By Steve Meiners – Vice President
In the beginning I have been told there were just two Crest Foods employees … McDonald and Scott. These men had an idea but I am certain they had no vision as to where that idea might take their company. The Crest Foods of today is a diversified food manufacturing company of over 900 people that is thriving in the village of Ashton, Illinois. It has been an amazing journey!
M & S Specialty Products was the initial name given to the company (1946). McDonald and Scott were solely interested in perfecting a process to produce whey protein. They were successful in their joint venture. Their first product was a nutritional supplement sold to the US Government for use in nutritional programs for returning WWII prisoners of war. Their success in this area fueled diversification into stabilizer systems for general use in the Dairy Industry. This focus has been refined through the years and is still one of our major areas of interest.
McDonald and Scott exited the company after their interest was purchased by Tom Gaskins. Gaskins was the company accountant. He continued to grow the company adding several key new staff members in Jay Meiners (my father) and Dick Moeller. Gaskins changed the name of the company to Crest Foods Co., Inc. … the result of an employee contest to name the company. Gaskins sold his interest in the company in the early 1960’s. For many years the partnership of Jay Meiners, Dick Moeller and technical director Dr. Bert Kemp grew the company in both size and capabilities.
In the late 1960’s Crest Foods got into dry foods Contract Packaging. This was not part of the business plan but rather a reaction to an opportunity. The company had a customer who was doing some agglomeration work here. The customer decided freight associated with moving the light product was excessive and they asked us to set up a line to package their coffee creamer products. This division has seen steady growth over the years. We are currently one of the largest independent dry food contract packaging companies in the country.
Jay Meiners passed away in 1988. This event set the stage for a change of Corporate Ownership which put Steve, Jeff and Mike Meiners (his three sons) in control of the company. All of us had come back to the company after college so we had some experience with our products. I moved from Manufacturing to Stabilizer System Sales, Technical Service, Customer Service and Research. Younger brother Jeff assumed the role of Corporation President (meaning all things Administrative). Youngest brother Mike took on the challenge of Managing the Contract Packaging Division. We remain in those positions today. Crest Foods has grown significantly since the late 1980’s … in terms of facilities, capabilities, staff and sales volume.
The involvement of the Meiners Family with Crest Foods continues at the current time. Many of the ‘next generation’ have decided to make Crest Foods their home as well. While there are no immediate plans for any Second Generation retirements, the foundation for a Third Generation corporation is there and strong. Crest Foods has plans to remain an independent, family owned corporation for the foreseeable future.
And … all from the early work of two men who dried a few pounds of whey protein in the back of a small town dairy in the late 1940’s. Amazing!