With such a hands-on process, it would be easy to assume that Jimmy’s Functional Snacks’ manufacturing business Nettie’s Kitchen, Chicago, struggles to retain its 50 employees, but the leadership prides itself on the way it has been able to take care of employees, especially as the company has grown. Kevin DeLozier, SQF practitioner and supply chain manager, proudly pointed out that the company has finally grown enough to be able to offer paid holiday time, and Annette Del Prete, president of Nettie’s Kitchen, noted that now they can offer much more competitive pay, which is critical in manufacturing. 

Ms. Del Prete’s background in restaurants has led to a break room with a full kitchen and plenty of snacks and beverages on hand for employees. 

“Felipo is always making lunch for people,” Mr. DeLozier said. “The employees were complaining about how hot it was, and the next weekend they were on the roof installing air conditioning, providing extra fans, longer breaks and more food to eat.”   

In addition to a comfortable work environment and more competitive wages, Ms. Del Prete pointed out that it’s critical to listen to your employees even when they are complaining and play mediator when employees are in a dispute. Her husband, Felipo Del Prete, general manager of Nettie’s Kitchen, encourages employees to create a peaceful work environment. 

“At the end of the day, we’re all here because we need the job, we need to work, and so let’s work well together because we have to spend a lot of time together,” he said. “You can leave and go somewhere else, but you’ll just find more problems.” 

Nettie’s Kitchen is also a place where employees are encouraged to seek advancement. Ms. Del Prete said they try to promote from within whenever possible, identifying employees who possess the skill or ambition to grow within the company. She pointed to both Kyle Lasser, production manager, and Mr. DeLozier as examples. Mr. Lasser started out building merchandising materials and now manages the production team. Mr. DeLozier started out in the warehouse and is now in charge of the company’s quality and food safety program. 

“You can do whatever you want with this company,” he said. “It all depends on what you’re willing to take on, how hard you’re willing to work and how much risk you’re willing to take to try something new.”

As the company automates production more, the leadership team hopes to move their employees into more fulfilling roles and reduce the amount of manual labor the process currently demands. Even now, because the leadership team has each taken a turn at production, they have tremendous respect for their team.

This article is an excerpt from the December 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Jimmy! Functional Snacks, click here.