A successful business understands the value of continuous improvement and innovation. In fact, innovation might just be the most important component to meeting the ever-changing consumer demands. M&B Products and its founder Dale McClellan are no strangers to innovation.
The McClellan’s story began in the 1950s, when Dale’s grandfather, Earl Lovelace, operated Sunny Brook as a dairy farm and glass bottling plant. After Sunny Brook closed, Dale and Mary McClellan started M&B Products (M&B) in 1987 as a continuation of their family dairy farm and processing plant. This family run business spans over four generations. M&B began originally as a juice company but later diversified by also packaging and selling milk products. Today, the McClellan family has their own proprietary blends of juice drinks, milk, yogurt and water that is sold primarily to institutional users such as schools, state intuitions and nursing homes.
Throughout the years, M&B Products has continually and successfully sought new innovative ways to improve their business and make their delicious beverage products unique. When asked how&B is able to consistently generate new ideas and products, Dale McClellan says, “we try a lot of things, and they don’t all work.” One of the keys to M&B’s success is its desire to meet and exceed its customers’ needs at every opportunity.
Dale recalled that one of the first innovative things that M&B did as a company was to offer their products in a “mini sip pouch.” The introduction of these small plastic pouches came about as a way to improve efficiency for M&B and its customers. By switching to the pouch, M&B and its customers could reduce cooler storage space requirements by 40 percent in comparison to milk cartons. Furthermore, it has the added benefit of reducing the company’s carbon footprint as there are fewer shipments required and less handling of the product. Finally, the plastic pouches also reduce school waste volume by up to
70 to 80 percent, which also saves the schools money as there are fewer pickups required.
The next major breakthrough for M&B was brought about partially by the Lets Move! campaign introduced in 2010 with a focus on encouraging healthier foods in schools, better food labeling and more physical activity for children. The campaigns primary aim is to reduce childhood obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle in children. The McClellan family believes that milk is a healthy option, but still wanted to see how they could improve their products and be part of the solution. After discussions with several school districts M&B decided to focus their efforts on offering a healthier flavored milk product. Specifically, M&B was looking to produce a flavored milk product that was fat free and lower in sugar. This idea was sparked by Dr. Beverly Girard, the school nutrition director of Sarasota County Schools. In 2011, after multiple attempts, M&B was able to bring to market a flavored milk product that was nutrition packed, fat free, lower sugar and tasty. After perfecting the mix, all schools purchasing milk from M&B were transitioned over to the reduced sugar and fat free flavored milk.
“We want to be part of the solution,” said Andrea McClellan, general manager responsible for office functions, contract negotiation and vendor/customer relationships.
In 2016, customer requests for a Florida produced, no preservatives, all-natural yogurt product with a longer shelf life led M&B Products to its next product innovation. While delivering a Florida based
yogurt would not have been a big challenge, delivering one that had no preservatives and a longer shelf life was. After several attempts, M&B was able to develop and bring to market a yogurt that satisfied all of the customer requests. Developing any new products can be a frustrating process with many challenges but passion and perseverance has led to M&B’s successes. Dale said, “At M&B, we look for a solution, not a reason to quit.”
Not one to get complacent, M&B continues to look at innovative ways to move their business forward for future generations. Recently M&B completed building a 24,550-square-foot pallet position freezer
that allows their operation to run more efficiently. M&B is also in the process of moving forward with installing an automatic palletization machine that streamlines stacking and productivity.
Additionally, in April 2020, M&B will conduct a test run of a new strawberry-flavored milk product aimed at serving that portion of the market that has a sensitivity to consuming milk. The new product will be both lactose free and produced by cows with only the A2 casein protein, which is easier to digest. “Milk is the most perfect beverage there is,” Andrea said. “It should be able to be consumed by anyone.”
The McClellan’s desire to be part of the solution is evident in all that they do and in the way they seek to meet changing consumer preferences. Andrea McClellan noted, “It takes a team to be successful
including the help and support we have received from Farm Credit.” “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the help of Farm Credit.”
Farm Credit of Central Florida is proud to support the dairy farmers and companies like M&B Products. We enjoy hearing all the ways dairy farmers are being innovative and ensuring a future for the industry.