Elkhorn company's product keeps shredded cheese from clumping

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Stan Milam
Monday, March 4, 2013

— Most shoppers take it for granted that when they buy a package of shredded or grated cheese, the cheese is, and will stay, shredded or grated.

What most of us don't think much about is that shredded and grated is not a natural state for cheese.

"We produce an anti-caking product used by cheese makers to ensure that shredded cheese, for example, remains shredded," said Dan Gunderson, the plant manager at Sweetener Supply in Elkhorn. "For competitive reasons, I can't go into the details about how we do this, but we have a very unique product and a process that is also unique."

The powdery fiber-type pulp product is shipped out of the Sweetener Supply plant at 1080 Proctor Drive, Elkhorn, in 50-pound bags. But that's about all Gunderson is willing to disclose.

"We have a competitive advantage with our process and final product, and we, of course, don't want to jeopardize that," he said.

Sweetener Supply is relatively new to Elkhorn's manufacturing base. An existing building was enlarged in 2012 by about 5,000 square feet, resulting in a 26,000 square-foot plant that was renovated "top to bottom," Gunderson said.

The company is working one shift now with nine employees.

"In the next 18 to 24 months we expect to be operating at full capacity with three shifts," Gunderson said. "That will result in an increase of our labor force to about 27 to 30."

The Sweetener Supply facility in Elkhorn represents another expansion of the company's Ridgeland brand. Under that brand, the Elkhorn plant produces a variety of products including the anti-caking blends and insoluble fibers.

Sweetener Supply, headquartered in Brookfield, Ill., was established in 1990. It is a privately held company specializing in manufacturing and distributing food ingredients for the food, beverage, baking, dairy, pet care and neutraceutical (food and food supplements believed to have curative properties) industries.

Ridgeland's powdered cellulose product has many uses in addition to the anti-caking of shredded and grated cheese. The product also is used as dietary fiber enrichment for baked goods, pastas and pet foods. Other uses include a fiber media for water, syrups and beverages.

"The new manufacturing facility is reflective of Ridgeland Fiber's rapid growth in the marketplace and is essential in our efforts to continue meeting and exceeding customer demand for Ridgeland products," said Sweetener Supply President and CEO Joe Gardella when announcing the new Elkhorn facility.

Last updated: 7:59 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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