Hearthside searches for 'creative' solutions at iba

by Dan Malovany
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Hearthside recently acquired VSI, the largest European producer of nutrition, diet and functional bars.

MUNICH, GERMANY – For Rich Scalise, chairman and chief executive officer of Hearthside Food Solutions, attending iba 2015 for the first time has new meaning since the Downers Grove, Ill.-based company agreed to acquire VSI, Leerdam, The Netherlands, from NPM Capital in August. VSI, which is the largest European producer of nutrition, diet and functional bars, expanded Hearthside’s presence in the bar category beyond North America.

“Our acquisition is around energy and nutrition bars, and there is a lot of crossover between the two companies,” he noted. “It’s not about regional tastes and profiles as much as it is about consumer trends.”

When it comes to health and wellness, he added, those trends are burgeoning globally. Along with the acquisition of VSI, the purchase of a former PowerBar production facility in Boise, Idaho, will allow Hearthside to rapidly scale up VSI’s formulations and product development to full-scale production in the Americas. At iba, Mr. Scalise is searching for “new creative approaches” to bring product innovation to both the European and North American markets.

Rich Scalise, chairman and c.e.o. of Hearthside Food Solutions.

“For us, it’s about taking a company that has been very successful and bringing it to the U.S. with new products that address the (health) claims that are taking place here,” said Mr. Scalise, who also serves as chairman of the American Bakers Association.

In acquiring VSI, Hearthside added three European manufacturing facilities to a portfolio that includes 20 U.S.-based facilities, including the newly acquired plant in Idaho. Those three European bar plants can produce about 260 million bars annually. In all, Hearthside produces more than 3 billion cold-pressed and baked bars annually. The company has more than $1 billion in annual sales.

Hearthside offers a diverse product portfolio focused on four categories: bars, cookies/crackers, granola/cereals and snacks. The company manufactures more than 150 brands and 1,400 stock-keeping units for its top customers. Hearthside also is involved actively in the packaging arena following its 2013 merger with Ryt-way, Lakeville, Minn. Ryt-way specializes in primarily co-packaging dry foods. It also produces packaging equipment under the Cloud Equipment brand.

Mr. Scalise said bakers are looking to differentiate themselves through unique packaging concepts that are used in other food categories and even in other industries. This year, iba introduced the “Packaging Area,” which includes 50 exhibitors in Hall B-1 of the exposition center. In all, show organizers estimate that 180 companies will be exhibiting packaging equipment at iba 2015.
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