When you eat at a fast-food restaurant, you’re often met with the famous entreaty “Do you want fries with that?” But if you ever order a smoothie (frozen fruit shake) in a health food shop, you’ll be asked instead “Do you want supplements with that?” as the server points to optional vitamins, minerals and protein powders.
“The trend in our category is a shift in households for more healthy alternatives. A new consumer has emerged driven by health and wellness concerns and needs. These consumers are changing the way they live, shop, buy, and drink, not only for themselves, but for their entire family,” says Kevin Meyer, vice president of sales and marketing at Century Foods International. “Parents are also looking for convenient solutions, so winning products in the market must meet the health and nutrition that adults are looking for, and a flavor and taste that kids want. The goal is to include the convenience and nutrition factors in the product and still have it taste good.”
Century Foods International has been making nutraceuticals taste great since 1991. Founded in rural western Wisconsin as a broker and trader of dairy products, Century Foods International soon began blending dairy commodity products targeting the sports nutrition industry. In 1996, the company ranked fourth on Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing small companies. In the years that followed, the company developed new capabilities and entered new markets by upgrading facilities and adding agglomerators.
“Agglomerating is the process by which smaller particles are merged together to form larger particles for better dispersion in liquid,” Meyer explains. “Think of the possibilities of taking high-protein dairy whey, putting it into a powder form and enabling it to be mixed into a shake.” That high-protein dairy whey, also known as whey protein concentrate, is the main ingredient in many of the company’s nutritional powders and products.
Century Foods International has grown into a full-service manufacturer specializing in dairy and vegetable proteins, muscle-building and weight-loss powders, ready-to-drink beverages, and nutritional bars. These products are sold to the health, sports, nutritional and food supplement industries. The company enjoys a strong market share in the multi-billion dollar category of sports nutrition supplements and functional foods. Its customers include makers of the nation’s top-selling branded nutritional products. (The company does not release the names of its customers for reasons of confidentiality.)
In its most important recent business milestone, Century Foods International was acquired by Hormel Foods Corporation (NYSE:HRL) in 2003 as part of Hormel’s strategic focus on growing its specialty foods segment. Based in Austin, Minn., Hormel Foods Corporation is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer-branded food and meat products, many of which are among the best-known and trusted names in the industry.
Why did Hormel choose Century Foods International, a small, niche company? “Century Foods offered Hormel an opportunity to continue gaining market share in the sports nutrition and health nutrition markets, as well as add additional dairy protein ingredients to market for the Hormel Specialty Products Group, which specializes in selling ingredients to branded consumer products companies, ” Meyer confirms, noting the company’s approximately 500 employees. “We have four world class manufacturing facilities located in Sparta, state-of-the-art labs with award-winning food scientists, chemists, microbiologists, nutritionists and engineers on staff.”
Enhanced by Hormel Foods Corporation’s distribution channels, Century Foods International is well positioned to pursue new markets and customers. “It has been a good fit with Hormel,” Meyer says. “In addition to the sports nutrition markets, we are focusing our sales efforts towards consumer product companies, private label opportunities and gaining more diversification within the company.
Stamps of Approval
Furthering its portfolio of research and quality-driven accomplishments, in December 2005 Century Foods International became officially registered by NSF International for compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). NSF guidelines are based on FDA GMPs that verify raw materials, review quality control and standard operating procedures.
“Century Foods International’s acquisition of the NSF GMP Registration is further testament to our commitment to food safety and quality,” adds President Thomas Miskowski. “Our customers can take comfort in knowing that we will work tirelessly to ensure the safety of their products.”
The company has also earned certifications for world markets and associations that bring limitless possibilities for expanding sales. “We have the ability to produce, package, and export as required by our customers to any country in the world,” Meyer says. “We don’t have a brand of our own. Everything is contract manufactured so if our customer launches a product in Europe, we are E.U. certified as well as certified for export to Australia.” Other credentials include USDA AMS-audited blenders and agglomerators; Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection inspected; facilities listed in FDA’s Interstate Milk Shippers list, Kosher Certified products available, annual AIB GMP audits; and ISO: 9001.
“We will continue our efforts to stay in tune to the industry’s implementation of GMPs and increased regulation efforts,” Meyer notes. “Century Foods is well positioned to exceed these regulations, and I believe they will level the playing field and improve overall quality and consumer confidence in the nutraceutical industry.”
A Healthy Menu
Century Foods International offers a menu of nutritional powders, ready-to-drink beverages, bars, and also specialty cheese products. With Americans growing ever more aware of the need to make healthy eating choices the company’s offerings provide important solutions for busy adults and kids, as well as athletes.
Century Foods International is an industry leader in making nutritional powders. The company’s unique development and processing capabilities offer endless options for products designed to meet the specialized needs of its customers. Century Foods International has become a one-stop-shop providing a full-range of services from concept, research and development, manufacturing, and packaging in a wide variety of formats including pouches, jars and pails.
Available in a range of formulas, including meal replacements, protein drinks, muscle-building and energy drinks; nutritional powders are formulated to be easily digested, easily absorbed, palatable and convenient. Products can be formulated with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other supplements to meet the needs of the intended function. Featuring a host of flavor options, Century Foods International works with customers to specially formulate powdered products.
Ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages are another huge segment for the company and for the market’s insatiable thirst for high-protein drinks, energy drinks, juices, waters and smoothies. Available in popular and convenient RTD formulas, Century Foods International provides a variety of options including nutritional beverages, non-carbonated high-acid beverages, energy drinks, weight-loss drinks, and waters. The company can package customers’ existing products, assist with developing a new product or offer Century Food’s own private label formulas such as CenFreshT. CenFresh is a shelf-stable, high-quality RTD
liquid drink designed to provide superior taste and performance for the sport and health food marketplace. It is 99 percent fat free, carbohydrate free and contains the highest level of naturally concentrated glycomacropeptides available in the food industry today. The CenFresh formula can be customized to meet a variety of special market needs. RTD packaging options include bottle sizes from 8 oz. to 32 oz. Labeling applications are full PVC shrink sleeve or full wrap paper, paper laminate, paper foil of plastic film.
In addition, the company has applied its R&D expertise to packaging solutions as well as products. Recently, Century Foods International unveiled an innovative Trigger CapT technology for beverage containers. The Trigger Cap has a sealed reservoir that can hold up to two grams of liquid or powder, which consumers can release into the drink quickly and easily before consumption. The packaging innovation is designed to hold anything from flavors and electrolytes to agglomerated supplements and live cultures. Shelf-stable liquid or powder can be released into the solution by pressing the Trigger Cap after removing the tamper-resistant plastic cap. It’s just one example of the clever ideas that the company has come up with to serve changing consumer needs.”RTD is a hot market because of user convenience. “These products are becoming increasingly popular, marketed towards children as a snack replacement alternative between meals. It just gives another option that’s convenient for parents to make sure kids are getting their nutrients and protein for the day.” Meyer says.
Century Foods also offers some trademarked quality food ingredient powders. Isolacr is the company’s proprietary Whey Protein Isolate. This essential ingredient in many fortified products is a homogeneous, free-flowing whey protein isolate powder specially processed from fresh sweet whey via the microfiltration/ultrafiltration process to concentrate the protein fractions. This process retains the protein fractions in excellent balance and keeps essential minerals while minimizing sodium. Isolac provides an excellent functional and nutritional source of all-natural protein for use in dietary, health and sport food and beverage systems. Other trademarked offerings include CenPremT Powders, a quality-assured line of commodity dairy powders, dairy product replacers and blends with varied and extensive applications. CenPremT Tableting Sugar is specially processed into larger particle size to provide sweetness, flowability and compression capabilities. It gives instant dispersibility and excellent solubility to perform well in confections, specialty dry mixes and tableting applications such as mints.
“We can use our in house ingredients or have customers’ ingredients brought in; we can then agglomerate, blend and package into various forms and sizes of packaging. Meyer says. “For some major consumer product companies we will take the ingredients, agglomerate, blend and package them for further processing at their facilities. Essentially we can be a full turnkey service, from concept to market, or anything in between.”
It all comes together at Century Foods International’s four production facilities in Sparta, Wis., totaling approximately 400,000 square feet and including some of the largest agglomerators in North America, along with custom engineered fluid bed dryers. The company has devoted over 25,000 square feet to a modern research pilot center for the development and testing of products.ÿThe company’s research and development staff is a leading technical team in the protein supplement business well recognized for its expertise in food ingredients and nutrition.
Corporate headquarters and R&D are housed in plant number four along with 185,000 square feet of production space including two big agglomerators and two plow blenders. Wet/dry blending capabilities run from 8,000 to 12,000 pounds per hour; ribbon blending from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds per hour; and agglomerating from 9,000 to 15,000 pounds per hour. Packaging can range from 50-pound bags to 1,000-pound totes.
Plant number three is the RTD facility with 105,000 square feet of production, warehousing and packaging operations. The RTD plant includes a high-speed, high-acid line for fruity flavored beverages and combines protein, vitamins and minerals in up to 300 bottles per minute. “We’re probably the best in the industry at doing that. We understand the protein side of it and are able to get large quantities of protein in our drinks, have them be stable and taste good as well,” Meyer says. Bottle filling processes, equipment and capabilities include non-carbonated, high-acid drinks; hot and ambient fill; high shear mixing; jacketed and agitated batch tanks; homogenizer; de-aerator; plastic bottles from 8 to 32 ounces; line fill rates from 250 to 400 per minute, and case fill from 6 to 24 count.
Plant two is a 35,000-square-foot cheese plant that produces processed and pasteurized cheese and imitation cheese sold in bulk as an ingredient. Sales out of the facility are handled by the Hormel Specialty Products group.
Plant number one includes 70,000 square feet of production, an agglomerator and blender for dry products processing, along with another laboratory. In addition to agglomerating and blending, capabilities include particle sizing, instantizing, fluid bed drying, and wet/dry processing.
In addition to its core ingredients and products, the company can formulate powders for high protein cake mixes, cookie mixes, muffins and other bakery items. “If it’s a powder product we can develop it, fortify it, blend it and package it,” Meyer says.
The Wisconsin location in America’s dairy center positions Century Foods International perfectly for suppliers and distribution. “We are located in the hub of the dairy industry where our essential ingredients are located. We are in close proximity and have access to suppliers on demand. The Hormel distribution system is at our disposal as well. This has become a big advantage for us,” Meyer observes.
The company enjoys continued growth as the health mega trend and synergies with parent Hormel propel its sales upward. “Our customers are sales and marketing companies that want to concentrate on marketing their products, selling them and building their brand market share within their categories. What we bring to them is the facilities, R&D, and a quality product that enables them to concentrate on their core competencies. That’s how the partnership works,” Meyers stresses. “From development, manufacturing and testing to packaging, Century Foods has the experience to provide a turnkey solution for our customers’ retail product launches. We have a company-wide understanding that whatever we do bears our customer’s name. That is why quality and service are so important to us.”