Business: Third Annual Readers' Choice Awards

A good supplier is worth its weight in gold; here are 48 of them in 37 categories, chosen by you, the people who know them best.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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"What's the difference between a good supplier and just any old supplier?" asks Doug Herweyer, maintenance manager at a Dean Foods plant. "When you're ass-deep in alligators, the good ones come and bail you out. They're the ones who always seem to come through for you."

Whether you're buying salt or savory flavorings, food-grade lubricants or automated control systems, a good supplier is worth its weight in gold. In the following pages we have 48 golden suppliers, as well as 41 silver ones and 21 bronze ones.

Methodology:

This is our third annual Readers' Choice Survey. The survey form is an unaided recall survey sent by e-mail to more than 25,000 subscribers to Food Processing during the month of December. Recipients represent all categories of the food and beverage industry.

There are two separate surveys: one for subscribers primarily involved in specifying processing and packaging equipment and a separate one for those buying ingredients and flavors. There were 602 responses as of the cutoff date.

The good, the golden, is what we seek every year when we send out our Readers' Choice Awards survey. Good is a relative term, of course. Good can be consistent, reliable, responsive. It certainly means something a little different in each of the 37 categories we report on here, and probably means something different for each of the 602 respondents to our survey.

This effort is not unique. "Good suppliers should be recognized. We recognize our best vendors every year at a company function in April," explains Martin Amador, HACCP and materials manager at Ruiz Foods, Dinuba, Calif. And there are other awards programs in which the winners are chosen by editors or an advisory board.

We like to think this one means the most because the winners are chosen by you, the food processors, our readers. Whether you're in need of ingredients, equipment or services, you know that your most valuable information is what you've learned from first-hand experience. No spec sheet, sales rep or testimonial tells you as much as your own hard-won awareness of what product (and what vendor) works…and which ones don't. You've developed a healthy respect, maybe even a little admiration, for the consistency of that vanilla or those new pumps that really are saving you money in electrical costs.

But you don't know everything, do you? Every once in a while a new purchasing challenge presents itself. And sometimes there are suppliers who need to be replaced. That's where our Readers' Choice Awards come in.

"I've been at this 33 years, so not too often do I get into a sourcing situation that I don't have at least some familiarity with," continues Herweyer, who works at Dean's Flint, Mich., fluid milk plant. "But just this week I was on the Internet looking for a labeler for 5-gal. dispensers. How do you know who the good ones are?"

"A list like this is very important to us," adds Amador. Not only will he compare notes in the categories he's familiar with, "but we're about to expand and start manufacturing some new products for us. That means buying equipment that we may not be familiar with. This will help, absolutely."

Multiply your first-hand knowledge by 602 and that's what this database represents. Some of this information may confirm what you already know about Allen-Bradley controllers (the biggest winner in any category with nearly 150 votes) and some of it may make you question the brand or supplier you've been using in some category.

"A good reputation is more valuable than money," Publilius Syrus wrote in the first century BC. (Ironically, he's also the guy who also said, "Familiarity breeds contempt.")

"It will be interesting to see if our suppliers are on the list. If somebody else is, maybe we should take a serious look at them," says K. K. Mui, senior research scientist at Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Oakland, Calif. "It's always good to see what other people think.

"Sometimes when I'm looking for a new ingredient supplier, I'm racking my brain trying to decide who would be good," he continues. "Now I've got a list to work off."

Congratulations to all our Readers' Choice winners. Whether you're gold, silver or bronze, your reputation puts you above the competition. And a big thank-you to the 602 readers who responded to our survey at what undoubtedly was a busy time of the year. Your comments and experience help everyone in the food industry do a better job.

The Elite Circle: Three-time winners

Winning is sweet and notable. Winning three times in a row merits special recognition.

Six companies have won Food Processing Readers' Choice Awards in their categories all three years that we have been taking this survey. Their names all are recognizable.

THIRD TIME'S A CHARM?

Control systems: Rockwell

Extrusion: Wenger

Flowmeters: MicroMotion/Emerson

Pumps: Waukesha Cherry-Burrell/SPX

Size Reduction: Urschel

Uniforms: Cintas

"We're honored to be recognized as the preferred extrusion supplier by the readers of Food Processing," says Doug Baldwin, director of sales and marketing at Wenger Manufacturing Inc., Kansas City, Mo. "To be awarded this distinction for the third year in a row is very flattering, and is really a testament to the continued dedication of the Wenger family and employees, whose commitment to excellence has allowed Wenger to remain an industry leader for more than 50 years."


Being around a long time helps. "We've had some customers for many years, and they provide some of the best referrals to our new customers," observes Rick Urschel, corporate secretary and next leader of Urschel Laboratories Inc., Valparaiso, Ind. Urschel has been building size reduction equipment since 1910. "This also could easily become a commodity business if not for the quality we build into our machines, some of which have been in the field since the 1930s."

"Accolades from our customers are the highest honor to receive. These individuals know the capabilities of a variety of technologies and vendors," notes Gene Shanahan, president of the Micro Motion div. of Emerson Process Management, winner of the flow measurement category. "We have been very focused on listening to our customers in the food and beverage industry in designing our products and services to meet their needs and exceed their expectations."

Uniform services is a business in which you may see your customers more than once a week. "Being named 'Best in Business' three years in a row speaks volumes about our employee-partners' commitment to customer satisfaction," says Scott Farmer, Cintas president/CEO. "The recognition reflects our culture and steadfast commitment to maximizing the long-term value of Cintas for every customer across North America."

The other winners

Vendors were not the only winners in this year's Readers' Choice Awards. We offered $100 American Express gift certificates as an incentive to answering the survey. Winners of these certificates are: Martin Amador of Ruiz Foods, Ed Francis of General Mills, Doug Herweyer of Dean Foods, Jack Cornelius of American Beverage Corp. and K. K. Mui of Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream.

Editor's Note: To access the complete list of winners, including both Equipment and Ingredient Suppliers, please click "Download Now" below.

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