Operating in a business model where customer service is key, contract manufacturers have adapted their business models to best serve their customers. For some, that means helping customers deliver their products; for others it means helping beverage-makers refine their formulations. But for all contract manufacturers one value is paramount: to provide their clients with best-in-class service.
Castle Co-Packers, New Kensington, Pa., has taken a proactive approach to its business.
“Because the economy is still not where it should be, we took a step back and said, ‘OK, what can we do to improve and do more for existing customers since there’s less people getting into the industry because there’s less access to capital?’” says company President Brian Dworkin. “What we’ve done is we’ve started a distribution company over the past year, so besides bottling for brands, we’re now distributing for brands in the Pittsburgh area.”
Castle Co-Packer’s affiliated business Full Circle Distributing now operates with three side-loading trucks and one van. As the name suggests, Full Circle has helped complete Castle Co-Packer’s service offerings as well as introduce new clients to the contract manufacturing business, Dworkin says.
“Either we’ve had brands that we were already bottling that jumped on board with Full Circle and dropped other distributors, or in the instance of one company, Full Circle was distributing for them first and they moved their production to us because they were so happy with the distribution,” he says.
Last year, Castle Co-Packers added a carbonated line, which now runs at full capacity producing beverages for customers, such as Hi-Ball Energy, Boylan Bottling, Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer and Hint Inc. The company also is adding two more lines to make for a total of seven at the facility, Dworkin says. The additions will include a can line and a new cold-fill shot line, which he says complements its existing hot-fill shot line.
Castle Co-Packers also has the capability to brew coffee and tea, Dworkin says. He adds that it’s important that the company continues to invest in order to attract new customers, “I’m a firm believer that you have to have the infrastructure to get the business.”
On the packaging side, each of Castle Co-Packer’s five existing lines has an average of three to five labelers, he says. The company is able to run products with a variety of labels, including cut-and-stack and cold glue. The company also offers a range of capping abilities and is adding roll-on pilfer-proof (ROPP) closures to the mix, Dworkin says.
To better serve its customers, Brooklyn Bottling offers storage and delivery, explains Eric Miller, president of the Milton, N.Y.-based company. The company purchased a 140,000-square-foot facility to provide added storage for clients and doubled its delivery tractor-trailer fleet to 10 trucks.
In the last year, which Miller says has been its biggest ever, the organic and kosher manufacturer also added a reverse osmosis filtration system, ozonators, and state-of-the-art sand and charcoal filters. In the beginning of 2012, Brooklyn Bottling will add a 90-valve filler for non-carbonated cold-fill products, such as water, tea, lemonade and orangeade, he says.
Brooklyn Bottling also upgraded the case packer on its can line to increase capability from 60 cases a minute to 85 cases a minute, Miller says.
“We are working diligently to increase our speeds and efficiencies to handle growth of our existing customers and new customers,” he says. “It seems to be very nice that we are getting more business from existing customers and we’re not losing, we’re gaining customers. I think service with a smile, can-do attitude, caring for people’s products like they’re our own and partnering with people seems to be working.”
Getting off the ground
Start-up companies make up the majority of the clients at Kiko Foods, explains Max Burnell, president and chief executive officer of the Kenner, La.-based company. The company offers research and development services and can create a product from scratch or turn a recipe into a commercialized product, Burnell says.
The company is a high-acid packer that manufactures a variety of products, such as meal replacement beverages, juice drinks, 100 percent juices, energy drinks and medically oriented beverages, he says.
Kiko Foods operates three lines. One is dedicated to either hot- or cold-fill products in 750-ml. glass bottles on a line that runs at speeds up to 95 bottles a minute. Another is able to run PET or glass bottles as large as a half-gallon in size. Kiko Foods’ third line produces 250-ml. aseptic cartons at a rate of 100 units a minute, Burnell says.
In the last year, Miami-based Al-Rite has seen growth from existing customers as well as new ones, says Alfredo Faubel, director of sales and marketing. Al-Rite works with many start-up customers across industries.
“We’ve been doing so many different things from energy drinks to health-related drinks to beauty, but we don’t come up with the ideas, we come up with a pathway for those ideas to become actual products,” he says.
Faubel says sugar-free products are its specialty, and the company has developed a number of sugar-free cocktails for customers as well as its own brand. Regardless of beverage category, the company begins consultations by determining whether the client is committed to its idea. If so, Al-Rite can help develop prototypes, labels and packaging, Faubel explains. It also recommends that new clients start with a test market to validate whether the product is something the consumer wants, Faubel says.
“By running small runs, you always have the option to go back and refine the concept, change the formula, the labeling, the packaging, whatever. You’re not invested in a humongous amount of inventory,” he says.
To keep up with a recent surge in demand, Al-Rite is installing a third line. The new line will allow the company to dedicate one of its lines to one size of product, which will help with productivity, Faubel says.
“In a way, it’s changing the way we do things here because it forces us to improve everything else; once you increase the scale and complexity of your operation there’s a halo effect — everything else has to be upgraded as well,” he says. “It’s forcing us to get more space and to manage larger amounts of raw material, inventory, packaging and shipping. So it’s just like stepping up in the business and a lot of it has allowed us the possibility to provide more employment as well.”
With 30 years experience in the diet and energy supplement manufacturing industry, NVE Pharmaceuticals works with global customers as well as produces its own Stacker2 product line, explains Walter Orcutt, executive vice president of the Andover, N.J.-based company.
“We [make] private label for companies all over the country that are owned by celebrities, athletes, large entertainment entities as well as companies looking for a liquid line extension, start-up companies and retailer chains looking for a private label product,” he says. “Our international business has grown by leaps and bounds. Currently, as far as I know, today we are manufacturing [functional] shots in five languages and have customers from 17 countries.”
He describes NVE as a one-stop shop with departments that can help customers from inception to completion. The company is able to manufacture products using a customer’s proprietary blend, an in-house blend or blend developed in its laboratory, Orcutt says.
The company has a 40,000-square-foot facility dedicated to production of carbonated products packaged in 8.4-ounce cans. The facility is able to run 800 cans a minute, Orcutt says. NVE also owns and operates a 200,000-square-foot production facility with four high-speed liquid shot filling lines that are able to produce 30 million functional shots a month, he says. The facility also has six PET blow molding machines to blow custom bottles in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Kansas City, Mo.-based Dairy Farmers of America Inc.’s point of differentiation comes through in its 60-plus years of experience, says Ed Tilley, senior vice president of operations and business development for the company.
“We provide companies with what I would characterize as new thinking,” Tilley says. “We focus on leading innovation in the area of beverages that are beyond either carbonated soft drinks or water. So [customers] are looking to Dairy Farmers of America from the standpoint of providing a product that has an added benefit, whether it’s proteins or a nutritional platform or something that can either create a new market or capitalize on a trend.”
The company has five manufacturing sites to provide coast-to-coast and border-to-border production capabilities, he says. Dairy Farmers of America specializes in low-acid products, such as recovery drinks, adult nutritional products and weight loss products packaged in steel, aluminum or glass containers, Tilley says.
He characterizes Dairy Farmers of America as a responsive organization that has commercialized products in as little time as 60 days, he says. It has a research and development facility in Springfield, Mo., with a staff of scientists and chemical engineers. In addition, Dairy Farmers of America also has a packaging group to help customers innovate and keep up with the market, Tilley says.
Century Foods, Sparta, Wis., also maintains a full research and development team to help its customers formulate or adjust recipes as needed. The company considers itself to be protein specialists and is able to produce a variety of protein-enhanced products from dry powders to ready-to-drink beverages, says Pete Hahn, business development manager for the company.
In addition, the company also can manufacture a range of beverages, such as sports drinks, energy drinks, juices, functional waters, smoothies and yogurt drinks, Hahn explains.
The company’s plant operates a high-acid hot-fill line. For packaging, the company can run full and partial shrink sleeve and wrap-around glue labeling. To fulfill customers’ security needs, the company has the capability to provide induction seals and neckbands. It also has the ability to create registered or unregistered multipacks, Hahn says. BI