Council (CPC), which was formed to lead, facilitate and promote industry standardization, user education and consumer awareness for HPP.
“HPP technology and products will continue to expand, as they meet increasing consumer demands for products that are clean label, high-quality, made with fresh ingredients (with retention of nutrients), convenient, delicious and safe,” says Penn. “This will especially be true as consumers become more aware of and educated on the technology, in part through the efforts of the Cold Pressure Council and use of the High Pressure Certified logo. We will continue to discover and develop new applications for HPP that meet consumer demands for safe foods.”
“I think the beautiful thing about us being a family business is, the rest of the team around the Penn family and around this business model really feels like an extension of the family,” says Danyel O’Connor, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “Everything that we do is a reflection on the Penn family and the creative and innovative spirit that Kurt has brought to the business. And, you can feel that in the pulse of the office, in the work we do, in the passion that we show in our everyday efforts to build Good Foods Group.”
Good food, good for the planet
One of Good Foods’ many missions is to be a good steward to the environment. That’s why it leads several sustainability initiatives across multiple functions of its organization. Here’s a snapshot of some of Good Foods’ sustainable efforts:
- Recycled content in packaging materials. Good Foods is constantly working to increase its post-consumer recycled content in corrugated, PET and PP cups/bottles and sealing films utilized in its HPP food processing operations.
- Adding H2R information on packaging.
“As a member of the Sustainable Packaging Council, the H2R logo and program is an outreach to the retailers and end use consumers of our products that better explains in plain language and visual aids the proper manner of disposal and how to prep an empty package for industrial scale and/or curbside recycling activities,” says Danyel O’Connor, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “We are launching the graphics scheme onto our entire Good Foods branded portfolio by the end of 2019.”
In 2018, Good Foods launched Avocado Mash, a blend of organic hass avocados, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper, sold in 90-calorie packs.
- Reusable packaging in production. Good Foods is implementing multiple round-trip uses of its inbound packaging/work-in-progress boxes through the operation and back to the supplier for re-use (some up to 8-10 round-trip cycles).
- Reduce corrugated consumption. Migration from 2-piece displayable shipping cases in retail and club stores to a source-reduced and production-friendly 1-piece display-ready shipping case that removes 40% of the pulp/fiber utilized in the current 2-piece design.
- Move to shrink bands or in-mold labeling vs. standard paper labels to be 100% recyclable. Future enhancements include an introduction of newer labeling technology (materials) to allow its deli cups and bottles to be fully recyclable without removal of branding and nutritional fact panel labels.
Circular supply chain. Waste stream efforts include repurposing avocado pits and skins for oil production, utilizing reusable fresh produce trays, installing a staff store for employees to purchase products and shipping weekly donations to several local food banks.
How a good team drives growth
The key drivers of the family-owned business are the 1,300 employees, according to Penn.
“Our people are so dedicated and passionate about supporting our vision to shape the future of exceptionally good foods,” he adds. “We are committed to doing things right, to constantly evolving and innovating and connecting with our customers and consumers.”
Furthermore, Good Foods champions social responsibility campaigns at both plants. In the United States, for instance, the Good Foods team volunteered at a local garden that donates fresh produce and vegetables to local shelters and kitchens to provide for those who don’t have access to healthy foods.
In Mexico, the team completed a reforestation project, in which team members re-planted thousands of pine trees, with plans to help rebuild a local school next. Good Foods opened the Mexico plant in 2017 to eliminate the costs of transportation of avocados and fresh fruit. Today, more than 700 team members make fresh guacamole in single-serve deli cups and foodservice pouches out of the Mexico facility.
“As a produce-forward company, we feel it is honorable to give back to the land that we cultivate many of our ingredients from,” says O’Connor. “The volunteer reforestation in Mexico is a really great expression of this, and in a way it closes the loop. Good Foods is a family business with great family values. This year, Good Foods also founded the Good Foods Family Foundation, with a mission to make good food accessible to people everywhere through education and charitable endeavors. We are so proud of our team for supporting our greater communities in this way.”
From better-for-you product innovation to sustainable initiatives, packaging and missions, Good Foods continues its mission to make good-for-you food better.