Produced by Sean Bakke
The crumbled cookie toppings at frozen yogurt parlors, the cookie pieces in granolas and snack mixes, whole cookies made for ice cream sandwiches or crushed and molded into pie crusts—where do these products come from? There’s a good chance that your cookie came from Creative Food Ingredients (CFI). For approximately 20 years, the Mississauga, ON-based private company has been in the business of manufacturing cookies and other baked products to fit a variety of needs.
“We offer a wide variety of quality baked ingredient products to the Industrial segment of the food industry, as well as packaged retail products to a small but important group of private label customers,” says Creative Food Ingredients’ CEO Michael O’Flaherty. As the business continues to grow, CFI remains committed to finding innovative new techniques and uses for the common cookie.
Growth and Expansion
As business opportunities expand, physical growth of facilities is essential to ensure that capabilities are able to match demand. CFI is currently in the process of that physical growth, building a 75,000-sq. ft. addition onto its current 125,000-sq. ft. Perry, NY commercial facility. As CFI explains, this growth is a strong representative of the company’s bright future.
“The recently announced expansion can be considered the first phase of a larger strategic plan and vision for the company,” says O’Flaherty. “Presently the majority of our finished products are warehoused in a standalone temperature controlled building nearby. This in itself necessitates extraordinary time and labor transferring goods, and also presents the potential for damage and loss due to the additional handling.” The construction of an additional 75,000 square feet of space will allow CFI to consolidate its operations and boost efficiency by bringing its finished goods warehousing into its main facility structure.
“At the same time we are looking to upgrade certain aspects in other areas of the facility to make them more energy efficient and productive,” adds O’Flaherty. “Once the expansion work is completed this summer with finished products in the main facility, we can then look to the vacated building for additional growth opportunities, perhaps even new production space as a distinct possibility.”
The Road to Continuous Improvement
A larger facility isn’t the only path that CFI is taking to improve its operational efficiencies. The company also recently invested in the implementation of JustFoodERP, a new enterprise resource planning system from software provider IndustryBuilt, in order to better streamline and improve processes throughout the CFI supply chain.
“Food companies like CFI are under increasing business pressure related to cost control and food safety—JustFoodERP helps in a number of areas by providing real time information related to sales, purchasing, inventory, production, and quality,” says Marc DiGiorgio, CMO at IndustryBuilt. “Michael’s team at CFI is first class. It is always great to work with a company that has an eye on continuous improvement. It has been a great privilege to be part of their growth over the last few years.”
According to Creative Food Ingredients’ CFO Jeffrey Arcand, JustFoodERP has already produced significant benefits through features like real-time data retrieval, helping the business stay ahead of the technology curve.
“Some of the other noticeable benefits of the ERP system currently are reduced cycle time to complete administrative functions, drill down capabilities and instantaneous traceability of raw materials and finished goods items by lot number,” he adds. “We have many more processes that can be fine tuned and streamlined, and we continue to work towards improving each process over the years and into the future. We realized that once the ERP system was implemented, there were efficiencies gained in certain areas, and discovered there were other areas that required new attention. We reallocated our employees and trained them for these new challenges. We continue to learn and evolve with this new system.”
Meeting Critical Standards
At CFI, quality is critical—and making quality products starts with quality ingredients. CFI takes its supplier approval process very seriously, sourcing domestically and even locally wherever possible, to ensure that every product is made with top quality ingredients that meet the company’s strict allergen guidelines and adhere to Kosher standards under the KOF-K and OU banners.
“As is the case for most contemporary companies in the food industry, we have a comprehensive approval process which involves supplier questionnaires, audits and the requirement for other support documents demonstrating quality standards,” says O’Flaherty. “Only approved suppliers and sources of material are allowed within the facility, and these suppliers must too also meet our tree nut and peanut free handling requirement, as well as ensure Kosher compliance. Materials are thoroughly inspected upon arrival and a sample is taken by our Quality department for retention in the event of future nonconformities.”
The CFI Difference
What sets Creative Food Ingredients apart from the competition? According to O’Flaherty, it all comes down to a combination of three key tenets. “The company has always leaned very strongly on customer service, quality and innovation,” he explains. “We see this as being the ultimate package that our client base will appreciate and seek out on future development opportunities. Innovation will always continue to play a large role in our company’s future, as well as expanded production capabilities. While price, ultimately, is always a large concern and driving factor in the decision making process, by providing peripheral benefits such as timely delivery, exceptional product consistency and a responsive development team, we create an inviting environment for both current and potential clients to partner with.”