Food without flavoring is bland, which is why Illes Seasonings & Flavors has been perfecting and innovating glazes, marinades, rubs, sauces and flavorings for nearly 90 years to add something extra to every dish.
Dr. A.E. Illes founded Illes in 1927 after first manufacturing cosmetics under the A.E. Illes Company name. He was successful enough to move his operation out of a spare room in his home and into a factory, but Illes soon dropped cosmetics in favor of manufacturing and importing flavors, concentrates and extracts.
Today, the company operates two manufacturing plants – one for dry and one for liquid manufacturing of glazes, marinades, rubs, sauces, sauce bases, drink mixes and flavors. The products are sold to food manufacturers and national restaurant chains.
“We have a great R&D department,” Vice President of Operations Scott Trapp says. “President Rick Illes and his grandfather who started the company believe in research and development and that’s how we come up with new flavors and ideas. That’s how we service our customers.”
Illes’ dry operations facility is located in a 150,000-square-foot building at the company’s headquarters in Carrollton, Texas. The company has relocated its former Dallas-based liquid facility to a larger, 75,000-square-foot facility in Carrollton. Illes’ continued growth perpetuated the move and the new facility can be expanded to double its current size, if needed, Trapp says.
To stand out among competitors, Illes prides itself on flexibility. “We can turn on a dime,” Trapp explains. “If a customer has to have something today, we often do it. That’s one of the big reasons some of our customers have had their business grow. Emergencies come up and we are able to adapt and take care of them.”
New flavors and ideas are produced in Illes’ research and development center but inspiration comes from traveling the world. The Illes DineAround program allows the company’s chefs to travel once a year to a location anywhere in the world to scout new flavors, Trapp says. “They send themselves to the location in a sense,” Trapp says. “They see where the new flavors are coming out of and come up with the area to visit.”
Chefs have traveled around the United States, South America, Spain and Asia. Asian-infusion flavorings are currently in high demand and prompted the chefs’ latest trip to Asia, Trapp says. The company’s team of chefs explored Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore in 2011. “They bring back a lot of the flavors with them, then they start to develop flavors that we can pull from our own ingredient base,” Trapp explains. “Immediately when they get back they are working on new flavors and how we can incorporate them with our customers’ products.”
Illes chefs are not always in the kitchen. They are encouraged to participate in the DineAround program, interact with other chefs, attend conferences or visit customers to share new ideas and hear about new issues. When the chefs explore, the customer benefits with access to new and authentic flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques.
Technologists in the R&D department work with chefs daily to create products with good shelf life, complete documentation and compliance with all FDA or USDA requirements. Illes’ believes R&D is a combination of science and art. The department listens to what the customer wants and once the technologists understand the problem, they work quickly to come up with the best solution.
One Family to Another
Illes is a family owned company that promotes a positive atmosphere for its employees, Trapp says. “It’s a very family oriented feel here,” he adds. “There is a very good culture. It’s high-paced and dynamic but still has that relaxed, family atmosphere to it. It promotes growth because people want to do well for Rick and his family because they provide so much to us.”
Because Illes is one big family, it understands quality products are essential to provide to the families that consume its flavorings. The company’s quality assurance department ensures all aspects of the Food Safety Program are monitored and adhered to. This includes manufactured products, raw materials, vendors and all other aspects of the company.
Products are approved through in-house laboratory evaluations and inspections, outside technical services, vendor certification and audits from customers and third parties. Illes is registered and compliant with all U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements and scores “excellent” to “superior” on all external audits.
Shaking it Up
Illes is well known for its exceptional flavorings and, about one year ago, the company decided not to stop at just working with food. Illes is in the process of creating alcoholic drink mixes to sell on the shelves of local liquor and grocery stores. “We have come up with fantastic flavor profiles,” Trapp says. “It’s a new market and one that hasn’t been saturated yet.”
Mixes will be available in various sizes from 10 ounces to one liter, will include alcohol and can be made frozen or on the rocks. Mixes – for now – include hard lemonade, daiquiris, various margarita flavors and mojitos. “We have spent a lot of money and time in front of research panels and in college towns to get the packaging right, the flavors right and make sure our brand stood out,” Trapp says. “Everything that’s come back has said our product tastes better.”
Illes also won best new product in August at The Global Wine, Beer and Spirits show in San Diego. “That really got us stoked and knowing we have a good product,” Trapp says.
The products are expected to be in major retailers as early as the fall and spring 2014.