In a renovated Bethlehem Steel Corp. factory building built in 1940 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a new team of seasoned consumer packaged goods pros have opened Factory, an innovation center with $250 million of investable capital.
The center is actively looking for successful entrepreneurs in high-potential food, beverage and pet companies to form a partnership with Factory and move to its innovation center in Pennsylvania.
With that move, an entrepreneur will get a team of experienced professionals to address sales, marketing, human resources, finance, packaging engineering and design assets, social media production, consumer insights to get feedback from customers, research and development and co-manufacturing management. Factory provides all these disciplines under one roof with the goal of achieving rapid growth. This venture is led by Managing Partner Rich Thompson, who has an impressive record of creating enterprise value.
His first big win was with the American Italian Pasta Company located in Kansas City. Then in 2001, Thompson teamed up with private equity investor JW Childs Associates and purchased Meow Mix from Nestlé S.A. for around $160 million. Nestlé purchased Ralston Purina Company and, as part of the purchase, Nestlé was required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to divest the Meow Mix and Alley Cat brands, which formed the core of Thompson’s The Meow Mix Company.
Thompson and partners invested $45 million in nine months to renovate a Decatur, Alabama manufacturing facility they purchased from Nestlé for $1.00, as part of the FTC ruling. The renovated plant was the largest dry cat food plant in North America at the time and won recognition for both its production volume and quality control standards. The company renovated two additional facilities — one in Missouri and one in Pennsylvania; and, in total, had three plants producing Meow Mix cat food.
Managing Partner Rich Thompson with “Food Taster” Pot Roast
According to Forbes, under Thompson’s leadership, Meow Mix made news not just by aggressively introducing new products, but also as an innovative marketer. That focus on innovation and fast change paid off when, in 2006, Del Monte purchased the Meow Mix brands for approximately $705 million.
A core management group who had worked at Meow Mix prior to the sale to Del Monte started Freshpet. Although Thompson was not one of the founders of Freshpet due to a three-year non-compete agreement, he joined the company as CEO in 2010 and helped take Freshpet public on NASDAQ in November 2014. Thompson left Freshpet in 2016, raised money and started Factory.
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