Northfield Campus 1987 Carol Stream Campus 1994

High Tech, High Touch. 20. Building a Strong. Brand. 22. Flavor University® ... for Longevity ... BrandS, BuSineSSeS and CommunitieS through a Commitment.

Northfield Campus 1987

Carol Stream Campus 1994

Geneva Campus 2012

Foundation 25 B u i l d i n g a s t r o n g b r a n d , c u lt u r e a n d f u t u r e

© 2012 FONA International Inc.

Table of Contents 04 Introduction


08 From Vision to Reality

10 High Tech, High Touch

12 “2×4” Growth

14 Provide Creative and Efficient Solutions

16 Remain True to Core Beliefs


22 Flavor University®

24 Measure and Manage

26 FONA’s Facility: An Extension of Their Brand

28 Audit Ready 24/7

30 Deliver Exceptional Service as the Norm


34 Focus on People

36 Recognize Achievements

38 Always Pursue Excellence

40 Give Thanks


44 Balancing the FONA Triangle for Longevity

46 Securing High-Performing Leadership

48 Looking Forward

50 Delivering a Framework for the Future

Building a Strong Foundation Building a Strong Brand

Building a Strong Culture

Building a Strong Future 52 A Look Back

18 Celebrate Success With Generosity

FONA’s first 25 years tells a story of people, customers, brands, businesses and communities through a commitment to GROWTH and EXCELLENCE. It’s a story that speaks of SUCCESS and promises the brightest of possibilities. Founded on the principle that generosity and excellence provide the highest return on investment, FONA continues to build upon a solid foundation of excellence and putting people first. FONA looks forward to many future opportunities to share its passion for excellence. FONA invites you to celebrate the story of its past, present and future.

Building A strong

Foundation Many of the world’s leading organizations do not emerge from one brilliant idea, but from a deep, all-encompassing vision to do something that has never been done before. FONA International grew from the desire to bring a new way of doing business to the flavor industry— to deliver something above and beyond expectations.

Construction begins on FONA’s worldwide headquarters in Geneva, Illinois in 2003.

From Vision to Reality FONA’s Founder, Chairman and CEO Joe Slawek,

Putting these words into action, Joe began

envisioned a different kind of flavor company long

focusing on how the idea of FONA could come to

before he took the leap to start FONA International.

life, jotting notes on napkins when inspiration hit.

From a part-time job in the Vanilla Department at

He felt strongly that there was a gap—an unmet

Food Materials Corporation to his role as a senior-

demand for a flavor company that could deliver

level executive, Joe spent many years gaining

both high-touch customer service and innovative

industry experience, especially the importance of

technical solutions. He considered ways to fill these

building relationships, that would later provide the

gaps, providing customers with a new experience

framework for FONA.

in the flavor industry. Joe jotted down the name

Following the loss of his mentor and a change in leadership, Joe moved from thinking, “I wouldn’t do it that way” to “Maybe . . .” to “Have the

Joe Slawek, Chairman and CEO, remembers thinking to himself, “Have the courage, commitment and dedication to start your own company.”

“Flavors of North America” on a napkin and FONA was born. Flavors of North America was later rebranded to become FONA International.

courage, commitment and dedication to start your own company.” When inspiration strikes, Joe is known for jotting down his thoughts on the closest napkin. Many ideas for FONA started this way.


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High Tech, High Touch “Even today, I hear our

In FONA’s earliest days, flavor companies were

of production resources and laboratories, but

salespeople using our high

known for either having great technology or great

would also drive high service metrics and engage

tech, high touch tagline.

service though rarely, if ever, excelling in both.

customers as only small companies can.

It means that we will serve

“From the outset, we chose to compete at the

you better than anyone

highest level of technology and simultaneously

else in the industry at the

at the highest level of service,” says Joe. FONA

same time that we will give

would rival the largest international flavor

you state-of-the-industry

companies in the marketplace with a full array

Twenty-five years later, FONA still operates from this unique and strong position to be both high tech and high touch, setting it apart from the crowd and driving its remarkable success.

technology and state-ofthe-industry flavor creation.”

TJ Widuch Vice President, Business Units


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Building a Strong Foundation


“2×4” Growth When given a choice between saving money or

FONA looks to a 2×4 visual icon to better explain

growing the business, Joe always chooses growth.

growth and motivate its employees. Here’s how

“The work of generating revenue does not come

it works: if FONA runs efficiently and optimally,

from saving money, but from growing,” says Joe.

its growth rate approximately doubles every

“There are always costs and, of course, we need

four years—or more simply, 2×4. Joe calls this

to be great stewards. But the challenge for us is

his favorite icon, not only because it expresses a

always to generate revenue, and if that means

profitable revenue over a natural length of time,

spending more money, investing more hours in

but also because it inspires great stewardship by

a customer or an employee, we definitely choose

conveying a doubling of resources. His leadership

to invest our resources in driving growth.”

teams also see it as a powerful reminder of what

It’s hard to argue with a winning approach; FONA continues to far exceed industry standard growth rates of 2–3% with substantial growth rates year after year in the upper teens.


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they’re all trying to do: grow the business.

2011 FONA was named one of the fastest-growing private companies in the country by Inc. 5000 for the fifth consecutive year.

Provide Creative and Efficient Solutions

“We often hear from the industry and our customers that we really are different. We don’t do things the way that the other big flavor companies do. We think differently, we act differently, we get more involved with our customers, we care about their results and their

FONA’s approach to delivering the right solutions

FONA hopes their customers find this collaborative

for its customers begins with one important step:

spirit reaches beyond the scope of a project and

listening. It’s a skill that expresses FONA’s desire

extends into an inspiring work environment. At

to engage and partner with customers. This

FONA, customers work side by side with flavor

attentive approach allows FONA to step into the

experts to develop innovative solutions in a

shoes of its customers, bring their own unique

dedicated guest lab.

perspective, and ultimately break the mold by

customers. People associate

uncovering fresh possibilities. “If you want to

the FONA brand with the

be innovative,” says Joe Slawek, “look to your

ability to get it done and

customers, not your competition.”

to get it done differently.”

Amy McDonald Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Corporate Communications

FONA’s in-house sensory lab is just one of the 14

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innovative solutions offered to customers.

Building a Strong Foundation


Chairman and CEO Joe Slawek

Remain True to Core Beliefs FONA was founded on core principles and beliefs that underscore the organization’s commitment to always do the right thing. This document is part of Joe’s founding vision and serves as his guide for growing his company.

it is the responsibility of all

We believe … • That excellent customer service is key to the life of our company. • In the highest levels of loyalty, respect, and concern for our customers and their consumers. • Our employees have the potential to grow in

FONA Believes employees, in their daily work,

• In God and thank God for the many gifts, talents, responsibilities, authorities, successes

to create FONA’s positive reputation in the marketplace.

and failures, problems, losses and gains, changes, weaknesses and strengths which He gave us in the course of our development as a business. As our first priority, we seek to honor Him in all

their ability to contribute to the success and

of our activities. The credit for our success

growth of FONA International.

belongs to Him for His help, blessing, protection, mercy, and providence throughout our history,

• In the celebration of all accomplishments

our today, and into our future.

and in the recognition of all employees and their contributions by management and peers.


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Building a Strong Foundation


“One of the things that has always impressed me about my father and FONA has been generosity. I can’t tell you the countless times that the spirit of generosity has transcended all natural decision making processes around cost and put our culture, people and community first.”

Luke Slawek

Celebrate Success with Generosity

Vice President, Business Units and Innovation

Joe believes generosity breeds generosity.

FONA donated more than 11% of its profits to

“It starts with a concept: do we live in a world of

charitable endeavors.

scarcity, or do we live in a world of abundance? I subscribe to the belief that we live in a world of abundance. And in fact, we have a God who is super abundantly generous to us.”

with several community partners, including

partnership to the following community-based organizations: Administer Justice—Fox Valley, Day One Network, Fox Valley Hospice, Max

As FONA celebrates its 25 anniversary, it’s a

McGraw Wildlife Foundation, Northern Illinois

perfect time to acknowledge the many ways this

Food Bank, Fox Valley Christian Action and

organization has put people first. This includes

TriCity Family Services.


FONA participates in a variety of activities

FONA is honored to extend its support and

opening its doors to the community and giving generously of its time and resources. In 2011,

Fox Valley Christian Action.


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Building a Strong Foundation


Building A strong

Brand At FONA, exceeding expectations and delivering innovative results comes from a commitment to collaboration, customer service, creativity, generosity and growth. It also translates to a lasting brand impression among all those who know FONA.

“FONA’s amazing growth boils down to its focus on people. A lot of companies say that they are customer-focused, but at FONA, we really mean it because we

Flavor University

think about people first. Our heart is with


our customers, our employees, and those surrounding us in the community.”

Amy McDonald Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Corporate Communications

Created as a means to share the latest flavor

Flavor 101® is the program’s cornerstone course,

knowledge with customers and the industry,

geared toward individuals involved in research,

Flavor University makes an important statement

development, production, marketing, quality

about the FONA brand. The tuition-free, collegiate-

and purchasing.

level courses are taught by FONA’s own expert faculty. “Flavor University is not a sales tool,” reminds Joe, “but a true expression of our guiding principle to put our customers first.” More than 6,000 people have graduated from the Flavor

Other Flavor University courses include Savory Flavor 201®, Beverage Flavor 201®, Confection Flavor 201®, Grain Flavor 201®—Solutions for Cereal and Snacks, and Top Ten Challenges of Flavor®.

University program.


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Building a Strong Brand


Measure and Manage As President, Joe quickly saw the importance

seemed impossible—like delivering overnight

“This is the important concept

planning and measuring played in balancing all

samples or closing projects in five days—suddenly

we learned: whatever you measure,

sides of the organizational triangle.

it could be done because FONA was measuring

you will manage.”

“Not only do you have to satisfy your customers,

Joe Slawek

you also need to satisfy your employees and your

Chairman and CEO

stakeholders, which includes banks, insurance

and managing toward these goals. This was critical in shaping the organization and FONA’s reputation, especially in the early days.

companies, and our community,” says Joe. “This is

“Today, planning and measuring our metrics come

the important concept we learned: whatever you

naturally,” says Joe. “We already know our metrics

measure, you will manage.”

before they are published because they are essential

So when FONA’s executive leadership challenged

in giving us an awareness into the organization.”

the organization to reach goals which at first


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Brand


FONA’s Facility: An Extension of Their Brand

“As FONA employees we are not just individuals. We share our passion for our work as a team.”

Jim Evanoff Chief Financial Officer

In 2005, FONA established its global headquarters

Visitors are greeted by open, sunlit spaces like

for flavor creation in a striking new building set

the atrium-enclosed Hall of Flavors (at right),

upon 33 acres in Geneva, Illinois. The first of three

beautiful glass-enclosed laboratories, and walls of

planned buildings and spanning 82,000 square

employee and organizational recognition that speak

feet, this modern space has been designed to

volumes of a brand that cares about its people.

accommodate a robust and growing workforce while representing the visionary FONA brand. “Our campus concept is very important because you have about 60 seconds to make a great impression,” says Joe.

Above: November 25, 2002, Groundbreaking Ceremony, Geneva, Illinois. Right: FONA’s corporate headquarters.


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Brand


2010 FONA was ranked in the top seven companies for all five performance areas evaluated in a 2010 flavor industry study conducted by Clear Seas Research on

Audit Ready 24/7

attributes valued by flavor purchasers, and performance against those expectations.

Audits are an essential way for organizations to

FONA began seeking out more external,

gauge the health of their business—positive results

unannounced validation from organizations

lend instant credibility and bolster the brand.

like the Safe Quality Food Institute. At the

For example, when FONA received a positive review from the American Institute of Baking (AIB), it was immediately broadcast to their customers. “We discovered over time that

same time, FONA began performing employee and customer surveys on the belief that being audit and survey-ready 24/7 creates a state of organizational excellence.

external audits offer the best opportunity for us to grow, just as AIB and our accounting audit helps us to grow each year,” says Joe.


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Building a Strong Brand


FONA Believes in the on-time delivery of defect-free products and accurate documents with

Deliver Exceptional Service as the Norm Giving the best to FONA customers means

FONA sets its sights on exceeding customer

making every interaction a positive, open and

expectations and delivering excellent, measurable

efficient experience. FONA is committed to

results at all times in categories such as on-time

delivering creative, high-energy engagements

shipments, quick and accurate regulatory

that are grounded in honesty and mutual respect.

documents, and fast delivery of new products.

service second to none. Customer orders must be serviced promptly, accurately, and reliably.

FONA strives to delight customers and express a passion for their brands.


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Brand


Building A strong

Culture In a world buzzing with fast-paced organizations focused on the bottom line, FONA stands apart. It is a place where an exceptional record of growth and success is attributed less to the numbers and more to exceptionally driven individuals and a principled culture.

“FONA’s high-performance workplace

Focus on People

is not about getting the most of any one person, it’s about getting the best of every person.”

TJ Widuch Vice President, Business Units

FONA is the recipient of numerous awards, year

and care for each employee as an individual—

after year, that reflect a solid commitment to its

these are the qualities and values that define the

employees. These accolades speak to a dedicated

FONA culture.

workplace that draws the best and brightest in the industry. Attracting the best comes naturally when people are a priority. Employee engagement, professional development,

Joe says, “I think the generosity our people show each other has a tremendous impact, whether it’s at an employee meeting, the Thanksgiving luncheon or a community service project.”

high performance, acknowledgment of successes


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Culture


“Recognition and

Recognize Achievements

camaraderie are so important at FONA. The values that we share attract people of similar values who feel like they can put their best foot forward, and FONA is always ready to congratulate them in their achievements. It

At FONA, employees are inspired to give their

back from a boss. Imagine the feelings of pride,

best, and those achievements are regularly

accomplishment and accountability employees feel

applauded. For example, at employee meetings,

when publicly acknowledged by their peers.”

coworkers are given the opportunity to publicly acknowledge their peers.

starts with how we treat

“Peer recognition is so important at FONA,” says

our employees, and our

Joe, “perhaps more powerful than a pat on the

This tradition reinforces FONA’s relentless pursuit of excellence.

employees continue that cycle to our customers and stakeholders.”

Jim Evanoff Chief Financial Officer


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Culture


Always Pursue Excellence

FONA Believes its first responsibility is to customers and all others who use FONA’s products and services.

A promise to the do the right thing is at the

guide workplace behavior and to inspire personal

heart of FONA’s pursuit of excellence. FONA is

character and excellence around the clock. “The

guided by clearly documented beliefs and values—

real battle every day—the real choice for each of

beliefs that have served the organization from

us to make—is whether we’re going to be mediocre

the beginning and underscore its commitment to

or excellent. The relentless pursuit of excellence

integrity. Joe says, “It is very important to let

has been a powerful hallmark of the FONA culture,

our people know that we are going to stand up

something we’ve done in tandem with our values,”

and do the right thing.”

says Joe.

Values such as generosity, collaboration and high performance have the collective power to

Above: Being involved with the community is an important part of the FONA culture, such as offering tours to local school groups.


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Culture


“The FONA family spirit is about a family of people who care about you as an individual, not just as a role within the organization.”

Jim Evanoff

Give Thanks

Chief Financial Officer

Since its early years, FONA has celebrated its

barbecued at the former Carol Stream facility. Now,

employees by expressing gratitude with two

more than 500 people attend the annual picnic!

annual special events—the family picnic and Thanksgiving luncheon.

The annual Thanksgiving luncheon is a time for gratitude. “I am so indebted to our people for their

“One of the highlights of the year for me is the

roles, contributions, and how they make me and

family picnic,” says Joe, “when we get to thank our

each other better,” says Joe. “I believe Thanksgiving

employees and their beautiful families—spouses,

is such a natural time to say thank you to each

children, even their parents and grandchildren!”

other, to God, and to the community we live in.

Joe remembers the first picnic, where a small

There is so much to be grateful for.”

group of employees, about 18, and their families


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Culture


Building A strong

Future Looking back over its first 25 years, FONA is proud to celebrate a track record of visionary leadership, remarkable growth and an unwavering commitment to core values. Today, FONA is focused on the next 25 years and the opportunity to continue building on its past record of achievement.

FONA’s growth is five times the industry average.

FONA Believes long-term, skilled, committed, willing, able, happy, loyal, safety-conscious,

Balancing the FONA Triangle for Longevity

customer-oriented, positive employees grow the business best.


Foundation 25

FONA uses the image of a 2×4 to talk about

and the objective is clear—achieve balance and

growth, but it looks to an equilateral triangle

excellence in all three areas. The FONA Triangle

to explain its business model. Dubbed the

has been a powerful tool in guiding the

“FONA Triangle,” this simple shape depicts

organization. Moving forward, it will light the

the organization’s commitment to its top

way for new and aspiring leaders who will

three priorities: its customers, employees, and

balance rewarding careers, customer success,

stakeholders. One look at the FONA Triangle

and profitable growth.

Building a Strong Future

45 45

Securing High-Performing Leadership Joe likes to joke about the earliest stages of

foundation of professional excellence,” shares

the business when getting warm bodies on board

Joe. “We have the people and leaders to do this.”

was all that mattered. Today, Joe is proud to stand among world-class leaders with a commitment to FONA’s values and a laser-like focus on excellence—key ingredients to future successes.

As Joe transitions to his new role as Chairman, he’s confident in the entrepreneurial spirit that’s already taken hold across FONA. As leadership teams continue to gain experience and become

“I’m very excited about the transition from

visionaries, FONA’s next 25 years promise a new

our early history and our rock solid foundation

force of innovation, high-caliber leadership and

to a way of doing business that will keep that

global expansion.

entrepreneurship value and will be based on a

“Joe loves to see us striving for excellence all of the time. He doesn’t want to see perfection because it’s so rare and difficult to replicate, and he doesn’t want to see mediocrity because that’s just sticking with the status quo. And we’re OK to fail as long as we fail forward and learn from it. The company gives us the freedom to make mistakes, to learn from them and to constantly pursue excellence by doing so.”

Amy McDonald Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Corporate Communications


Foundation 25

Looking Forward “We’ve done such a

“One of the best things about FONA is that

each business unit into its own self-sufficient

great job establishing a

we’ve been able to reinvent ourselves on several

engine, once again developing and envisioning

culture of excellence that

occasions,” shares Joe.

a fresh approach to high tech, high touch service.

the most exciting part is to plant seeds in places outside of our normal geographies, especially in

When FONA first opened its doors, it was a small, tightly-focused flavor company capable of great service and technology. As the company grew over

Another design full of promise and growth potential focuses on expansion into ingredient manufacturing technologies.

the next 25 years, it grew into a corporate model

Both of these models lend themselves perfectly

that included revenue generation, focused on

to continued international growth, another strong

earning the approval process, order fulfillment that

focus in FONA’s future. Looking to augment

extended through the selling of a product, and a

its Canada and UK facilities, FONA plans on

strong corporate services group that encompassed

establishing more facilities across the world,

Jim Evanoff

support functions like information technology,

especially in emerging markets like Asia and India.

Chief Financial Officer

human resources and legal.

FONA’s expansion will go hand in hand with a

the international markets, where there is tremendous opportunity to lead the flavor industry.”

More recently, FONA has created a business unit design that speaks volumes about the future of

steadfast commitment to seamlessly deliver the same exceptional service found in Geneva, Illinois.

the company. In the next 25 years, FONA will turn 48

Foundation 25

Building a Strong Future

49 49

Delivering a Framework for the Future

“What excites me the most is the opportunity to carry our culture forward as part of our heritage. It’s been the defining difference of who we have been to our employees, our customers and our community.”

Luke Slawek Vice President, Business Units and Innovation

Privately held and family-owned since day one

“My wife Mary and I are delighted by our

in 1987, FONA is as much about its people as it is

children’s interest in the business,” says Joe.

a lifelong expression of Joe Slawek and his impact

“Particularly Luke, who has done an amazing

in the flavor industry. He and his family have shared

job in his sales and management roles.”

in the passion, challenges and joys of this family business, and they look forward to having an active hand in it moving forward.

The Slaweks have gone to great lengths to prepare for succession and preserve a leadership role at FONA for their family. At the same time, they

Joe has served FONA as a salesperson, President

are clear in their desire for FONA to hold their

and CEO, and now the role of Chairman and CEO.

children to the same high standards expected

Excited for the opportunity to mentor and groom

of any other employee.

potential leaders, he also looks forward to a longterm legacy that spans generations and includes his children and grandchildren.


Foundation 25

Building a Strong Future

51 51

2011 Award Winner

2006–2011 1987 Flavors of North America



An award winner in the


101 Best and Brightest

Chairman and CEO Joseph

competition since 2006,

Slawek is named Ernst &

is founded by Joseph



Joseph Slawek is inducted

European expansion in

FONA earned top honors in

Young Entrepreneur of the

Slawek after 20 years in

FONA adds flavor to the

FONA moves to a new

into the Chicagoland

the UK with sales and

2011, being named Best of

Year® for Manufacturing

the flavor industry.

California IFT Expo.

facility in Carol Stream.

Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame.

supply chain capabilities.

the Best in Chicago.

in the Midwest.



A Look Back









Flavor 101® educational

FONA Canada is established.

Worldwide headquarters

Named one of the fastest

FONA achieves the highest

in Geneva, Illinois opened

growing private companies in

level of Safe Quality Food

with world-class design

the country by Inc. Magazine.

certification code 2000

program is instituted.

FONA’s most celebrated milestones speak to a legacy marked

features based on FONA’s

by growth, success, and generosity. They also tell the story of an

business principles.

organization constantly working toward excellence.


Level 3.



The Slawek Family 1994

The Slawek Family 2001

The Slawek Family 2010

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