Marietta Corp.

Companies that operate in multiple states often run into the vexing problem of in-house competition. A company headquartered on the West Coast with facilities in the South or Midwest may have to deal with each branch trying to out-do the other in order to prove its worth to the CEO. However, at Marietta Corp., senior leaders at each facility actively share best practices with their out-of-state counterparts because they know what benefits one, benefits all.

“[In August], at our Cortland, N.Y., facility, we had a quality summit,” says Dan Keefe, senior vice president of operations and supply chain. “Every quarter, the plant managers and quality directors meet at a facility and each plant goes through what its data is telling them – every complaint, every hold, any deviations – and they brief the other plants on what they are doing to drive overall improvement.

“We always share our best demonstrated practices seamlessly across all of our facilities.”

Many may see this as an optional cost, but Keefe explains that making this practice a regularly budgeted item is critical to Marietta’s goal of being a united company.

Marietta was formed in 1976 after its founder, a former sauerkraut manufacturer, switched to personal care hotel amenities. He noticed the popularity of these travel-sized and sample-sized complementary products on a business trip in Switzerland and approached U.S. hotels with the same concept. In fact, Marietta is credited with singlehandedly launching the personal care hotel amenities industry in this country. It carries a catalog of Marietta signature products, as well as well-known name brands such as Aveda and Pantene. The company will also partner with hotels who want to develop their own in-house brand. Hotel amenities comprise approximately 40 to 45 percent of Marietta’s revenue.

The balance of revenue comes from contract manufacturing. Under this division, Marietta offers the same product development, manufacturing and packaging and design services offered in its hotel amenities services. However, it also offers assembly and affixing services such as packet and retail displays. Also, the contract manufacturing includes household care items such as detergents and cleaners, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, and food products in sample sizes or for retail.

Cross-Country Standards

The company began and still is headquartered in Cortland, New York, but it has since acquired companies in Olive Branch, Miss.; Chicago; and Los Angeles. Keefe says Marietta’s owners for the past six plus years have made significant investments to en­sure the company’s identity re­mains the same across state borders. The company already maintains one quality control system, but within the next five years, Keefe says that “we envision that each facility will also house all the same liquid manufacturing capabilities.

“Our goal is to have the most cost-efficient supply solution out there and obviously freight costs can be a huge part of that,” Keefe says. “We have a good regional program. Our profile across the map of the United States is excellent. Strategically, we see great value in that and in the future being able to manufacture anything from anywhere.”

It is well on its way to achieving that. For example, between its two Cortland facilities, it can provide every service. Also, the Los Angeles facility is being fitted to manufacture over-the-counter pharmaceuticals in addition to its current capabilities. This “harmonization,” as Keefe calls it, has become an even more important strategy for Marietta as it moves from a transactional supplier to an integrated supplier for many of its customers. “Some of our customers as early as five or 10 years ago started realizing they don’t have to own bricks and mortar,” Keefe says. “They could let someone else absorb all that cost and fixed overhead. Everyone is trying to reduce the number of suppliers they have, and our goal is to be last man standing. We will do that by being qualified at whatever the customer needs across every segment and in every facility.”

The company is so confident in its ability to be a low-risk supplier, that it introduced a hotel guest amenity 100 percent on-time delivery guarantee program last year.

All Things to All Clients

Marietta has retained its transactional sales where the company manufactures to a customer’s exact specifications, however it also has a research and development team that works off of a customer’s project brief to develop formulas and packaging, or even approach its customers with new product development ideas. Keefe says all these things help their clients stay current and in many instances ahead of market trends.

One of those trends that has made its way into every major industry is sustainability. Keefe argues that any company that has not made sustainability an integral part of its program will suffer future costs. However, he also says there is no one-size-fits-all sustainability program. Marietta has a full-time professional dedicated to orchestrating the company’s sustainability program which has included factory changes such as lighting retrofits and product development changes such as creating packaging with reduced plastic that still maintains or increases the package’s efficiency. Future reductions in carbon footprint have become a major corporate initiative.

Another part of its sustainability program benefits not only Marietta and its customers, but hundreds of families around the world. Marietta has partnered with Clean the World Global LLC to recycle hotel soaps and other bottled personal care items that are distributed to people in the United States, Canada and more than 40 other countries.

Regular use of soap can help stop the spread of preventable diseases such as acute respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases that kill 9,000 children each day, according to Clean the World. Additionally, this program enables Marietta’s customer base to divert waste from local landfills and forgo the costs associated with the products’ disposal.

“When it comes to being green, some people may think that it costs more and sometimes it can if you don’t do it right,” Keefe says. “You have to approach it from an angle of how can we make our customers be more competitive because what helps them, helps us.”