Yost Foods was founded in 1991 by Bill Yost, who is still the President. Now 30 years in the food ingredient business, Yost has brought a variety of flavors, condiments, and spices, to products used all over the world. Founded in Hinckley and now in Brunswick, Yost has always been located in Medina County. Ben Yost, the second generation in the business, sat down with Made in Medina County to tell us more.
Q: Thank you for joining us Ben! How did Yost Foods come into being?
Thanks for having me! The business started because my father had been a broker for industrial food ingredients. Many large producers purchase spices, colorings, flavorings, etc. through brokers because the quantities make more sense that way. A customer asked Bill for a specialized product that the supplier could not do, and he realized he had the knowledge and ability to make it happen. The first product that developed in to our custom-manufacturing facility today was a lemon grass-infused soy sauce used in frozen entrees.
Q: We knew this interview would result in getting hungry – that sounds awesome! Do you make similar products today?
We do. And we have really positioned our company as a customer service business first with the food ingredients second. We have to understand what our customers need, what is coming down the pike, and where we should be headed to be effective. All of our products are components of other products so there are a lot of things we can point to on a shelf and say, “we’re in that”. We can help with flavors, colors, removing preservatives or other chemicals, clean label initiatives, alternative proteins and many other processes.
Q: What kinds of problems do you solve for your customers?
One example we love to share is Worcestershire sauce. Some companies may need the flavor and body it brings to a recipe, but they don’t want the caramel coloring or the anchovy that is usually in it. Other companies may want a particular sauce or condiment that is vegan. We had another company that wanted a condiment without any preservatives, and we were able to do that as well. We really want to customize the product to the needs of our customer.
Q: How are you organized across your product lines?
Our products are typically organized by the industries we serve. Specifically, refrigerated and frozen foods, dressings and sauces, confection, and snack food. Our goal is to align our resources and capabilities to really solve problems for our customers and drive value and efficiency. The soul of our company is really, “how can we help?” and because of that, we are always looking out for our customers.
Q: I think we all know there are trends in food just like other cultural areas. How do you identify the next trend and get ahead of it?
In the food world, everyone is looking for the next siracha. No one had any idea how fast and hard that trend would hit and now you can get siracha everything. We read a lot of trend analyses, watch for trends in customer requests, and continuously update our ethnic flavor profile library. The next trend will most likely come out of an ethnicity that hasn’t hit mainstream just yet so we look at all of those. We want to be as proactive as possible and be opportunistic. We have food scientists on staff who also are doing research and looking for the next great option in flavors.
Q: So gochujang could be next? It is one of our favorites!
It certainly could be. We are seeing an uptick in sales there. But honestly, the name makes it sound more exotic than it is, so our customers pitching to foodservice and retail customers may want to think about rebranding it. Just like in anything, the product has to be accessible to people and branding is as important as it is in anything else.
Q: That is so interesting. I wouldn’t think food has branding issues, but you are absolutely right. I can think of many products that you never saw in a restaurant and then suddenly everyone had them. But then we could talk about food all day! We also want to focus on Yost Foods as a business. You were founded in Medina County because that’s where you lived, but why do you stay here?
The company started in Medina County by coincidence – the company started out of a garage and that garage happened to be in Medina County (Hinckley). As the company grew and we leased a building and eventually built our own, we started realizing the true advantages manufacturing in Medina County has to offer: talented and motivated people, regional proximity to large food manufacturers, friendly business environment, etc. We’ve been able to get research and information from all the resources available and it has helped us manage our workforce and benefits. We really appreciate the support of the city and the county.
Q: That’s great to hear! How many people do you have on staff and how do you find your people?
Right now we have 33 employees on our team. We bring a lot of our production team in as temp-to-hire. They come in knowing we want to hire them, but it gives both us and them the chance to determine if it is a good fit. They learn about our culture because when you work here, you don’t just push buttons. You are part of what we do and part of solving the customer’s problem. That is vital to our business.
Q: What do you see in the future for Yost?
People are always going to be looking for new flavors and we are happy to meet those needs.
Our customers are looking for ways to meet the “clean label” movement happening in food today. This is intended to focus on healthy, natural, and sustainable foods, but is not an FDA mandate. Our customers are doing this voluntarily and we are happy to help them remove preservatives and other chemicals from products. We specialize in non-GMO, allergen free, vegan and / or vegetarian options. So, when a company needs a new company to bring a product to market, we are there for them.
Q: You clearly love this industry and what you do. Do you want to comment on that?
You are right – I do! I love making things. There is such a satisfaction in turning raw materials into something that is enjoyed by millions of people. Other people I know create a lot of paper and they don’t seem to have the same satisfaction in what they do that I enjoy. I want to make sure others experience that which is why I love the Made in Medina County movement. It is so important to be sure people see the value in these kinds of positions and take advantage of the career opportunities available!
For more information about Yost Foods, please visit www.yostfoods.com