May 18th 2020
Easton Malloy, San Francisco-based co-packer supplying to brands like Williams-Sonoma
To diversify and grow the business, Easton Malloy invested in expanding their capacity, including a melter that could increase volumes while adhering to strict food safety requirements
A PTL Melter integrated with a full production line
A true partnership with PTL that has enabled Easton Malloy to focus on growth, confident it can handle volumes without compromise
“’The new PTL melter is a beast. It melts our blocks so efficiently and so quickly – in 45 minutes we can easily melt 2,000 pounds.”
– Sean Callaway, CEO
CREATING A CULT PHENOMENON
Like many co-packers, the brands for which Easton Malloy manufactures have a much higher profile than the San Francisco-based chocolate company itself. For example, the peppermint bark it produces for retailer Williams-Sonoma has been described as ‘cult phenomenon’ and after more than 18 years of annual production is recognised as an American institution.
Easton Malloy has seen substantial growth year on year since CEO Sean Callaway & his business partner founded the confectionary business in 2002, after a career primarily in business development. ‘’We run three lines, but the primary line we run is bark, a layered product with toppings that we cut to different sizes. And of course, we use different blends and flavorings and toppings to create different barks,’’ says Sean. ‘’While we do some fall work, most of our business is for the Christmas holidays, with relatively minor volume for Valentine’s and Easter.’’
Easton Malloy is not that different from many other co-packers in the confectionary sector, says Sean. ‘’We’re looking to deliver what we promise – which is innovation and quality at volume,” he explains. “Going out there with a consistent quality product that our customers can count on is imperative. For many years we’ve made the same product while maintaining quality standards, which is meaningful as we manufacture for a major high-end brand.’’
While Easton Malloy has had a reasonably heavy focus on its production commitments for Williams-Sonoma, it is starting to broaden its business model. ‘’We make over 60 products, and we have other customers, but the focus has been on (the bark products),” says Sean. “Our products are well positioned, and we have direct marketing channels with our customers.’’
GROWTH AND DIVERSIFICATION
Supporting this diversified business strategy required capacity expansion, which has meant Easton Malloy moving from its downtown location across the bay to Richmond and installing a major new production line to triple capacity.
Sean outlines the need: ‘’Part of the unique character of the bark product when we originally developed the concept was that it was handmade and hand layered,” he says. “But when we started doing it at volume and producing over a million pounds, what the customer really wanted is consistency with the layers and with the toppings. We were good at doing it manually but about five years ago the scales tipped for us in terms of volume. As sales continued to grow we needed to increase automation to meet demands.
A key piece of the automation puzzle was finding the right melter machinery to facilitate the expanded capacity required.
VOLUME AND SANITATION KEY DRIVERS FOR A ‘BEAST’ OF A MELTER
PTL had been a key partner in Easton Malloy’s journey, having started supplying the firm from its inception, after Sean found them on the internet back in 2002.
‘’When we started looking at doing this line, it was a huge capital investment for us so we did go back and look at the competition to make sure the value proposition was still there,’’ says Sean, who selected PTL as the provider of the entire chocolate bark processing line which, along with the PTL Melter, included tempering, flavoring, depositing, layering, sprinkling cooling and cutting.
Designed to continuously melt product corresponding to down-stream production rates, PTL Melters can process chocolate, compound, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, dairy butter, shortening and various other fats. They melt chips, wafers and blocks at high speeds; and offer a more flexible option than traditional kettles and tanks.
‘’Volume was our biggest driver for the new melters, something with higher melting capacity so that we could run this line faster and longer,’’ says Sean. ‘’The new PTL melter is a beast. It melts our blocks so efficiently and so quickly – in 45 minutes we can easily melt 2,000 pounds.’’
‘’I couldn’t be more pleased with the melter,” he continues. “It’s intuitive – the controls are there, the safety features are there that we need for OSHA and for our SQF program, the cleaning and sanitation is straightforward. I’m very, very happy with this particular piece of our investment.’’
Sean says Easton Malloy is extremely focused on their safe quality food (SQF) initiatives, and the ability to break down PTL melters and clean them effectively is key. Easton Malloy’s SQF protocols are ‘’in the top tier of GMP (good manufacturing practices), and is critical for our client as they put their name on our product, so we have to be sure that what they’re putting their name on represents what we promised.’’
What differentiates PTL to Sean is that they are not only responsive, but you are talking to the people who engineered and built the equipment. “It’s a very different experience than dealing with factory reps at other companies that have to go check and get back to you.,” he explains.
‘’PTL is not only making really good equipment, but they have a way of leaning into the business to make you feel as if they’re partners in the solution as opposed to just selling you equipment. I can’t stress enough how meaningful that is for a small manufacturer that’s making a huge investment, and you hope that you’re crossing all the T’s and dotting the I’s. I consider them business partners as much as I consider them a source for equipment.’’
POSITIONED FOR GROWTH
Easton Malloy’s investment in its new melters and the upgraded line it sits within, is all about growth, says Sean. ‘’We’ve had customers waiting in the wings for years asking for capacity in the third and fourth quarter, and we finally have that. Our current line is running much faster than our previous manual process. And of course, we can run it for longer. It’s a very exciting time’’
‘’Having a partner that can help us innovate at our pace, and that innovation goes according to plan is imperative,’’ says Sean, pointing out how the investment Easton Malloy has made in equipment needs to deliver – as like any co-packer they operate on tight margins.
‘’I truly believe that when we make an investment with PTL, they want to see our success as much as we do and they stick with it until we are successful. That’s huge. I wouldn’t have had the successes I’ve had without the PTL partnership. I don’t just consider them an equipment supplier – they’re very much part of our success and part of our team.’’
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