By Susan Marquez
When you grab a packet of ketchup in a fast-food restaurant, do you ever wonder where it was made? Or how about the breading on the piece of fried chicken you ate for lunch? Most of us don’t think about the details of what we eat, but for a company in Pearl, Mississippi, the details are the reason they are in business.
R.J. Reed went to work for McCarty Foods after graduating with a food science degree from Mississippi State University. Always interested in the food business, R.J. worked for the chicken processing division of McCarty Foods before they sold out to Tyson. Tyson wanted to move him to Arkansas, and they wanted him to take the formulas he developed. Instead, R.J. started his own company in 1995, and he took some of the employees from McCarty with him.
In 1998, R.J. bought Specialty Foods from SaraLee, which included the production of condiments, salad dressings, barbeque sauces and juice cups. After renting a building for one year, he built a facility in Pearl in 2000, and that’s where Reed Food Technology stands today. His son, Jeff, says the company took off, growing organically from 2000 to 2007.
“We acquired Tastemaker Foods at that time,” Jeff says. “It was a dry foods company, making spice blends, funnel cake and pancake mixes, and breading. We moved Tastemaker from Memphis to Hernando in 2019, so now we are a Mississippi-based company.” The company is family-owned, with Jeff running the Pearl operation while his brother, Justin, runs the Hernando facility. “Dad still comes in every day for lunch,” says Jeff.
The food product developer and private label food manufacturing company makes sauces, salad dressings, marinades, breading and batter mixes for retail and industrial clients. “We supply to the food service industry and restaurants all over the world. Food is our passion,” says Jeff, who was trained as a chef. “I got a culinary and food service management degree from Mississippi State with business information systems.”
Jeff explains that there is a research and development side of the business as well as a manufacturing side. “Someone who wants to mass-produce and sell a product may bring in their own recipe to us. We then work to match the flavor profile of a recipe, with the same taste and smell, then we take those products and put them into a wide range of packaging formats, ranging from individual condiment packets to bottles, buckets, gallon jugs, 55-gallon drums or even 300-gallon totes.”
Companies all over the country come to Reed Foods for exclusive food products for franchised restaurants, concession operations, private label customers and major food manufacturing. From dried gravy to chicken rubs, Reed supplies the spice. They make sure the products they make taste good and look good. As an SQF Level 3 certified facility, Reed’s commitment to food quality and safety is exceptional. The state-of-the-art research lab and test kitchen feature both a dedicated technical support team and a culinary support team.
They perform scientific analysis on existing food products, making targeted alterations as needed. They also generate new formulas and evaluate their performance. Reed Foods is a member of the Research Chefs Association and the Institute of Food Technologists.
“We work hard to exceed expectations,” says Jeff. “Everyone here has a passion for food, and we are dedicated to providing the best service possible to our customers.” To learn more, visit Reed Food Technology at reedfood.com.