How Griffith Foods is improving the food industry through its commitment to shared value and the company’s purpose: blending care and creativity to nourish the world.
What good is a company that doesn’t do good? Offering a great product or service and excellent customer service should always be pillars in the foundation of any business, but can a business also help make the world a better place?
Griffith Foods, a food product development partner, is in the perfect marketplace to contribute to the greater good.
Every day, millions of people around the world consume the products that Griffith Foods assists in creating. From foodservice and other food manufacturers to retailers and distributors, Griffith Foods has helped the largest and most influential businesses in the food industry develop some of their best-known products.
A Brief History
Even in its early days, the company was a vehicle for the greater good. Originally, making better meat and bakery products through enhancing flavors, improving food safety, and creating faster and more efficient processing were the primary goals of this food industry company.
“If you look at our history, being a vehicle for the greater good has been the ethos of this company,” shared Brian Griffith, Owner and Executive Chairman of Griffith Foods. He’s held a handful of diverse leadership positions, moving from management of local departments through various leadership ranks over a 20-year period. Notably, he served as the Vice Chairman and President of Developing Regions before leading the company as Chairman of the Board in 2015.
“This idea was instilled in the company over many, many years, and specifically during the tenure of Dean Griffith, my father, who spent over 60 years with the company.”
Griffith Foods, previously named Griffith Laboratories, was established nearly a century ago in 1919 and focused on “bringing science to the food industry.” The company began by blending spices for businesses in the stockyards of Chicago and quickly grew.
The business has always been a private and family-owned business, a component that is incredibly important to the Griffith family.
“We are a fourth-generation family-owned business,” he said. “There’s a lot of commitment from the family, and we know our success is truly due to the commitment of our employees.”
Global expansion followed shortly after Griffith Laboratories was established, with a move into Canada in the 1920s and into Mexico in the 1950s.
From specialty flours and meat seasonings to unique coating blends and modern-day sodium reduction ingredients, Griffith led the food industry with innovation, attention to detail, and most importantly, a sharp focus on improving each and every product.
“If you look back at where the food industry was in 1919, there was a lot of need. Griffith has always focused on food safety, quality, and consistency, which has endeared us to our customers since the beginning,” Griffith said.
“Brian's stewardship is vital to translating values from generation to generation,” shared TC Chatterjee, who was named the company’s CEO in 2016. Before becoming CEO, TC was the Chief Operating Officer, as well as Group President across some of Griffith's fastest growing regions including Central and South America, Asia Pacific, and India-Middle East.
“The conversation about family values and culture continues today because the company has been able to remain family-owned. Because of this, the company is not just surviving, but thriving. Our people and the strong family values are the common ingredients that have transcended multiple generations of leadership.”
A Rebrand… Driven by Purpose
And Griffith Foods continues the successful streak. The new name and brand identity hit the food industry in 2016 and was developed to fully capture what the company is, what it stands for, and how it helps its customers succeed.
But before the company began the exercise to create a new identity, it knew the importance of fully understanding and describing “Why We Exist”—the company’s Purpose.
“When the Griffith family decided to articulate its Purpose, the primary factor was that the inspiration for it had to come from within the company, not externally; it had to be as true to us today as it was 97 years ago, and if we had it right, would be as true a hundred years from now,” said Chatterjee.
“The most important question we asked was, does it feel like Griffith? Multiple levels of the organization were involved, and it took about nine months from start to finish to develop a statement which captured the essence of what has guided the organization for almost a century.”
Brian Griffith elaborated on the importance of Purpose for the company.
“Everything flows from our Purpose. Griffith Foods’ values and sustainability platform, together with our brand, define who we are. Sustainability ensures that what we do to succeed leads to the responsible growth of our customers’ and Griffith’s business.”
Changing the name from Griffith Laboratories to Griffith Foods was a deliberate move directly aligned with Purpose. While the laboratory designation spoke to the company’s first century of food science and product development, the new moniker speaks better to the diverse capabilities that differentiate the organization, and what customers are looking for in the food industry.
“The title of ‘laboratories’ seemed to alienate a part of our potential customer base, and didn’t include the contributions that many of our employees bring to work each day,” Griffith said. “‘Foods’ captures who we are as a company today.”
The nuanced brand identity has resonated across the world in the more than 30 countries in which Griffith operates. Just like the recipes the company creates, Griffith Foods’ Purpose is to blend care and creativity to nourish the world.
Shared Value ≠ Corporate Social Responsibility
A large component of the company’s Purpose is its focus on doing well by doing good in the food industry. They are achieving this through a focus on Shared Value.
“Shared Value is a higher version of social responsibility and sustainability,” said Griffith. “As a food company, we see challenges as exciting opportunities. How do you create solutions to the world’s biggest problems?
“There are so many needs in this space: the best, most sustainable methods to source ingredients, how to deliver goods without increasing our carbon footprint… the list is nearly endless. Shared value is the intersection of social needs, business opportunities, and the capabilities we have to support our customers and our Purpose.”
Through Shared Value, Griffith Foods aims to capture, replicate, and expand practices that support business growth while addressing needs in the world, as well as challenge the company and the food industry to evolve its thinking.
While Griffith Foods’ Shared Value approach may sound like many companies’ corporate social responsibility strategies, Griffith says the company’s plan is more than doing no harm: it’s about business performance by nourishing the world, both its people and its resources.
A perfect example of this is the Griffith Sustainability Sourced (GSS) program, which targets farm-level integration of the supply chain. For the past four years, the company has been working to source chili peppers, a highly used ingredient in Griffith’s recipes, from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in India.
The chilies are integrated pest management (IPM) and sustainably grown to limit the amount of pesticides used, enable water conservation, and protect the soil from erosion.
Farmers in the GSS India Chilies program are trained to follow sustainable cultivation practices which are guided by the Sustainable Agriculture Network standards (SAN), and receive other benefits such as access to medical facilities.
The program also utilizes mobile apps to track and manage use of pesticides, and has introduced soil and water testing to maximize return. These tactics are not only sustainable, they have resulted in a value-added product for Griffith’s customers, and create a higher valued product for the farmers.
Additionally, through Griffith Foods’ purchasing practices of tracking the peppers from their time in the field until use in a recipe, the farmers receive higher rate of return through the elimination of intermediaries, transportation to market, and commission to selling agents.
Chatterjee shared that much of what gives its shared value approach strength is the supporting institutions with whom they operate and partner. With a specific focus on non-governmental organizations, private enterprises, and government all working together, Griffith Foods can leverage its strengths to solve significant problems in a variety of arenas.
That’s where its commitment to sustainability comes in. Griffith Foods’ triple-bottom-line sustainability platform—which is rooted in people, planet, and performance and born from Purpose—guides how the food company behaves and ensures that what the organization does to succeed leads to the responsible growth of its customers’ brands and its own business.
“Each of the three P’s—people, the planet, and performance—is crucial to our success, and is driven by our purpose,” said Griffith.
Supporting its employees, their families, and associations that are committed to serving individuals living in its surrounding communities is the foundation on which the company built its culture of helping people.
As a food company, Griffith Foods feels a special obligation to alleviate hunger and improve nutrition, and encourages its employees and business partners to be engaged citizens. For one example of many, over the past two years, Griffith employees have come together to show support for ending hunger by walking in food bank organizations’ Hunger Walks.
With locations in four continents, the team understands the importance of acting as good stewards to the planet. Griffith is reinforcing its commitment to that promise through the responsible administration of the Earth’s resources.
Energy efficiency, water conservation, and sustainable sourcing are the current focuses of its planet initiatives for sustainability. In 2015, sustainably sourced chilies from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms comprised nearly 50 percent of the chilies used in Griffith products through the organization’s “Griffith Sustainably Sourced” program. By the end of 2016, the company expects to double the current usage.
“Everything we are looking to do furthers the objective of nourishing the world as a responsible corporate entity,” Griffith shared. “This feeds directly into our shared value commitment—every decision we make comes back to our Purpose and shared value. We focus on mitigating negative impacts in a sustainable manner which allows us to stay sustainable as a profitable business.”
Griffith Foods’ continued success is directly related to the advancement of its customers, and a strategic approach to business management. The company is dedicated to ethically and responsibly growing its clients' brands while maintaining food safety excellence. The more success the company has as a business, the better its ability to support people and the planet.
“We found that the triple bottom line was an easy way for teams to understand Griffith Foods’ promise of sustainability,” Griffith said. “It cuts close to the core of who we are. Sustainability runs through the company.”
“We’ve taken great care to make sure that our sustainability platform wasn’t seen as ‘one more thing we do,’” Chatterjee said. “Along with our core values, it is part of our fundamental beliefs that drive our behavior as a company.”
This approach seems to be working. The company’s 2015 sustainability report—Striving for Better—is proof that Griffith Foods is meeting its sustainability goals. Turning many of its facilities into Zero-Waste-to-Landfill designated buildings and the fight against hunger are main highlights of the company’s accomplishments.
In fact, during the 2015 Produce for Hunger initiative, an annual event where all Griffith business units around the world create food for direct donation to feeding organizations, Griffith Foods successfully produced and distributed nearly 310,000 pounds of food in 13 countries. This was equivalent to more than 2,917,000 servings provided for the hungry around the world.
The company is also expanding the Griffith Sustainably Sourced (GSS) program. In addition to the GSS Chili Peppers, Griffith is now sourcing GSS Sage from farms in Albania, and is currently in process to develop the program in some of its most used ingredients, such as black and white pepper.
What’s Your Legacy?
Griffith Foods has proven to the food industry that it is possible to be a sustainability-minded company while also being successful. For Griffith, the culture the company has had since 1919 is the reason for it all.
“The idea of stewardship and our legacy is bound to our Purpose,” Griffith said. “I realize the importance of this culture every day. It’s a special place to work.”
Griffith Foods is a product development partner specializing in food ingredients, serving global and regional food companies worldwide. We’re committed to helping our customers succeed through true, collaborative innovation. Who we are, how we help our customers win, and what we do are all driven by our Purpose – We Blend Care and Creativity to Nourish the World.
One Griffith Court
Alsip, IL 60803