Hearthside in the News

Bars Without Borders is the cover story of the October 2018 issue of Baking & Snack Magazine. A portion of the story appears below

Bars Without Borders – Baking & Snack October 2017

With its fast and flexible model and European acquisition, Hearthside Food Solutions is on a path toward world-class manufacturing … and bars without borders

by Joanie Spencer

For the past decade, watching the bar market has been a bit like gluing your eyes to the television experiencing a drama unfold. In the late 2000s, snacking habits went on the rise, but while athletic lifestyles began to gain popularity, sports and nutrition bars tanked.

All the while, Rich Scalise, chairman and CEO of Hearthside Food Solutions, observed both markets — baked snack bars and cold-form sports/nutrition bars — from a mezzanine-level view and waited to make the right move. “We’d been a bar player for a long time in the snack side of the business,” Mr. Scalise said of the Downers Grove, IL-based company and the nation’s leading co-manufacturer of bars, cookies, crackers and other baked goods and snacks. “When we started our business in 2009, the recession had already begun. The snack business held up nicely, but the energy and nutritional bar business collapsed pretty quickly.”

Known for its commercialization capabilities, Hearthside easily withstood the recession not only with snack bars but also other snack foods. “Customers bring us their formula, and we can commercialize it and take it to production,” said Dwayne Hughes, senior vice-­president, supply chain.

As snack bar sales blossomed, Hearthside organic growth was enhanced by its model of one to two acquisitions per year. All the while, Mr. Scalise kept an eye on that elusive sports nutrition bar segment, which earned a reputation for turning out the kind of product its consumers had to — didn’t want to — eat. In other words, all function and no flavor. Weightlifters who wanted to get their protein from a bar would tolerate the taste until they just became accustomed to it. (Bars without Borders continues…)

But by the next decade, the tide began to turn. Some co-manufacturers were taking on niche markets for functional bars aimed at very specific users, and they brought their own R&D innovation to the table. “We were watching the market like everyone else,” Mr. Scalise recalled. “It popped quickly, so we moved as fast as we could.”

In 2015, Hearthside entered the arena of functional bar production with the acquisition of VSI, headquartered in Leerdham, The Netherlands, and purchased a shuttered PowerBar plant in Boise, ID. Today, this contract manufacturing juggernaut controls a total of 3.2 million sq ft of production space in 24 facilities with about 2.4 billion lb of capacity annually, producing more than 1.5 billion bars worldwide each year.

The VSI partnership not only launched Hearthside onto the global bar production scene, but it also married VSI’s extensive R&D capabilities with Hearthside’s proven model for operational efficiency and continuous improvement. As the company brings VSI-inspired ­innovation to its pilot line in Boise, the co-manufacturer is poised to capitalize on an exploding trend that transcends geography.

To read the entire Bars Without Borders story in the October 2017 issue of Baking & Snack. click here.