Blentech adding manufacturing line from Australia’s Koex

[caption id="attachment_24450" align="alignright" width="363" caption="Blentech has customized a system to produce school lunches for a major food manufacturer."][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Demand for processed foods is soaring, bringing a surge of orders to processing equipment maker Blentech Corp.

The company is scrambling to adjust to a growth spurt that began about a year and a half ago and shows no sign of slowing down.

Two factors are at play according to Blentech COO Daniel Voit.

“For one thing, when the economy is down people stop eating out. … Instead, they buy packaged food from the supermarkets. With both parents working, nobody has time to cook,” he said.

Since the top five food manufacturers worldwide use Blentech’s customized ovens and mixers, that translates to a jump in business.

“Added to that we’re seeing lots of new players in Asia. Processed food is taking off in Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and the manufacturers have enough capital to buy American equipment.”

Blentech has acquired an international reputation. And its location on the West Coast – most other equipment makers are located in the Midwest – might be an advantage for serving the growing Asian market.

The company is in the process of expanding its product line by folding in Koex, a food extruder manufacturer in Australia.

“The equipment and one or two Koex employees are coming here, and we’ll fill the other spots with local hires,” said Mr. Voit. About six employees will operate the product line.

Blentech was founded in 1986 by owner Darrell Horn.

Blentech originally made batch blenders and product transfer equipment, but soon developed a thermal cooker that broke ground in the food processing industry.

The VersaTherm could handle thick, viscous products like ground meat, and its adoption established Blentech as a leader in thermal processing equipment. It was followed by more specialized cookers and a line of continuous processing machinery.

Today Blentech holds about a dozen design and process patents and builds custom equipment to blend, marinate, cook, cool, blanch and oil-cook food. The company’s research and development arm continues to innovate.

“Once we’ve established a new product we’ll see a lot of small shops popping up to imitate it,” said Mr. Voit. “But they don’t compare with us in size or scope of products.”

The 48-employee company had revenues of close to $11 million last year, a number that will certainly climb, he said.

The equipment from Australia will arrive in a week or so for integration into the plant on Dowd Drive in Santa Rosa. No further additions to its manufacturing operation are contemplated until Blentech has adjusted to its current growth rate, said Mr. Voit.