Old World Spices & Seasonings Inc. – Concordia
John Jungk is a seasoned business veteran. His business is spices … developing, mixing and packaging custom-tailored blends for a long list of food-industry clients.
Entering the blending and packaging plant of Old World Spices & Seasonings Inc. in Concordia, Mo., every visitor inhales the sensational aromas of a spectrum of savory seasonings.
John founded his company in 1988. But the story starts long before then.
Walter Jungk, John’s father, devoted his career to the seasoning business. Walter was vice president of sales for a national custom blending and flavor house, Basic Food Materials. In the mid-’60s Walter introduced his son to the trade, assigning him the sales territory covering Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
John, a quick study and natural-born salesman, learned the business and established strong relationships with his customers. A few years later John started his own seasoning supply company focusing on a then-budding branch of the food-service industry — pizza.
His company succeeded so well John (and his eventual partner Walter) sold it in 1976 to Far-Mar-Co, which later became part of Farmland Industries. John remained in the industry serving five years as director of manufacturing for Far-Mar-Co, then joining Tony’s Pizza to develop a seasoning plant in Kansas.
By the late-’80s John got the entrepreneurial itch again, founding Industrial Ingredients Supply, a food and spice brokerage and wholesale distributorship in Kansas City. Within two years John renewed the family tradition in the seasoning-business by hiring his daughter Amy as his first employee. Two other daughters — Beth Benteman and Laurie Corbin — eventually joined the company along with son-in-law Russ Meinhardt.
As the company grew and added employees from outside the family, John refocused the company from brokerage and distribution to product development and blending. Also the firm’s seasoning market broadened from its original baking and dairy base to include meat, deli and specialty-gourmet customers. To reflect the expansion John changed the company name to Old World Spices & Seasonings in 1996.
It was also during this time of company growth that John realized he needed to broaden his business savvy. He first turned to the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, taking several of its FastTrac classes for entrepreneurs. Through this connection, and because of his continuing pursuit of business development, John learned about the services of the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
For several years John relied on SBTDC business specialists for counseling advice. Eventually, as part of his company’s extensive research and development efforts, John and his R&D staff sought guidance from the SBTDC to apply for a federal Small Business Innovation Research grant from the USDA. To assist its application the company received a $5,000 Missouri Technology Incentive Program — MoTIP — award. The stipend financed the complex SBIR application process.
Though this initial application proved unsuccessful, John and his research staff learned a lot about the grant application process. The experience offered valuable feedback that could boost the chances for success of possible future applications.
“It’s a process of learning about what the SBTDC offers and eventually matching that with a need that develops in our operation,” says the company president. “We’re always looking to add value.”
Consequently John and his staff are also considering how best to utilize the government contracting assistance services of the Missouri Procurement Technology Assistance Centers, a program also available through the business development office at UMKC. MO PTAC helps established businesses pursue business contracts from federal, state and local government agencies.
“I look at the SBTDC and PTAC as assets to us as we move down the road,” says John. “We’re growing and can utilize the professional support these programs offer as a supplement to our staff’s capabilities.”
That staff is growing. With about 40 full-time and part-time employees, Old World Spices moved its production plant last summer from its long-time location in south-central Kansas City to rural Concordia, about 50 miles east in Lafayette County. John expected some staff attrition due to the lengthened commute. However, staff loyalty and job satisfaction proved strong. Since the move only one employee has left the company.
Old World Spices now meets the demands of a growing base of 1,500 clients in all branches of the food-service industry. It currently maintains more than 5,000 dry mix and seasoning blend formulas in its library of recipes.
The company also has entered the fund-raising market. It’s collection of Laurie’s Kitchen gourmet dry mix products serves as the base of a new product line aimed at that target. The line is named for John’s oldest daughter, who played an important role in both development and sales of Old World’s gourmet products, before dying unexpectedly at the age of 37 in 2001. The line offers elegantly packaged dry mix products for soups, dips, cheese balls, salad dressings, meat rubs, marinades and desserts.
John Jungk explains business growth. (1 min)
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