Devanco Foods made a significant impact on the retail side of the industry this year, earning the company Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2020 Frozen Foods Processor of the Year award. The engine that powers Devanco’s success is their 105,000-square-foot processing plant in Carol Stream, Illinois, and the company’s rapid reaction to the pandemic earlier this year, which allowed food production and distribution to continue uninterrupted.
“We were proactive from the beginning, taking daily temperatures of employees, adding extra sanitation on all touch areas, providing PPE materials and requiring staff to wear masks, and we took social distancing measures long before others in the industry did. That prevented a negative ripple effect on our supply chain, our customers, and the health of our employees,” says Evan Bartzis, Devanco’s GM. “We also didn’t allow any guests inside our plant unless they were absolutely necessary, and those that were allowed to enter were given screening questions beforehand.”
Company: Devanco Foods
Plant Location: Carol Stream, Illinois
Total Square Feet: 105,000
No. of Processing/Packaging Lines: 15 production and packaging lines combined, with plans to add more in the future.
Markets: SQF, HACCP, PCQI, Halal Certified, Select Items Certified Kosher, Non-GMO, Select Vegan Certified Products, FDA Approved and USDA Grant of Inspection.
Even before the pandemic, Devanco’s product lines and business were growing to the point where they needed a larger, more modern plant with the production and storage capabilities to handle their nearly 500 SKUs for foodservice and retail. So, in 2018, Devanco moved into a new-build facility, where they produce 400,000 pounds per week of frozen and refrigerated foods—primarily meat products and condiments—which adds up to 1.6 million pounds a month, and about 20 million pounds annually.
Within the plant are 15 production and packaging lines, and with foresight while designing the facility before construction, Devanco added extra space for additional lines in the future “to keep up with evolving consumer needs,” Bartzis says, adding that of Devanco’s 120 total employees, 90 work in the plant. The company was also awarded a 2018 Illinois Chamber of Commerce Economic Development in Illinois Award for its investment in the new plant and subsequent job growth for the surrounding area.
Approximately 45,000 square feet is dedicated to cold foods processing and packaging, while another 12,000 square feet is devoted to freezer storage and loading docks for distribution logistics. The plant is also equipped with a real-time inventory management system that can be accessed via handheld devices by staff; electronically monitored LED lighting, ovens, chillers and freezers; an IQF tunnel; a guest kitchen; automatic floor sanitation, and more.
Devanco Foods has about 12,000 square feet devoted to freezer storage with seven loading docks for distribution logistics.
Because Devanco is a halal-certified facility producing foodservice and retail products for its Gridley brand, the plant is pork-free, with meat production coming from beef, lamb, and poultry. In addition to Devanco’s halal certification (inspected twice a year), the plant’s other certifications include kosher (inspected monthly), non-GMO (inspected annually), SQF (audited annually), USDA (inspected daily), HACCP (inspected three times a year), and PCQI (inspected annually). Devanco’s facility also produces select Certified-Vegan products, like the company’s new line of plant-based foods under its Eleni’s brand.
Food safety is another area where Devanco is proactive, with multiple programs in place, including an emergency task force committee, staff training for food safety fundamentals, a vendor approval program, product traceability program, 24-hour sanitation program in compliance with the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 and the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, food safety and quality program, allergen program, daily environmental testing, and daily product testing.
Devanco Foods has 120 employees, 90 of them work in the company’s food processing and distribution facility. Devanco won a 2018 economic development award from the State of Illinois for its investment in the plant and subsequent job growth for the surrounding area.
From a sustainability standpoint, Devanco is “exploring alternative energy sources such as solar panels as part of our ongoing sustainability initiatives. We also work closely with the city and utility companies to implement any energy-saving initiatives available. Finally, we’re working toward changing all of our packaging to unbleached and fully recyclable boxes by 2023,” explains Bartzis.
Devanco’s Italian beef starts as round cuts of meat, then is hand-trimmed, seasoned, slow roasted, cooked and chilled to critical control points, and finished whole or sliced before packaging and distribution to retail and foodservice customers.
Here’s the Beef
Frozen Italian beef has been one of Devanco’s flagship foods (along with gyros meat) since the company was founded in 1993, and at the Carol Stream plant, the process for this high-volume product starts with “buying round cuts, both insides and outsides from the major packers around the country,” Bartzis says. “We then hand-trim the beef, season it, and slow roast it in our industrial smokehouses. Based on our customer product specifications for foodservice and retail, we slow roast to various temperatures. Once the meat is cooked and chilled to our critical control points, we either finish the piece of beef whole or slice on our high-speed slicers. We then package the beef with accompanying gravy, and ship to our customers nationwide.”
Devanco Foods moved into its current new-build headquarters and plant in 2018. Extra room was planned during design to accomodate additional processing lines in the future.
Italian beef and other foods prepared and packaged are moved out of the plant’s cold storage area based on order size and destination to the facility’s seven loading docks, where distribution trucks are filled for delivery to Devanco’s approximately 50,000 foodservice clients in all 50 states, and 2500 retail stores.
“Based on the preference of the customer and the shelf life of the product, we can distribute our frozen and refrigerated foods through several channels,” says Bartzis. “We utilize multiple third-party logistic companies for distribution across the country and internationally. We also have our own fleet of trucks that deliver within a 100-mile radius from our plant to local distributors, and of course, companies can arrange their own shipping or freight for our foods too.”
To read more about Devanco Foods and its history, retail growth and community outreach in 2020, click here.