Layer by layer, Kettle Cuisine (Kettle) has been crafting a recipe for substantial success with a team of passionate people, high-quality products and purveyor relationships as key ingredients. Since 1986, the Boston-based business has taken off by tackling the challenge of producing real soups stocks and sauces containing modified (GMO) products in a world of conventional, processed food.
The company’s approach has rendered record sales success and Kettle is in the midst of sizable expansion. “We’re a fast-growing business that is embracing change, but passionately focused on the quality and ethos that has got us here over the last 28 years,” reveals Joe Rainert, CEO of Kettle. “We’re moving into a new 165,000-square-foot state-of-the-art factory in Lynn, Mass., by June 2014.”
With more than 100 products in development, 80 different varieties of soups and an executive team of chefs and technical food safety experts, Kettle sources the world for new ideas and concepts to add to its ever-changing, innovative line up of soups and sauces. “We search for new ideas and concepts because we want to understand not just what people want to eat today, but also what they want to eat next year,” tells Rainert.
There’s no shortcut to memorable flavor
But Kettle understands that integrating new and exciting flavors begins with the basics and the highest possible quality ingredients. “We do the difficult things well; we’re not in this for it to be easy,” explains Rainert. “We really listen to our customers and if they want us to do challenging things such as sourcing quality organics and non GMO foods, we’re the guys who will deliver. That means no antibiotic-feed animal products, additives or nasty chemicals. In fact, we have a whole list of banned substances we won’t allow in our building.”
Rainert was once a Michelin-rated chef and restaurateur, but now he is an executive who has been running fresh food businesses for more than 25 years; according to him, it is Kettle’s attention to the details in the cooking process that truly sets the company apart. “We actually cook the product,” he shares. “We braise off the vegetables and make sure the spices bloom in the heat for wonderful flavor penetration. Then, we start adding ingredients in the proper sequential way any chef would do in a restaurant kitchen, finishing with the herbs fine touches needed to create a truly delicious and wonderful soup.”
Rainert expects his team to go above and beyond. “It’s not always the easiest way to make a soup,” he adds; however, that’s where Kettle truly shines. “We don’t take shortcuts,” he continues. “Others may take the ingredients, stick them in a pot, add water, add a bit of packaged stock base, boil it and put it through an emulsifier or blitz it with a machine. That makes an adequate soup, but it doesn’t make for a memorable soup.”
Beyond the bowl
For Kettle, making soup is more than a great recipe and rich flavor, food is also an expression and a way to show people the company cares. “It’s about staying true to the simple notion that everyone deserves great tasting, natural, delicious food,” adds Rainert. Every one of Kettle’s 250 employees, from head chef to the sales team, production staff and beyond, firmly believes in this concept.
“I’ve been with Kettle for about 16 months, while others have been here for 20 years,” reveals Rainert. “We’re a customer-focused business and we have a truly passionate and talented team that’s really enthusiastic about getting our message out there.”
From the farm to the table, Kettle establishes relationships every step of the way, beginning with exceptional purveyors. “We believe we’re measured by the things we do rather than the things we say,” explains Rainert. “That’s why we’re proud to advertise the people we use on our website. It’s part of our philosophy of honoring food and with that comes honoring the people we deal with, as well as our customers.”
Rainert goes on to note that in addition to ensuring Kettle has great, consistent soups and sauces, the team is comprised of innovators looking at new and exciting food concepts beyond what the company currently offers. “We have a dedicated product development and innovation team that includes culinary, marketing and packaging design expertise to great tasting new lines,” he continues. Furthermore, Kettle represents some of the top restaurants on the East Coast, as well as wholesalers and retailers nationally. The company markets fresh soup, as well as refrigerated and frozen products through a dedicated field sales team.
“Many of the people on our sales team are chefs themselves,” says Rainert. “They build relationships and set up distribution with large and small companies. While we have an in-house logistics team, we don’t get into distribution. We focus on making the product right and we leave that to the experts.”
Well-positioned for the next serving of growth
Kettle’s new facility in Lynn will help take the company to the next step, allowing more capacity and capability for production and greater innovation. “There is about 90,000 square feet of warehousing and refrigeration space all under one roof to help us make even better products and service our customers,” details Rainert.
Rainert is proud to note that within the last five years, the business has taken off. “But in the last couple of years, it’s really been explosive,” he continues, noting how excited he is for the expansion in terms of production, but also for the well-being of his team. “My philosophy has always been: people, product, profit,” he explains. “This expansion will help my people overcome physical challenges in terms of congestion and storage. But we must always strive to improve the workplace; our old kitchen can get really hot in the summer. At the new plant we have improved temperature controls; we have also invested in far better facilities for our people, too.”
According to Rainert, success is based on a constant cycle of improvement that starts with people. “I’m willing to do almost anything to grow their roles and to help our great people achieve not just their career goals but also share in the company’s success,” he assures, “Without a doubt that is most important part of my role.”
As Kettle Cuisine pushes the $100 million mark, the company looks forward to a new-and-improved facility that will allow it to create outstanding fresh and natural food that people can be proud to serve that lasts far beyond the last spoonful.