Respect Small Companies in Wellness Foods Readers Choice Awards 2009

Your annual voting for top suppliers finds general satisfaction, but a reminder to respect small companies.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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Wellness Foods' 2009 Readers' Choice AwardsThere probably is a higher percentage of small companies trying to break into this food and beverage business via healthier products than are willing to compete in the bigger food industry. And everybody needs help when they’re just starting out.

So, every year when we take our Readers’ Choice Awards survey, we get plaintive comments from up-and-coming companies pleading for respect for little guys like themselves.

A product developer at a Nebraska dairy lauded one smaller cocoa supplier and noted “larger companies [ingredient suppliers] do not help out smaller ones, they are made to feel insignificant, and that their business isn’t worth the bother.” Another respondent wrote: “As always, many aspects of customer service [are] directly related to volume.”

Despite those concerns, respondents to our sixth annual Wellness Foods Readers’ Choice Awards survey seemed happy with their suppliers of healthy ingredients. Good comments outnumbered the bad by eight to one. As one processor said: “The companies that are currently supplying us have been suppliers for several years due to good/consistent pricing and excellent customer service.”

Approved vendors lists provide comfort for many. “Service from our preferred vendors is usually very good, or they would no longer be on our vendor list,” wrote Fred at a Midwestern cereal company. Another respondent added, “We have a tight contingent of suppliers that work very well with us, know our markets and respond to our needs very well.”

But even approved vendor lists have shortcomings. “I am seeing fewer and fewer suppliers, maybe it is because of our preferred supplier program; but there are only one or two I see on any kind of a routine basis,” laments a product developer at a huge multinational. “Maybe our preferred suppliers know that we will call them when we need something. Or like everyone else, they are stretched so thin they really have to target the companies they call on and how much time they spend making sales calls.”

There’s always room for improvement. One ingredient buyer wrote: “They need to focus on regulatory responses when hot questions arise (melamine, allergens, etc.).” Another respondent added GMOs (genetically modified organisms) to a similar list and comment.

Overall, there’s a lot of love out there for the supply community. Congratulations to the 22 companies listed as the 2009 Wellness Foods Readers' Choice Awards Winners (click to open a PDF of the winners). You can rightfully claim to be key partners in the pursuit of better-for-you foods. Our thanks to all the food and beverage processors who responded to our survey.

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