Food allergy sufferers – and their loved ones – know how incompatible the words safe and delicious are when it comes to options for them. But instead of accepting that rule, over the past 15 plus years, Chicago-based Enjoy Life Foods has built a line of ingredients and snacks that bucks everything traditionally associated with “allergy-free foods” from the 14 most common allergens (think peanuts, tree nuts, etc.). True to its namesake, Enjoy Life has changed the lives of those who enjoy them.
“I remember the first day I found out if I was going to become the CFO, I told a really good friend of mine, because I knew both of her kids had food allergies,” Enjoy Life’s former CFO Nick Alex said. “And she started to cry, and said, ‘That company has been life changing for us.’ It’s with that sense of purpose you show up to work every day.”
Enjoy Life launched in 2002 in Chicago with 12 bakery options, and nearly every year after that, achieved a significant growth milestone – expanding to Canada, becoming the first company to receive the independent gluten-free certification from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), opening its own production facility, landing a spot on Inc.’s Fastest Growing Private Companies list for four years in a row, and much more. As evidence of that trajectory, after Nestle/Tollhouse, Ghirardelli and Hershey, Enjoy Life Foods holds the fourth spot in terms of chocolate chip brands.
It’s really not all that surprising then, that by 2015, Enjoy Life’s story attracted the attention of Mondelez International, purveyor of brands like Oreo, Nabisco and Cadbury. The company paid some $81 million to acquire Enjoy Life, planning to continue to operate it as a wholly owned subsidiary.
QuickBooks saps productivity
With $40 million in revenue at the time and SKUs approaching 100, QuickBooks and Fishbowl couldn’t handle the volume and complexity of transactions, which continued to climb. QuickBooks crashed frequently and Fishbowl failed to make crucial inventory information visible in real-time -- everything from expiration dates, to the ability to compare and analyze information related to production.
While Mondelez ran on an SAP system, Chris Janes, a director of IT at Mondelez, was brought in to help find a new ERP system at Enjoy Life and given the freedom to choose a system that would work for the business. Its cloud-based inventory management functionality was a big part of Enjoy Life Food’s choice to implement NetSuite over SAP Business ByDesign in 2016. Today, volume is 50 percent higher, but working capital as it relates to inventory has only gone up 10 percent. It can identify and remedy areas where waste in production is showing up.
It wasn’t just a new ERP system that Enjoy Life undertook that year, though. The company also opened the country’s largest allergy-free manufacturing facility, a 200,000 square foot space in Jeffersonville, Ind. 400 miles from its former Chicago-headquarters with three production lines and nearly double the staff.
“They always say don’t have a baby and move into a new house at the same time,” Janes said. “We had a baby, a new house built and addition onto it. Speed was of the essence.”
Enjoy Life didn’t want to train the staff on QuickBooks and FishBowl right before moving to NetSuite either, so that placed further pressure on a quick implementation. NetSuite’s rapid implementation experience was another factor in the team’s decision to go with that solution.
Since implementing NetSuite, Enjoy Life has added EDI for its large distributors like Wal-Mart and Target, opened direct sales to Whole Foods and added a direct-to-consumer ecommerce site. It’s a far cry from the orders that would once come in via fax machine. Sales channels have expanded, Amazon sales have tripled over the past three years, and the company is driving double-digit top line growth.
What’s more, financial close has gone from months to days, and Enjoy Life has much greater visibility into inventory.
“Nick Alex used to say, ‘if it happens on the floor it has to happen in the system,” Janes said. “That’s something we used to struggle with.”
Indeed, the very business depends on rigorous quality assurance.
“If some allergen gets into a product we’re making, it’s not just a big deal to us, it’s a big deal to all our customers,” Janes said.
NetSuite’s advanced manufacturing module helps the company track those ingredients and it plans to add a QA module this year. Enjoy Life has also added NetSuite Advanced Customer Support to help continue to grow its usage and efficiency with NetSuite
“NetSuite is the heart of our organization, it’s the centerpoint,” Janes said. “It’s key for us that NetSuite has that flexibility and we don’t have to look at three or four separate systems to understand what’s going on.”
In fact, the project has gone so well, Mondelez is considering adding it to other subsidiaries.