At Brewster Foods, Company Values Are Reflected in the Product and the Social Fabric

In searching the Internet for background on some of the companies I visit, I’ve come to realize that the way a web page describes the firm is a good indicator of the values which are present in the plant.  Let’s try it out–what type of working environment would you find at a company that describes itself on its web page as “pioneer producers of specialty foods for the quality chemist”?

“Pioneer”— innovative?

“Natural Food Specialties”— appreciation for culinary pleasures which foster good health?

“For the manufacturing chemist”– dedication to precision and detail?

This is how Test Lab, Inc., aka Brewster Foods in Reseda, California presents itself, next to a beautiful graphic of a slice of mouth-watering orange, on its home page ( Brewster has been OU certified since 2008, and beforehand was certified by the team at KOAOA in Los Angeles.

If you perceived these three values from the homepage, you’d be correct, for this is their mission statement:

“In a continuing quest to preserve the core principles of the natural foods industry, our mission is to develop, produce and market innovative specialty ingredients designed for the select niche markets that demand exceptional product quality and personalized customer service.

Perhaps these values of having the courage to do new things, for the healthy food market, and do so with attention to detail, comes from the company’s history.

Test Laboratories, Inc. was founded in 1939 by Dr. William Test, a tomato and alfalfa research scientist from New Jersey. The company’s original mission was research and development, which led to the processing of alfalfa and its derivatives, including alfalfa juice concentrate, alfalfa powder and chlorophyll extracts.
  In 1950, Marshall L. Brewster bought the company and expanded the business to include the direct marketing of Brewster Vitamin Products, the manufacture of citrus bioflavonoids, the production of concentrated citrus extracts and the development of a new freeze-drying technology.
         In 1972, the current OU contact Gregory L. Brewster joined the company and soon it was among the first to make freeze-dried probiotic cultures for the health food industry. It has prospered throughout the years supplying a diverse range of bulk nutraceutical type ingredients used by formulators of food supplements, special dietary foods, natural food concentrate products and pharmaceuticals.

            The company currently produces over three hundred ingredient types and maintains two plants in California. Strong strategic alliances with key suppliers, industry consultants and distributors are responsible for remarkable product development successes, enabling Brewster to offer the health food and related industries new and innovative niche products of unsurpassed quality. The company is research driven and works with numerous entities in the development of its unique nutraceutical ingredient offerings.

But even more than expressing these values in business, this RFR saw them present in the social fabric of Brewster Foods. This happened at a routine inspection, when I saw the left-overs of a sumptuous spread in the break room. Upon investigation, I learned that these were from a meal bringing past and present members of the production and supervision staff together to celebrate one of their own, Ricardo.

Ricardo started in 1973 on the production staff, and worked his way up to become head production supervisor. About a year ago he wasn’t feeling well. At his visit to his doctor, tests showed stomach cancer. Ricardo started chemotherapy, and could not work for an entire year. A religious man, Ricardo, lives on work and kindness, doing carvings and other forms of art, to give away to his friends in the Brewster family. He even makes violins by hand out of different kinds of woods as presents. But now he couldn’t.

  So the values of doing cutting-edge things, supporting health, and doing so with attention to detail came to play in Brewster Foods’ social world. Although the staff wants Ricardo to come back to work, they didn’t know if he’ll be able to do so. So, they made him a celebration of employment. Sponsoring a dinner at a local fine Italian restaurant, all 15 coworkers came. All spoke about Ricardo and what he means to them at Brewster. Family and friends, and even retired coworkers came. That was the source of the leftover feast.

Work at this high-tech innovator means more than that—it creates family. Business values creating social value.

I’m proud to include Brewster Foods in the list of companies I inspect for the OU.