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Manufacturing Success Stories

Carolyn’s Gourmet

By Joe Rizzo, Lead Project Manager, MassMEP, [email protected]

Carolyn’s Gourmet Foods is a small, growing manufacturer of gourmet candies and nuts. Their main products include coated and flavored nuts, primarily pecans and cashews, white and dark chocolate bark, toffee, dried fruits, and toffee coated cookies called stoopwafels. Carolyn’s sells their products individually or in bulk and in attractive gift packs. The number of employees varies according to the season. During the peak season, prior to Christmas, there are 20-25 people employed.

Carolyn’s announced recently that the product placement firm, Madison & Mulholland, has invited Carolyn’s Gourmet to participate in the "Ultimate Nominee Bag" to be revealed on the Red Carpet on February 27, 2005. Hans van Putten, President and owner of the company, explains that the " Ultimate Nominee Bay" will be sent to a host of A-list actors, including nominees of the various awards shows. This list includes Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Richard Gere, Hillary Swank, Renee Zellweger, and many others. Carolyn’s Gourmet’s sampler has also been featured in the Morongo Casino, Palm Springs opening gift-bag on December 9, 2004. The Palm Springs event was hosted by Jay Leno and attended by many celebrities, among them, Beyonce, Carlos Sanata, the Hilton Sisters, and Jessica Simpson. The contents of the bag will also be featured in upcoming issues of US Weekly and Star Magazine.

In 2004, Carolyn’s was in its fifth year of existence and needed to increase its capacity, through the purchase of new equipment, so that it could continue to grow. This equipment included a Form, Fill, and Seal machine; a new nut roaster; and a fire-mixer. However, Carolyn’s had fully utilized its existing space and could not easily add the new equipment. Mr. van Putten contacted the MassMEP to help him develop a new layout, which incorporated the additional equipment.

Joe Rizzo, Lead Project Manager for the Mass MEP, visited Carolyn’s Gourmet Foods, met with Hans, and took a plant tour. After reviewing the requirements for the new layout, Joe completed a dimensional layout of the facility in its current condition. He then created a new layout incorporating the Lean principles of continuous flow and point of use storage.

The new layout included two flow lines. One line was for high volume products, which utilized the new Form, Fill, and Seal machine. The second line was for small, customized orders. For this line, the supplies were to be stored at point of use. The operator would fill the orders by pushing a cart on wheels along the line, pulling materials and filling the order as needed. Both lines ended at the shipping area. Through these minor changes, the company was able to increase production flow, increase product output, and not have to expand the facility.

Hans van Putten was born and raised in Bussum, the Netherlands. His family was in the textile business. EMS, Eastern Mountain Sports, is among the companies that are part of the family business. Hans went to college in the Netherlands and received a BA in textiles and business administration. He worked for the family business for a while, before going to England and earning an MBA. Hans worked in accounting, then did some business and management consulting. He joined Gillette in 1988 where he worked his way up the financial ladder, reaching the positions of Controller and Financial Executive. Hans worked for Gillette for 10 years. During that time, he and his family moved six times in 9 years, mostly in Europe. His last assignment moved him to the US. At the end of 1997, Gillette was planning to move him once again. At that time, Hans decided it was time to do something else.

In 1998, Hans purchased Carolyn’s Pecans, and changed the name to Carolyn’s Gourmet. In 2000, he purchased Victorian Treats, which made various types of toffee. During the six plus years of operations, Hans merged and integrated the product portfolio. He developed a product "look," and created a vision of "country chic" to make one look for all the products. He also established the brands, Carolyn’s Gourmet Classics and Carolyn’s Gourmet Collections.

Hans was able to dramatically reduce inventories and transform the company into a "make to order" company. Hans has plans for further growth by developing a freezing process for toffee and nuts as well as further simplification of packaging and packaging processes. He also plans to develop new retail customers and sell more product through the web site. See

Figure 1. Hans van Putten pictured with Carolyn’s Gourmet’s products.


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