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Posted: November 11, 2013

2013 Top Company winner: Birko

Leading the way for food safety

Gigi Sukin

MANUFACTURING

BIRKO

In 1953, out of a garage in Ogden, Utah, Florence and Ward Smith produced an alkaline wash to sanitize and whiten edible tripe. Sixty years later, their granddaughter Kelly Green now serves as chairman of the board and the third-generation owner of Birko. In its history, the organization has established a solid reputation as a leading provider of food safety solutions for the meat, produce and brewing industries.

“We think Birko is one of the best-kept secrets in the food industry,” said Green of her family’s Henderson-based business. “We help protect the food chain behind the scenes so that products are getting to customers in a safe fashion.”

Attributing a great deal of its success to solid chemistry, the firm also prides itself on social responsibility that falls in line with Birko’s daily routine and overarching values and mission.

“I really can’t take credit for it,” Green said. “When things were built 60 years ago, they were built to last, no shortcuts.”

For instance, as many U.S.-based manufacturers began outsourcing in favor of cheap foreign labor, Birko kept its manufacturing to maintain the same “touch point, right here in our back  yard.”

Also noting action in its back yard, Birko embraces Colorado’s enthusiasm for the craft beer scene. More than 30 percent of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival winners use Birko cleaning and sanitation products. Also last year, the manufacturer received a patent for acid and detergent methods used for cleaning beer kegs.

“It’s one of our fastest-growing sectors,” said Mark Swanson, Birko’s CEO, of the buzz around beer.  “It’s fun to see a segment like that growing by leaps and bounds.”

Looking forward, Green says Birko will continue to find new avenues to tailor its business. She also pointed out Birko’s commitment to academics, fostering a relationship with Colorado State University’s food science and meat science departments and programs.

“We want to promote the next generation of food scientists. Food safety isn’t going away and we’re darn good at it, if I do say so myself,” Green said.

Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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