March 10, 2023 – Read Hearthside CEO, Darlene Nicosia’s Letter to the Editor of Grand Rapids Business Journal here.
We are appalled by today’s New York Times article alleging that the industry is employing underage individuals in unsafe conditions, and further suggesting some of these issues may be taking place at one of our locations. Our hearts break for the young people whose stories are documented in the article.
Hearthside Food Solutions is committed to being an employer of choice and a trusted partner to our workforce and customers. We strive to be a good corporate citizen, putting our people above all else and supporting the communities in which we live and work. These commitments are steadfast and require us to constantly find ways to evolve.
We are deeply concerned about the mischaracterizations of Hearthside. Hearthside’s longstanding requirement is that everyone working in our production facilities must be at least 18 years old. We go to great lengths to vet our workforce and ensure they comply with local, state, and federal laws, and the agencies we partner with do so as well.
The story has also alleged safety issues in our workplace. Our workforce is protected by a multi-layer approach to workplace safety: PPE, safety guards, engineering controls, and regular training. The result is a company-wide cultural imperative that safety underpins all we do. The food manufacturing industry is subject to stringent federal regulations by OSHA, which includes exacting standards and compliance requirements. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hearthside’s safety performance ranks in the top 16% of all food manufacturing companies in the country with an incident rate of 0.81, far below the national average of 5.1. Additionally, the American Bakers Association has awarded Hearthside their annual safety award every year since the award’s inception in 2019.
We take the allegations in the article seriously and have committed to these immediate next steps:
We have engaged a renowned, global advisory firm, and an independent law firm, to conduct an independent review of Hearthside’s employment practices, third-party employee engagements, plant safety protocols, and our standards of business conduct. We anticipate this review to take approximately 60 days. Following the review, we are committed to enhancing our policies and practices in line with our advisors’ recommendations.
We have implemented an enhanced process to confirm all individuals working at our facilities meet Hearthside’s workforce requirements — including our minimum age of 18 policy and compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Specifically, everyone entering our facilities must confirm their identity with a government-issued ID that must match the information on the facility badge.
We are reminding all employees to contact our ethics and compliance hotline (1-855-233-8092), provided in both English and Spanish, to confidentially report any workplace safety issues. We will immediately address any reports we receive through the hotline.
We engage reputable staffing agencies across the country to supplement our full-time and part-time staff with temporary workers, and they are a critical component of our talent infrastructure. Our contracts specifically require that these agencies supply us with individuals who meet local, state, and federal employment laws and regulations. We are reviewing our staffing agency policies and agreements to determine whether we should be implementing any changes for any of our staffing agency partners. Hearthside requested the following from all of its staffing agencies:
Provide immediate written certification that they have and will continue to comply with Hearthside’s contract, including their obligation to comply with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
Perform an internal I-9 audit on a 25% random sample size of their employees currently assigned to Hearthside by Monday, February 27, 2023.
Provide a copy of their latest third-party audit. If a third-party audit has not been completed in the last 12 months, one needs to be initiated by Friday, March 10, 2023, with a copy of completion provided to Hearthside no later than Friday, March 31, 2023. This will be an annual requirement.
We are making E-Verify a requirement for the few staffing agencies that have not yet committed to this verification method, and expect this to be fully implemented by Monday, February 27, 2023.
The claims in the article don’t match our values or how we do business. We hold ourselves and our partners to high ethical standards, and will not tolerate behavior that is unlawful, unethical, or diminishes the reputation Hearthside has worked tirelessly to build. The trust our workforce places in us to be an employer of choice is paramount, and the same goes for the trust placed in us by our customers. As we always have, we will continually improve and earn that trust every day.
Chief Executive Officer
Hearthside Food Solutions
DOWNERS GROVE, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Hearthside Food Solutions, a leading food contract manufacturer, announces the appointment of Darlene Nicosia as its new Chief Executive Officer. She succeeds Chuck Metzger, who is leaving the post after nearly five years as part of a long-term succession plan.
Most recently, Ms. Nicosia served as President of Coca-Cola’s Canada & Northeast US Zone. She brings over three decades of food industry experience with roles at The Coca-Cola Company, Kraft, and PepsiCo. A seasoned supply chain and operations executive, she previously held leadership roles at The Coca-Cola Company that spanned 29 years and included running the Company’s global Commercial Product Supply organization and serving as its Chief Procurement Officer.
Hearthside is a portfolio company of Charlesbank Capital Partners and Partners Group. Charlesbank Managing Director John Flannery said, “We sought a senior executive with proven abilities to foster and deliver transformational change across an enterprise and are delighted to have found Darlene Nicosia to lead this organization. Her strong operational credentials, deep industry relationships and experience managing complex businesses in the food category will immediately benefit the business.”
Nicosia’s appointment comes at a crucial time in Hearthside’s growth. The company expanded during the Covid crisis and also added six additional bakeries in the past year. The demand for high-quality outsourced manufacturing has continued to grow, as have the exacting requirements of world-class brands. Hearthside believes that future growth belongs to firms that can form preferred partner relationships with leading brands, delivering superior performance and value.
“For me, it’s all about teams learning and growing together, achieving ever-greater levels of performance, deepening commitment to our customers and striving to be their preferred partner. With three decades at one of the world’s great consumer brands, I have seen what is possible when people, process, and purpose unite,” said Darlene Nicosia. “Hearthside’s organization and culture are poised for transformational performance and growth, and I look forward to leading the company on that valuable mission.”
Chris Russell, a Managing Director at Partners Group, said, “The Board is grateful to Chuck Metzger for his tremendous dedication and valuable contributions over the last several years. Under his leadership, Hearthside has made significant market and product accomplishments that will serve the company well in its next phase of growth.”
Leading Hearthside will be a homecoming for Ms. Nicosia, who grew up in the Chicago area. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and holds an MSM from Georgia Institute of Technology Scheller College of Business.
About Hearthside Food Solutions
Headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois, Hearthside Food Solutions is a leading contract manufacturer and producer of baked foods, snacks, nutrition bars, frozen, refrigerated, and fresh sandwiches/entrees, and a full-service provider of food packaging services for many of the world’s premier brands. The company is also the industry’s largest private bakery. Hearthside’s production network includes 43 facilities, including four in Europe, with a workforce of 12,000. In 2018 Hearthside was acquired by Charlesbank Capital Partners and Partners Group. For more information on Hearthside Food Solutions, please visit www.hearthsidefoods.com.
About Charlesbank Capital Partners Based in Boston and New York, Charlesbank Capital Partners is a middle-market private investment firm with more than $15 billion of capital raised since inception. Charlesbank focuses on management-led buyouts and growth capital financings, and also engages in opportunistic credit and technology investments. The firm seeks to build companies with sustainable competitive advantage and excellent prospects for growth. For more information, please visit www.charlesbank.com.
About Partners Group
Partners Group is a leading global private markets firm. Since 1996, the firm has invested USD 185 billion in private equity, private real estate, private debt, and private infrastructure on behalf of its clients globally. Partners Group seeks to generate strong returns through capitalizing on thematic growth trends and transforming attractive businesses and assets into market leaders. The firm is a committed, responsible investor and aims to create sustainable returns with lasting, positive impact for all its stakeholders. With USD 131 billion in assets under management as of 30 June 2022, Partners Group provides an innovative range of bespoke client solutions to institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds, family offices and private individuals globally. The firm employs more than 1,600 diverse professionals across 20 offices worldwide and has regional headquarters in Baar-Zug, Switzerland; Denver, USA; and Singapore. It has been listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange since 2006 (symbol: PGHN). For more information, please visit www.partnersgroup.com or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
MEDIA CONTACT Carl Melville 760-671-1110 email@example.com
DOWNERS GROVE, IL – December 29, 2021— Hearthside Food Solutions, LLC (“Hearthside”), the industry’s leading contract manufacturer, has completed the acquisition of Weston Foods Ambient Division assets first announced on November 15. The Ambient Division assets being acquired includes six North American locations producing cookies, crackers, cones, wafers and related baked products.
The completed acquisition expands the Hearthside network to 43 facilities in the US, and Europe, and now Canada. This acquisition brings 1,100 full-time employees, and an expanded base of premier food company customers to the Hearthside network.
“These new facilities possess a culture of quality and performance that aligns well with our customer-focused, people-first approach to business. This will enable a successful and timely integration with our core business.”
— Chuck Metzger, CEO of Hearthside Foods
Baking is one of Hearthside’s four primary contract manufacturing categories, including bars, fresh and frozen entrees, and food packaging. The six new locations bring additional capacity and an expanded ability to meet the needs of existing and new customers.
“These new locations are an ideal complement to our existing Hearthside bakery business, expanding our capabilities and scope of service for our premier customers.” said Cade Culver, CCO of Hearthside Foods.
The six new manufacturing facilities are located in North Sioux City, SD; Front Royal, VA; Green Bay, WI; Somerset, PA; Columbus, OH; and Kitchener, Ontario. With these new locations, Hearthside now has production capabilities in 15 US states, Canada, and Europe.
About Hearthside Food Solutions Headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois, Hearthside Food Solutions is a leading contract manufacturer and producer of baked foods, snacks, nutrition bars, frozen, refrigerated, and fresh sandwiches/entrees and a full-service provider of food packaging services for many of the world’s premier brands. Hearthside’s network includes 43 facilities, including four in Europe, with a workforce of 12,000. In 2018 Hearthside was acquired by Charlesbank Capital Partners and Partners Group. For more information on Hearthside Food Solutions, visit www.hearthsidefoods.com.
DOWNERS GROVE, IL – November 15, 2021— Hearthside Food Solutions, LLC (“Hearthside”), the industry’s leading contract manufacturer, today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire the assets of the Cookies, Crackers, Cones and Wafers Division of Weston Foods, which includes six North American bakery facilities (including one in Canada).
This acquisition expands the Hearthside network to 43 production facilities in the US, Canada and Europe, bringing 1,100 full-time employees, additional production capacity, and an expanded base of premier food company customers.
Baking is one of Hearthside’s four primary production categories, along with bars, fresh and frozen entrees, and food packaging. The Weston acquisition adds new capacity and an expanded ability to meet the needs of Hearthside’s customers.
“The Weston acquisition is an ideal complement to our existing production network and business, bringing baking capacity, a roster of premier customers, expanded capabilities, and enhanced geographic coverage. These synergies benefit our current and new customers alike. We look forward to welcoming Weston’s 1,100 employees into the Hearthside family.”
— Chuck Metzger, Hearthside CEO.
The six new facilities are located in North Sioux City, SD; Front Royal, VA; Green Bay, WI; Somerset, PA; Columbus, OH; and Kitchener, Ontario. With these new locations, Hearthside will have production capabilities in 15 US states, Canada, and Europe.
The transaction remains subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions. The parties anticipate the transaction to close before the end of the first quarter of 2022. Ropes & Gray LLP and Stikeman Elliott LLP are acting as legal advisors to Hearthside.
About Hearthside Food Solutions
Headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois, Hearthside Food Solutions is a leading contract manufacturer and producer of baked foods, snacks, nutrition bars, frozen, refrigerated, and fresh sandwiches/entrees as well as a full-service provider of food packaging services for many of the world’s premier brands. Not accounting for the Weston acquisition, Hearthside’s network included 37 food production facilities, including four in Europe, with a workforce of 12,000. For more information on Hearthside Food Solutions, visit www.hearthsidefoods.com.
Today Food Processing Magazine, the food industry’s leading information source for food and beverage manufacturers, announced Hearthside Food Solutions has earned their coveted 2019 Food Processor of the Year Award. Each year the Food Processor of the Year Award recognizes innovation and operational excellence among leading food companies. 2019 is the first time this award has ever gone to a contract manufacturer.
“Recent award recipients include General Mills, ConAgra, Chobini, Pinnacle Foods, Smithfield Foods, and Nestle among others.”
This year’s honoree didn’t exist when we started naming Processors of the Year back in 2005. The company has no brands of its own and was assembled by private equity firms (and a former Big Food executive with a vision). But, almost overnight, Hearthside Food Solutions has amassed sales of $3 billion, operates 39 plants, including four in Europe, and is the industry’s largest contract manufacturer.
Hearthside Food Solutions is, first and foremost, a manufacturer, the actual producer of some of the most famous, successful and highest-quality baked goods in the U.S. The biggest marketers of cookies, crackers and bars entrust their brands to this Downers Grove, Ill., company. While Hearthside wouldn’t name customers.
Read the rest of the story on Food Processing.