Programs & People, Winter 2004 Issue

Making a Supreme difference

At Purely Supreme Foods, president and CEO Ed Fong and his 70 Burley and Meridian employees target what he calls “time-starved consumers who have little time to cook but still want to provide restaurantquality offerings to their families.”

Purely Supreme’s line of refrigerated side dishes nestle against bagged salads and heat-and-eat pot roasts around the perimeters of supermarkets—not in the frozen food aisles. If it takes the firm’s customers longer than 15 minutes to adept its oil-free potatoes and other vegetables to their tastes— sautéing them in the oil of their choice, mixing them with prepared seasoning packets, and microwaving or baking them—Fong figures he has let them down.

At TechHelp Idaho, UI Extension food processing specialist Jeff Kronenberg figures he’s let his customers down if he can’t help them slash their operating costs, optimize their employees’ effectiveness, and sail over regulatory hurdles. Kronenberg travels from one Idaho border to another, helping small-and medium-sized food-processing businesses get their footing and hit their stride in the marketplace.

Whether it’s through site visits, needs assessments, on-site project work, on-site training, educational seminars, or certificate programs, Kronenberg says TechHelp Idaho has made a difference. “We have created jobs and increased profits.”

A not-for-profit organization that has served the needs of Idaho manufacturers since 1996, TechHelp Idaho is organized as a partnership of UI, Boise State University, and Idaho State University. “There could not be a better program in my mind in the state of Idaho to help small businesses become world class,” says Fong, whose production lines at Burley have increased from one shift to three shifts since Kronenberg —and a team of other TechHelp manufacturing specialists and third-party partners—began assisting the firm in 2001.

Creating jobs, helping economies
In Minidoka and Cassia counties, downsizing at McCain Foods USA Inc. and a plant closure by J. R. Simplot have eliminated roughly 850 jobs since May 2002, bruising other retail businesses as well.

“We won’t help solve all of the problems of the Mini-Cassia economy, but certainly we are offering employment opportunities and helping put dollars in the local economy,” says Fong.

UI interns bring fresh insights
At Burley this past summer, UI food-science interns Karina Polar and Christy Maurin brought fresh insights and straight-from-the-latesttextbook information to the firm. “I have to compliment the UI on its level of students and their skill sets,” Fong says.

The quicker that technology can transfer from academia to Idaho’s food-processing lines, the quicker that products like Purely Supreme’s roasted garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce can fill consumers’ shopping carts—and the sooner everyone can eat.

--Marlene Fritz

© 2003 University of Idaho, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

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