J&L Foods Specialties is a small family-owned co-packer and manufacturer of flavored cream cheese and cream cheese spreads based in Glassboro, New Jersey. The company began as a retail store inside a farmers market in 1994, selling a variety of dairy products. John Esh, who purchased the retail market from relatives, added his own line of cream cheese spreads to the existing line of cheese products and was content with the size and scope of his business, but the quality of his products soon had customers asking for more.
The company’s venture into the private labeling and co-packing industry began when a former employee was offered a position on a sales team for a meat and cheese purveyor. Being familiar with the company’s cream cheese products, he requested that the company consider a private label of the product under its company’s label. After others also expressed interest, Esh and his team decided to set up a small manufacturing facility at his retail location to make cream cheese spreads and dips for distribution. After several years, J&L outgrew the facility and moved the business to the current location in Glassboro in 2013.
In the past ten years, J&L Foods has grown and so has the demand for its products. Five years ago, one of the company’s larger customers requested a new line of retail packaged cream cheese, something J&L Foods was not set up for, so, in order to make that happen, the company purchased an affordable, two-lane, in-line machine. It was soon apparent that this machine, while cost-effective, could not keep up with the necessary speed or efficiency needed. The lower cost machine could not fulfill the demand in terms of capability and flexibility, making it a temporary solution. In the long run, J&L experienced lower output and higher downtime.
In 2014, Esh attended the Pack Expo in Chicago, “dreaming about some of the machines there,” but figuring most were probably out of his financial reach. One evening at the show, he met Julian Stauffer, who at the time was manager of PTI/Waldner North America. (Today, Stauffer is the COO.) They began to talk about J&L’s needs, and, after discussing the challenges they faced on their filling line, Esh was considering a high-performance Waldner DOSOMAT Cup System. The advanced technology, capacity and flexibility of the DOSOMAT would enable J&L to increase its efficiency dramatically and maintain the high quality standards for which its products had become known. Esh knew it would be a significant investment for his small company, but he was willing to research the options with Waldner.
Representatives from PTI/Waldner North America visited his New Jersey plant to assess his needs, and Esh was particularly impressed that Karl Angele, Waldner’s managing director, came all the way from the company’s headquarters in Germany to visit J&L Food Specialties. In 2016, Esh spent several days in Germany travelling with Angele on a tour of Waldner’s facility, as well as a cheese plant that uses the DOSOMAT Cup System.
“It was impressive to see this machine do its job,” says Esh, noting the speed and accuracy of its filling. The personal service combined with the amazing DOSOMAT Cup System’s capabilities convinced Esh to make the investment. In 2018, the DOSOMAT machine arrived at J&L, along with two service technicians — one from PTI and one from the Waldner factory —who completed the installation and training in just a few days to get production up and running quickly.
Esh and his team at J&L saw a difference immediately. “Once you know the machine, it’s incredible,” says Esh, who was particularly impressed with the precision of the DOSOMAT’s automatic dosing valve, the fast changeover from one product to another, and how everything is fully adjustable and customizable on an HMI touch screen.
“The machine we had purchased from another company did the job but required too much human intervention. Some-body constantly had to be there, and there was too much downtime and manual labor required to run the machine,” he says. “The DOSOMAT practically runs itself.”
While the DOSOMAT Cup System has only been in place at J&L since the beginning of this year, Esh already has plans to grow the business, including solidifying relationships with distributors to larger supermarket chains — something he had been reluctant to do until he was certain J&L could deliver on its promises. Today, the DOSOMAT is filling cups with some of J&L’s 42 specialty flavors of cream cheese and dips — including its popular Cajun Crab dip. “What sets us apart? says Esh. “We try to keep our products simple and the number of ingredients to a minimum.”
“We have a small company, so to have the head of Waldner come over here from Germany to assist in this process was pretty impressive. Having PTI/Waldner North America in Tuckahoe, New York, as our primary contact for parts, service and support is a huge advantage, too. While this machine did cost more than what we expected to pay initially, its speed and precision has changed our business completely,” Esh says. “It was well worth it. Now, we are able to complete our orders, meet our deadlines and look for new business. We are confident that when we start up this machine, we’re going to have a successful run.”
J&L Food Specialties is just one example of how Waldner has succeeded in installing over 3,400 machines worldwide.
Says Sam Troiano, product manager for PTI/Waldner North America, “We worked closely with J&L Foods to find a solution that was affordable yet met its needs for future growth. Waldner has decades of experience with filling and sealing applications for dairy and welcomes challenging assignments. When customers have confidence in the equipment, it allows them to sell their products with confidence, as volume demand and product variety increases. PTI will support J&L as its needs change, be it preventative maintenance, spare parts or format parts. Waldner Germany also has the capability to perform remote diagnostics to support smaller customers who do not have technical staff on site.