Crest Foods – A Three Generational Family Owned Business

By Marceliano Briones, Journalism Intern, Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, Bradley University

Crest Foods Logo

Crest Foods Main Plant

Crest Food Main Plant

Meiners Family Photo

First, Second, & Third Generation Crest Foods Ownership

Crest Foods West Campus

West Campus

Crest Foods is located in the small town of Ashton, Illinois and originated in 1946. With what began as a company of two, a distant vision became reality and grew Crest Foods into a diversified food manufacturing company. Today, it is a third generation family owned company that employs over 700.

Originally known as M & S Specialty Products, the two employees were solely interested in perfecting a process to produce whey protein. The first product was a nutritional supplement sold to the US Government for use in nutritional programs for returning World War II prisoners of war. Their success in this area fueled diversification into stabilizer systems for general use in the Dairy industry.

In 1953, the two employees sold the company and the name changed to Crest Foods Co., Incorporated. In the early 1960’s, three key staff members, Jay Meiners, Dick Moeller and Dr. Bert Kemp were added who grew the company in both size and capabilities; diversification into dairy manufacturing and dry food packaging came about. After Jay Meiners’ passing in 1988, his three sons took over the business and have grown the business to what it is today. All three sons are still very actively involved in the business as well as the third generation whom are all in management positions throughout the company.

There are three divisions of Crest Foods. Contract Packaging, which started as cocoa mixes and dairy creamers has expanded to about any dry food you can find on your local retailer’s shelf. Private label, in house development of a blend sold to a customer and packaged on Crest Foods production lines. And lastly Dairy Ingredient, stabilizer blends to be added to traditional cultured products like cottage cheese or even non-traditional dairy alternative products.

Crest Foods expanded the company into the sector of international sales around the year 2000. With rapid expansion and understanding regulations abroad, came its challenges. Beatriz Ramirez, the Free Trade Agreement Specialist at the Illinois SBDC International Trade Center at Bradley University, assisted the company on the technicalities of growing into an international business. Beatriz passed along trade knowledge to the respective employees and gave a hand in preparing paperwork for international shipments. In 2016, Beatriz conducted on site training with several different departments within Crest Foods on the meaning and understanding of harmonized tariff codes. This training proved very useful and plans are in place for additional onsite training. The company states Beatriz Ramirez and Jim Foley, Center Director, have visited the facility and go “above and beyond” with what they do and respond to requests in a “timely manner.”

With a company of many decades of consistent growth, there stands a growing need for their services and must remain a will to further diversify their types of manufacturing in a forever evolving industry.