An urgent need for a bar line manufacturer with the expertise and aptitude to customise Hearthside’s unique designs and requirements.
PTL ticked all the boxes for Hearthside Food Solutions. From individual machines to full processing lines, PTL has been supplying equipment to Hearthside for nearly a decade.
PTL’s equipment quality and collaborative relationship style helps Hearthside generate a competitive advantage in the market. The relationship is based on trust, integrity, and equipment quality.
“PTL’s equipment and approach to customer service enables us to create a competitive advantage. By being open to our modifications and design change requests, we can create superior solutions for customers and gain increased flexibility in our operations. Their equipment reliability and exceptional sanitary design are outstanding.”
Director of Engineering
Hearthside Food Solutions is an industry-leading contract manufacturer that produces over four billion nutrition and snack bars per year. Founded in 2009, the US-based company employs over 10,000 people in 38 locations across the US and Europe. Other product categories include cookies, crackers, and other baked foods, as well as USDA fresh and frozen foods. They are also a leading contract packager of food products.
In 2010 – barely a year after launch – Hearthside was on the hunt for an equipment manufacturer that was open to approaching the design and desired features as a consultative business partner. “Historically, there have been two primary bar line manufacturers,” says Fred Grep, Hearthside’s Director of Engineering. “We had specific needs that required some equipment modifications. As I outlined our needs, it was apparent that getting these changes was not something they were open to at that time. The entire conversation lasted 15 minutes. I ended it by saying, ‘I guess we are done here.’ This left me with no solution that met my specific requirements.”
In need of an equipment manufacturer that would create a solution to support their growing business, including their need for new capacity and flexibility, Fred turned to Google. “I found PTL online,” he recalls. “That they were based in New Zealand didn’t put me off at all – I’d never been to New Zealand!” Fred did his due diligence, researching PTL, and paying close attention to their online drawings and photos. “It looked promising, so I gave Jim Halliday a call,” he says. “They actually flew over to visit us. We became their first large bar line customer in the US.”
PTL and Hearthside teams travelled back and forth, working together on the design of the new bar line. Unlike the previous manufacturer, PTL was open to, and enthusiastic about, customising their equipment design to match Hearthside’s specifications. “They were open to design changes and found ways to accommodate our requests,” Fred recalls. “It worked out well for both companies because our modifications were changes other customers also wanted to see. By getting them first, it meant Hearthside was ahead of the game once the new equipment was operational.”
Over the next decade, PTL would go on to supply Hearthside with equipment for full processing lines as well as individual machines. When it comes to equipment quality, Fred’s assessment is unequivocal. “There’s simply nothing better,” he enthuses. “Even if there are issues – and it’s not always rainbows and unicorns – they take ownership of the problem and fix it or redesign it. We have been very pleased.”
Such is Hearthside’s confidence in the quality of PTL’s manufacturing ability, Fred no longer travels to New Zealand to do Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT). “We don’t need trial runs or to watch the manufacturing process,” he says. “We trust their internal quality standards, and they clearly understand our expectations.”
Because Hearthside staff don’t need to visit PTL, they are saving on time and money. “I just place the order with them, go through all the design specifications, and they build it,” Fred explains.
Fred does not distinguish between small and large projects for PTL because he has confidence in their ability to deliver, no matter what the scale or size. “Sometimes we have unrealistic timelines,” he says. “If they can’t meet it, it’s usually about logistics, not ability or capacity.”
Hearthside utilises cooling tunnels to cool the snack bars. Fred believes PTL’s cooling tunnels are superior to competing products, even paying a little extra on occasion to have them expedited and air freighted. “PTL is our preferred option for certain pieces of equipment, including cooling tunnels. They are top of the line, and I don’t want to go anywhere else.”
PTL’s ability to handle complex challenges and urgent support issues is key, Fred says, and they do what is necessary. “We do run into issues – it’s inevitable,” he explains. “But we work through them. I might bark at them a little bit, but they know I bark for a reason. They understand and deploy all the resources they need to resolve whatever the issue is.”
The Hearthside and PTL relationship matured over the past ten years. It is based on mutual trust. One reason for that trust is PTL’s realistic approach. “There are OEMs that will say anything to make a sale,” Fred explains. “Then they deliver a month late, or the wrong equipment. PTL has never done that. They know how critical it is. When they promise something, they deliver. I’ve found their integrity to be rock solid.”
Hearthside continues to place PTL equipment in their network. Fred believes the collaborative relationship will continue to grow and mature, adding value for both companies. “I’d love it if we were the only company able to buy PTL machines, locking in our competitive advantage,” he says. “In addition to flexibility and performance, that competitive advantage also comes from equipment reliability, outstanding support, and trusted relationships. Would I recommend PTL? Absolutely. Do I want to recommend them? Absolutely not. I want to keep them for myself!”
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