STEVENSVILLE, MICH. — BlendCo LLC has recently unveiled a state-of-the-art facility expansion that will more than double its production capacity for low-microbial dry powder blends and high-purity premixes made exclusively for the pet food and treat processing industry.
“It’s really closer to tripling capacity, and it was all driven by customer demand,” said Matthew Burian director of operations. “We needed more breathing room in our production line. This was really centered around increasing capacity and optimizing our footprint — helping us to further enhance our capabilities to serve the pet food industry.”
Until about a decade ago, The Peterson Company was working with a co-manufacturer to produce its dry powder blends and premixes for the pet food industry. In 2012, the company saw the need to expand on the quality programs and proprietary nature of the blends. BlendCo LLC was created as a stand-alone enterprise for servicing the pet food industry.
“When we built BlendCo, it was a new venture,” said Bob Connolly, vice president of sales and marketing. “It ultimately took off, and we quickly outgrew the original facility. With the continued growth in the pet treat sector, along with the need for microbiologically safe contract blending, we feel this expansion finally gives us an opportunity for some growth. We’re not looking backward, we’re looking forward.”
The initial BlendCo plant in Iowa didn’t offer much in the way of growing room, Connolly said, and there was no pathway to getting the facility certified against Safe Quality Food (SQF) standards, a global food safety initiative. To overcome these obstacles, The Peterson Company moved the business to Michigan.
Stevensville, Mich. is located roughly an hour away from The Peterson Company in Kalamazoo, Mich. The prime location provides BlendCo with access to nearby rail and freight transportation, the I-94 corridor, room for expansion, and proximity to the corporate QA team.
“It was an excellent facility that happened to be for sale, and the piece of land has a footprint that allowed us to expand and gives us the opportunity to expand again down the road,” Connolly said.
The 24-month project began with a warehouse expansion in April 2021 and will conclude in January 2023. This first phase added roughly 21,000 square feet to the existing building, according to Burian, which allowed the company to increase its warehouse space and optimize the production floor layout. The second and third phases are centered around new production.
In December 2021, the company initiated the second phase of its expansion project, this time aiming to significantly expand capacity in Stevensville. This second phase was completed in July 2022. Operations officially began in August 2022. The state-of-the-art facility is SQF HACCP-based Food Safety certified, operating with strict microbiological standards and employing a completely dry sanitation program to eliminate the need for water in the plant altogether.
“We were able to update our quality control systems, as well as our raw material and finished goods sampling and testing protocols, and institute an Environmental Monitoring Program," Sam Schlatter, Director of Quality Assurance mentions.
Because BlendCo was already operating with high food safety and quality standards, according to Schlatter, the key focus of this expansion was to answer demand and realize previously untapped potential for the business.
“Now, we feel like we have some room to grow, not just maintain,” Connolly said.
Prior to the expansion, the facility employed roughly 30 people, with another 20 jobs expected to be added once the facility is fully operational.
Connolly added, “In a world of supply chain challenges and production capacity shortages, we want the world to know that BlendCo can handle more business.”
BlendCo’s new facility in Stevensville is expected to propel the business ever forward as it continues to offer a variety of custom blending capabilities and packing options to better serve its new and existing pet food customers.
BlendCo offers its blending services to the entire pet food industry and satisfies existing needs for multiple, international businesses.
BlendCo is woman-owned and privately held. The company has been certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Leigh Ann Sayen, managing director of BlendCo, has a history of community involvement in Michigan and continues to be involved in the Southwest Michigan community. She is President of The Peterson Company and on the board of American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) as well.
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