Bringing High Quality and Stewardship to Food Production

Written by David Caldwell

As our planet enters 2020, we need better, more ethical methods of food production to accommodate a growing population, and in America’s heartland, PacMoore Products, Inc. has engaged in this type of quality contract food production since 1989. Chief Executive Officer Bill Moore and his leadership team see the company as stewards, bringing a focus on employee caretaking and a wealth of advanced food processing techniques such as spray drying, extrusion, and both dry and liquid blending.

Today, PacMoore, with over four hundred employees and three separate locations in Indiana and Illinois, is celebrating over thirty years in operation as an industry leading contract food manufacturer. Its values and faith-based principles inform its work ethic in the Midwest and across the United States.

PacMoore’s most noteworthy feature and arguably its greatest strength is the quality of its workforce and its emphasis on second chances for the people it employs. This has earned the company a growing and loyal employee base. It works with local organizations such as the Indiana Dream Team, helping workers with troubled pasts get a new lease on life.

Chaplains have been active at each facility since 2006, providing regular guidance to any and all who desire it. The company feels it must go beyond what is offered by the typical employer to provide spiritual support as well. “We believe deeply in spiritual growth, and that’s where our chaplains and our culture come in,” says Vice President of Marketing and Legal Affairs Chris Bekermeier, though he adds that participation is completely voluntary.

As part of its training focus for employees, PacMoore provides a week-long orientation for all new hires, from production workers to executive staff. That, as Bekermeier explains, gives employees an introduction to the company’s unique work environment. “Employees understand the work better when they begin and they also work safer and more effectively,” he says, elaborating that the company learned long ago that not every employee is prepared for the physical labor and rigorous safeguards that are common when working in food production.

The company also exercises a series of skill ladders that divide staff into a distinct hierarchy of responsibilities. For employees wishing to move up to greater responsibilities, these skill ladders plainly state skills that must be mastered before they can advance.

Finally, Bill Moore himself is directly involved in leadership training and passing those lessons to his staff. “He’s always undergoing leadership training personally, and then he brings that into our organization. He is out in our plants consistently training the management-level employees,” Bekermeier relates. The result, he explains, is a reflection of Moore’s own philosophy as he “had the foresight of realizing that people are generally your biggest addition. It’s not primarily your equipment or your capabilities; it’s having the right people to execute plans.”

PacMoore’s other great strength lies in its flexibility. The company boasts both linear and non-linear means of production, providing small or large production runs to customers’ exact specifications. Thanks to its extensive expertise in food production methods such as extrusion, spray drying, and wet or dry blending, it can produce top-quality food products reliably and efficiently.

“This benefits the customers who want to make commitments or even investments because they get exactly the type of added processing capabilities they need, and it benefits other customers and prospects because we have an expanded offering for them,” Bekermeier explains.

As a co-packer, PacMoore has an unusually close working relationship with its customers. “Our customers really feel like we’re an extension of their supply chain,” Bekermeier remarks. Because PacMoore does not manufacture its own products or brands, its customers, all of which are food producers in their own right, see them as a partner rather than a potential competitor.

“We don’t create our own brands or products, and that creates a high level of trust and integration with our customers,” Bekermeier says, “because they know that we’re not competing against them but care only about their growth and success.” As a result, many customers have enjoyed extensive and ongoing relationships with the company for the majority of its history.

PacMoore’s locations in facilities in Indiana and Illinois place the business in an excellent distribution position. While the company’s customers are nationwide, the majority of its food suppliers are in the Midwest, offering a smaller logistical tail and shorter turnaround times. “The Midwest has a huge advantage for freight lanes, interstates,” Bekermeier notes. “From a logistics perspective, we’re in a great location.”

One of its most recent additions is the PacMoore Innovation Lab. This small facility, as its name implies, tests new extrusion production methods to create new products on a small scale before they can be commercialized. The lab’s extruder is a 57mm twin screw, which is perfect for this early stage environment, in comparison to the 120mm production size at the Mooresville, IN plant.

“It’s a very economical way for our customers to utilize our services and conduct product development with us to validate their concepts,” Bekermeier explains. In addition, the lab offers small-scale production capabilities, enabling the company to create small product runs for its customers with the company’s trademark precision. These small runs allow customers to scale up new products efficiently instead of being forced to produce large volumes before market demand is fully established.

The lab has earned AA certification from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), a globally-respected trade group that maintains stringent food production standards worldwide. “Because of this certification our pilot facility can produce commercial product that goes to our customers, to their customers and to the consumer,” Bekermeier sums up.

It is this innovation that keeps PacMoore on the cutting edge in food production and has helped it earn its reputation as a one-stop-shop for packaged foods. Today, the company’s versatility allowed it to break into the rapidly-emerging sector of plant-based meats where its mastery of dry extrusion allows it to easily create and manipulate textured vegetable proteins (TVPs), the staple ingredients in new plant-based meat substitutes.

“Not everyone can do it well,” Bekermeier says. “We can do it very well.” TVPs can be manufactured from pea, soy, wheat, and even almonds. “The plant-based meat space is exploding.” He knows of at least seventy-five client companies presently involved in the growing industry.

PacMoore’s expertise makes it an ideal partner for food companies hoping to manufacture these plant-based meats. “When we demonstrate how we can utilize our innovation lab to help them create unique products in that [industry], they are so excited to use us to help them grow in this category that is just exploding right now.”

PacMoore also continues to utilize extrusion to process high protein crisps and other inclusions for nutritional bars and finished goods. And the company is experiencing significant demand from customers to expand its supply of healthy snacks for adults, children, and even toddlers.

Expansion in extrusion will help PacMoore maintain its profit margins as it, like many other manufacturers, works to successfully integrate automation into its business model. The company is fortunate to have an exceptionally business-friendly home in Indiana, but this environment has resulted in an increasingly competitive job market. It has added eight automated packaging systems and is currently investigating an automated filler addition to move from volumetric fill to more precise weight-guided filling.

In addition to this competitive job market, food producers are adjusting to the recently implemented Food Safety Modernization Act, which brings more stringent oversight to food production. The act enhances the traceability of many food products, ensuring that every step along the supply chain is highly visible and making food producers more accountable.

But far from grumbling, PacMoore welcomes the regulation as it brings all industry companies up to a higher standard. The company has been achieving the highest BRC ratings for many years as part of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a business-driven initiative for food safety improvement. Further reflecting its high quality standards, PacMoore has also achieved exclusive food standard certifications to process organic, gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO, and halal food products.

As PacMoore looks toward the future, it sees a world in need of feeding and is working to measure up to these needs. “We want to be a part of the worldwide food supply solution that needs to double the food supply by 2050,” Bekermeier states, adding the company’s move into plant-based meats reflects this move.

The company’s use of automation serves to augment production capabilities while not sacrificing employee productivity. As Bekermeier explains, the goal of feeding the world ties deeply into the company’s faith-based Christian roots which guide its decision-making process.

“Though our business is about processing food, we want to engage in product production that is increasingly beneficial to the health of human beings, so one of our decision making grids for adding new capabilities is what type of products will these capabilities produce.”

Yet while PacMoore is increasingly looking to higher production totals in the future, its primary goal remains its employee transformation stories and stewardship. “We only have one life, and we’re all given gifts,” Bekermeier says. “Everything we have, we’ve been given, so what’re we going to do with it?”

While the company also supports charity events such as food drives and 5k runs, PacMoore looks more deeply at the micro approach. “If we can change somebody, bring them out of prison, and change their life, that’ll change the community,” Bekermeier says. “We feel like those are the best impacts we have.”

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