Perfetti Van Melle Makes Life Sweeter in Northern KentuckyKAM
As an essential food industry business, throughout this pandemic year, Perfetti Van Melle has been running its production and warehouse facilities in Erlanger, Kentucky at nearly full capacity 24/7 making and distributing Airheads and Mentos candy. The company’s North America headquarters and factory are housed in one campus, while distribution and warehousing are in a nearby state-of-the-art facility that opened in May 2019.
Growth and expansion in Kentucky
Under the leadership of Sylvia Buxton, President and CEO, and the local Perfetti Van Melle (PVM) leadership team, the company’s local investment, employment and business grew continuously in the last several years. All the Mentos and Airheads candy sold in North America are made or packed and distributed at its two locations in Northern Kentucky. Now with more than 400 employees in Northern Kentucky, Perfetti has invested over $25M in capital improvements since 2017 to expand capacity and improve infrastructure in its Northern Kentucky facilities.
“As the pandemic hit in early 2020, we quickly acted, forming three crisis teams guided by our company’s core values,” said Buxton.
- Health & Safety team (PVM Value: Care for People): The Health & Safety team enhanced already stringent health and safety measures, focusing first on protecting employee health. As a testament to their COVID-19 health and safety response, the Northern Kentucky Health Department representative who visited during the early months of the pandemic said the program was “by far the most comprehensive, thorough program that he had seen of any of the companies reviewed,” and that Perfetti’s practices were “best in class and a benchmark for other companies.”
- Supply Management team (PVM Value: Achieving Excellence): The Supply Management team quickly jumped in with strong action plans and relationships with local and global suppliers ensuring consistent supply chain and uninterrupted operations through these challenging times.
- Business Recovery team (PVM Value: Dedication to the Consumer): The Business Recovery team evaluated the company’s sales and marketing practices, making dramatic changes to marketing support plans, managing promotional and selling expenses, and re-deploying resources to ensure their plans were optimized to the new pandemic-related consumer shopping and consumption behaviors.
“Despite the uncertainties created by the global pandemic this year, we invested further in Northern Kentucky jobs by giving 75 Erlanger distribution center contractors the opportunity to join the company as permanent Perfetti Van Melle employees,” Buxton explained. The company also added 15 permanent PVM-employed roles at the distribution center, where employees receive products from PVM supplying plants, prepare product shipments and assemble store displays for delivery to customers throughout the U.S. In addition, Perfetti continued hiring this year for many manufacturing and professional roles.
The Perfetti distribution center team takes pride in delivering the day-to-day business and managing multi-million dollar projects to enhance the business, and has also created a fantastic work environment with low turnover (under five percent for the last three years) driven by engaged teams at all levels. In a typical year, 13 million cases of candy product are shipped to customers in more than 1,100 locations.
Community is part of culture
“Perfetti’s culture and corporate citizenship always starts with caring for our people, which also aligns with our core values,” Buxton explained. The company offers employees a best-in-class benefits package with flexibility for job rotations, opportunities between facilities, healthcare, paid sick, vacation and volunteer time off, a 401k plan with a tremendous company match (one of the strongest in the industry) and more.
Within the company, Perfetti Van Melle’s active Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) employee resource group plays a steady and important role in the company’s culture, with year-round programming, education and outreach to ensure a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for all employees. Activities this year have included employee listening and discussion sessions around equity, justice and diversity, as well as all-company celebrations for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Pride Day. COVID-alternative celebrations are being planned for the fall by the Perfetti D&I team recognizing Veteran’s Day and Global Diversity Day.
At Perfetti Van Melle, caring for its people and the community where employees live and work, go hand-in-hand. For many years, the company has been very active in the Cincinnati region and that’s continued through the pandemic. In fact, Perfetti was one of three finalists this year for the Community Champions Business Impact Award given by the NKY Chamber of Commerce.
When the COVID-19 crisis started, Perfetti made sure their candy, gum and mints could be a bridge between area first responders and the communities they serve in Northern Kentucky. Employees volunteered to deliver cases of candy to over 40 Northern Kentucky police and fire/EMT stations including the City of Independence, City of Erlanger and City of Fort Mitchell. Candy donations have also brightened the day of children and their families staying at the Ronald McDonald house adjacent to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and for health care workers at St. Elizabeth Hospital and other area hospitals. Candy donations are helping the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio in its regional mask distribution program.
In addition to candy donations, Perfetti donated much-needed face masks to St. Elizabeth Hospital. Earlier this year, employees at Perfetti ran a virtual food drive with the regional Freestore Foodbank, raising over $3,200 including funds from Perfetti’s employee charitable donation matching program. The company also recently made a significant financial donation to Upspring to help disadvantaged Northern Kentucky children, and to the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. Discussions are underway to partner with the Urban League organization in the future and support its community mission of economic inclusion and equity.
Perfetti adapted its 2020 Community Day, an annual event where the entire company traditionally closes so all factory, warehouse, field and office employees can work together to complete large community service projects. In 2019, the Perfetti team built accessible playgrounds with Kaboom! in Evanston and Newport.
Instead of gathering employees for a day of hands on community work in 2020, the company repurposed the budget into a donation that supported the United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Digital Equity Initiative to bring internet to homes with K-12 students who lacked these resources for virtual learning.
In socially distant “parades,” employees received a box of candy to donate to their favorite nonprofit organization and are encouraged to use their 2020 company benefit of a paid day of individual volunteer time off in virtual volunteer opportunities or other COVID-safe volunteer work. Perfetti ordered fun, candy branded kid-sized masks that were donated to Boone and Kenton County schools.
Perfetti Van Melle provides opportunity
“In addition to our permanent employees, contractors and temporary employees in Northern Kentucky, Perfetti also supports student interns and co-ops,” said Buxton. Over the last five years, she shared that the company has:
- Hired 52 interns and co-op students providing valuable hands on experience and mentorship in every area, from brand and business management to manufacturing technologies and process
- Brought on five of those interns as permanent employees
- Developed a relationship with Gateway Community & Technical College in Northern Kentucky and its FAME apprenticeship program, with four participants gaining experience at Perfetti
- Visited area high school students to educate students about career options in manufacturing
As a stalwart industry advocate, Perfetti Van Melle is an active supporter in local civic and business groups. Perfetti’s local leadership team members and other executives are involved in the community and participate on committees and often share expertise in local chamber, civic and business events.
Perfetti Van Melle is an ideal corporate citizen in Northern Kentucky – focused on continuous growth, innovation and leadership in North America. The company continues to invest in its people, manufacturing facilities and manufacturing technology, while fulfilling its mission to innovate and make life sweeter for people across the U.S. with its Kentucky-made products.