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Multi-Flow Industries

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2012, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.-based Multi-Flow Industries has seen a great deal of change in the last few years. Founded in 1937 by U.S. Navy veteran Sam Gottlieb, the company has worked diligently to tighten up operations since Wynnewood, Pa.-based CMS Companies purchased a majority share of Multi-Flow Industries in 2008.

“Last year was a record breaking year for us financially,” CEO Mark Stephens says. “We’ve introduced many new brands and have consistently demonstrated our commitment to our facilities, people, products and customers."

Today, Multi-Flow Industries is a manufacturer and distributor of fountain-dispensed beverages with about 200 employees in seven states. The company has 11 warehouse operations and a 70,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility in Huntingdon Valley.

The company directly delivers product up and down the East Coast, directly delivering to more than 6,000 stores, as well as manufacturing product for another 14,000 locations. Multi-Flow’s business is split 50-50 between product distributed directly from its own fleet of trucks, and product distributed by external distributors around the country as well as  internationally.

Multi-Flow’s products include micro-crafted carbonated soft drinks, as well as juices, lemonades, energy drinks and iced tea. Its own branded products include Kodiak Cola, Morning Dew, Citrus Splash, Harvest Squeeze Juices, Harvest Squeeze Lemonade, Re-Fuel, T'ei and All Day Café.

The company also is a licensed national distributor for all major soda brands. Its expertise extends to installation and service of fountain-dispensing equipment, which includes bar guns, drop-in units, countertop units, iced tea urns, racks and pumps, hot beverage systems and carbonators.

Breaking Records

Since CMS Companies purchased its majority share, Multi-Flow Industries has achieved record-level revenues and profits thanks to its focus on expanding sales, marketing, manufacturing capability and net profit. In the last four years, the company has trademarked 10 different beverages and gotten away from producing private-label products.

“When I got here, we sold a cola that was just called ‘Kola’ on a white label, and it was a generic product,” Stephens says. “Since then, we rebranded that as Kodiak Cola. Now, we feel we have a great product that has enabled us to open a lot of doors. We’ve tried to do that with all of our flavors.”

Stephens says the first two years of his tenure was all about ensuring that the company had the right people in the right places. “As a CEO, if you have the right team and they are managed right, the business results will come,” he says.

To ensure people had the right training and support, the company brought in sales trainers and management consultants to help Multi-Flow Industries begin performing like a Fortune 500 company.

The company aimed to get revenue up quickly and was extremely competitive with pricing, getting low margins in the process. As the company improved its branding, marketing and product quality, it changed its pricing structure to improve margins. In the process, Multi-Flow Industries says it lost virtually no customers because they were comfortable with the new direction the company had taken.

There were infrastructure improvements that needed to be made, too. For example, the company has reduced the number of distribution facilities it operates. In addition, when Stephens joined the company, Multi-Flow Industries operated a 120-vehicle fleet, and approximately 90 percent of the company’s fleet had driven more than 200,000 miles. The company also invested in custom graphic vehicle wraps.

“We had to invest in getting us where we needed to be for us to become a 21st century company,” Stephens says. “That included spending money on simple things like restrooms, a conference room and improving our office space. We did some surveys that indicated we need to improve employee satisfaction and the office environment.”

Recognizing Quality

Another area where the company has seen success has been in quality assurance. These efforts have been so successful that Multi-Flow Industries earned an "excellent" rating on its 2011 Silliker food safety and GMP requirements audit with a score of 97.3 percent.

“We have two different food safety auditors come in, one every six months,” Stephens says. “We’ve been getting great ratings from them, and that helps us show our customers that the product they are getting is great quality.”

Other improvements the company has made in recent years include reformulating products, as well as installing air filtration systems and making other enhancements to its manufacturing facility. Some of these enhancements were aimed at making the facility a more inviting work environment.

“We installed lockers and a lunch room, and we now provide uniforms for employees,” Stephens says. “We spent a great deal of money on our lab, including expanding from one to five people in our quality assurance department and expanding to two food scientists working on product development.”

Stephens says another Multi-Flow Industries commitment is to employee recognition. That is why the company started up programs such as the Sam’s Club lifetime achievement award. Named after the company’s founder, it is presented to a number of employees each April in recognition of superior performance and dedication.

Having been in business for 75 years, and majority owned by CMS for the last four, Multi-Flow Industries has shown that it can stand the test of time and ramp up for the future. The priorities in the years ahead include opening up new markets for direct distribution, as well as moving into bottled and canned products to get into convenience stores.

“Revenue has been up 40 percent, and we have people out there driving product and interacting with customers,” Stephens says.

“We are no longer a generic company – we are a national brand, and we intend to safeguard our margins and be sure we have a motivated workforce,” Stephens continues. “Our customers are incredibly important, and they are why we are in business. But they come second to our work force, because without a motivated team, we can’t possibly meet the needs of our customers.”

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