Blount Wins Manufacturing Excellence Award from Providence Business News
PBN Says "Blount builds a history of making the right moves"
Blount Fine Foods is one of the region’s most recognized family businesses. It has been processing food since 1946, starting with frozen shellfish. The Blount name signifies strength in manufacturing traditions, but its explosive growth also proves that there’s a forward-thinking strategy at play.
The successes in Blount’s recent past and the firm’s optimistic corporate outlook have earned it many recent awards and accolades from sources including the Family Business Association, Ernst & Young, Boston Business Journal and Providence Business News. The company has operations in Warren and Fall River.
Todd Blount, president of the company since 2000 when he took over the reins from his father, Ted, said that there are three major forces behind his company’s continued success. First and foremost, the company has changed its product line to ensure that it stays relevant.
Now, the company makes 350 soups from proprietary recipes, including 75 varieties of clam chowder, premium side dishes and specialty foods. It produces 140 million servings of soup a year. It has been quite a journey.
“When we were making frozen shellfish, there was always the challenge of limited market size and availability,” Blount said. “We’ve figured out how to make more products that are more applicable in the future, with unlimited growth potential.” The company’s soups and custom foods are branded as well as for private labels at restaurants and retail locations.
The commitment to quick and responsive expansion of its offerings is a welcome outcome of this corporate philosophy. Blount says that unlike other companies that have products in gestation internally for long periods, his company turns out new products that are made to the specifications of its customers, supported by its sales-focused research and development department.
“We have a three-to-six month R&D cycle. The cycle in prepared foods is very short, so you have to take a little bit more risk, and put some products out that may or may not be perfect,” Blount said, “But part of what makes us great is being flexible and testing things live and trying not to make too big of a packaging investment so if it doesn’t work, we can discontinue those things.”
Blount credits the company’s consistent investment in its facilities and technology as the second reason for its continued success. Blount hasn’t just paid lip service to keeping up with the times; he’s pumped significant capital into making Blount Fine Foods’ technology and facilities worthy of the manufacturing renaissance of which they are a part.
“We’re always investing in equipment and automation,” he said, noting that one exciting innovation Blount has invested in recently was a machine to make single-serve refrigerated cups for soup – something the market had yet to see. “It keeps us competitive by allowing us not only to up capacity, but to be efficient and fast when we get a particular order.”
The increase in capacity that Blount speaks of is the third prong of Blount’s approach to business: “We’re diverse. We sell to restaurants and retailers. Everyone is going to eat. So the question is, where are they going to eat? One of our competencies that has kept us growing is that we have many different categories, so as the consumer moves around, hopefully we meet them wherever we are. We grow with the consumer more than the retailers.”
And that growth is fairly incontrovertible based on net sales figures, the result in no small measure to the significant expansion and investment the company undertook during the Great Recession, when Blount responded not by scaling back, but by pushing forward.
“The stability of our company allowed us to borrow money at low rates, and the contracting and pricing rates were low. Our timing was fast. We took some risk that we felt would pay for itself in the long run, and our distribution diversity gave us the confidence to do that,” he said. “One of our values is making great decisions for the next generation, not for the next year.”