Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Co-packing of premium prepared foods
Founder and CEO J.W. Roth saw how technology was changing food -- and he was determined to be at the forefront of that change.
"Food was packaged 10, 15 years ago primarily for shelf life using preservatives," Roth says. That has changed, he says, with the development of high-pressure pasteurization, or HPP, a cold pasteurization process that uses hydrostatic pressure to kill pathogens. The technology allows food to be packaged "wholesome, healthy, without preservatives," he adds, but with an extended shelf life.
It's a technology Roth Industries employs at its new plant in northern Colorado Springs -- what Roth calls "the most state-of-the-art ready-meal plant in the United States."
Roth Industries manufactures, packages and labels ready meals, or prepared meals, "for a variety of clients," Roth says. "You would consider us a co-packer. We don't currently pack our own brand; we're going to at some point in time."
Clients include large grocery brands that he can't identify because of nondisclosure agreements, Roth says. Roth Industries also just launched Fresh by Transform, a line of high-protein, low-carb ready meals in a partnership with Chris and Heidi Powell of ABC's Extreme Weight Loss. The line is direct-to-consumer, though the plan is to get it into grocery stores by early 2018. "It's a massive, massive project for us," Roth says.
The direct-to-consumer market is Roth Industries' key focus. "The fastest-growing segment of grocery right now is direct -- Blue Apron, HelloFresh, this multibillion dollar piece of the market," Roth says. "And we want to be the first complete ready meal, all natural, delivered to people's homes under the HPP process."
HPP is not the only advanced technology that helps Roth Industries stand out, Roth says. The company uses "the most sophisticated multivac packaging equipment in the world" and "the best ovens, the best smokers on planet Earth."
"There is nothing about Roth Industries that isn't state-of-the-art," Roth says, "from the equipment that we have to the facility that we have to the people that we have."
That includes the company's culinary director, Christopher Graham. Before joining Roth Industries, Graham built products "for almost every name you can think of," Roth says, including Whole Foods and Costco. Roth calls Graham "a cutting-edge guy" who can blend the culinary qualities of a premium chef with the newest technologies in packaging.
The staff also includes a few family members. Roth's son, Mitchell, is president and chief operating officer; Roth also has a nephew who works in the plant, a daughter in sales, and a son-in-law who drives trucks. "It's about as family as it can get," Roth says.
Challenges: "This is not one of those kinds of things where you can go around and pre-sell yourself," Roth says. "You've got to spend $5 million, $6 million, $7 million before you make that first sale. So the biggest challenge in our business was we had to go out and build a plant that could manufacture for other people, and spend millions and millions of dollars to do that, before we ever knew if we were going to be able to sell an account. You can't approach a buyer and say, 'Imagine, if you will.'"
Opportunities: "HPP-ready meals, in my opinion, that's the future of the ready meal business, and right now it's a completely green field," Roth says. "There is just massive opportunity. Over the next three or four years, our goal is to be on the front end of not only providing ready meals for retail groceries but providing ready meals for private label marketing companies, as well as direct to consumer."
Needs: "Consumer education is probably the biggest need that we have," Roth says. "We are developing a product line, the ready meal line. As that develops, you have to educate the consumer that this isn't your grandpa's ready meal; this isn't the Hungry Man meal that is in the freezer as solid as a brick. When you say ready meal or prepared meal, that is what people think. It's only been in the past couple of years that you've been able to buy a shelf-stable, refrigerated, high-quality, fresh, never-frozen ready meal."