Nobody said the journey to be the best was ever easy. It requires tens of thousands of baby steps on the path of continuous improvement and a few game-changing milestones that often alter the direction of a business for years to come.

Just four years ago, Hearthside Food Solutions began a series of acquisitions that has made it one of the nation’s largest co-manufacturers of snacks and baked goods. Hearthside’s latest milestone — one that propelled its annual sales north of $1 billion — came this spring with the merger of Ryt-way Industries, a provider of contract manufacturing services and packaging equipment. The move gave Hearthside increasing flexibility to provide some of the world’s biggest branded companies with more packaging options.

In the co-manufacturing world, the ability to survive — and even thrive — relies on how a company adjusts to constantly shifting trends while maintaining the ability to be fast and flexible yet drive value, according to Rich Scalise, Hearthside’s top executive.

“In order to win, we have to be faster at what we do,” he observed. “We have to be flexible, and we have to add additional value. And value is not just about price. It’s about the whole equation of quality, service and employee engagement.”

It’s a new world out there. Contract manufacturers need to adjust to it. Check outBaking & Snack’s September issue for more on Hearthside’s changing business option.