After being in the food industry for many years, Nima Fotovat, founded Riverside Natural Foods in 2013 with his two sisters, Sahba Fotovat, director of manufacturing, and Salma Fotovat, director of supply chain.
“We work together every day, we’re in the plant every day,” Nima, who serves as president, says. “So it’s a family-run business.”
And specifically the Ontario-based company set out to create organic, better-for-you product, such as granola bars.
“More than anything, we believe we are the consumer first,” Nima explains. “We shop the category, our families eat healthy, we eat healthy… and we believe in organic food and organic agriculture. We eat organic where possible. So it’s more driven in passion. You’ve got to believe in what you do.”
Riverside’s focus is to grow its private label and store brand products.
“Private label or store brands are a growing segment of the grocery store business nowadays, and those retailers are looking for partners that can provide products that are healthy, that are trending, that the consumers are looking for but under their own brand,” Nima explains.
The company’s factory features both slab technology as well as extruding and moulding lines.
“Our focus is on working with retailers and developing their healthier alternative or organic, (Nutritional Portable Food) or bar products,” Nima says.
Recently Riverside upgraded its slab bar line to a Bühler Formpress GP Pressure-less forming system, which they were able to use to create softer bars.
“We looked at a few different lines and we liked the three-roller technology that the Bühler line offered,” Nima says. “It handles the product in gentler way when forming the slab, which is what we wanted.”
Gerald Lanchbery, production supervisor, says they installed it in March 2018, and it’s lived up to the hype.
“It’s much gentler in terms of handling the product,” he explains. “We’ve been able to put softer product into that machine as compared to the other line and still have it hold together. And overall, the ease of getting it to form properly is much improved compared to what we have previously.”
And that’s vital for granola bar manufacturing.
“Overtime, as they have a long shelf life, one of the challenges with bars is that they become dry, so in processing this, the softer it is at the beginning, the longer your shelf life is and the longer the bar stays softer,” Nima says.
Specifically, the Bühler line starts with, “the mix of the product feeding into the hopper form until the two top rollers are covered. When there is enough product on top of the rollers the former can be turned on, the gap between the two top rollers determine the feed rate to the lower and much larger discharge roller where the pre-formed slab gets the final adjustment in height by adjusting the discharge gap to achieve the desired weight for the product mix running through the former,” according to Bühler.
“The discharge gap with the top scrapper in the correct place forms the slab and sets it onto a chute, which brings the slab with the correct linear speed gently onto the conveyor belt. From here the product slab feeds into one, or if needed, several compression rolls to compress the final product to the thickness and density desired,” Bühler continues. “From here the slab would go into a cooling tunnel or oven, if baked, to set up, be enrobed; or transferred directly into the packaging system.”
The Buhler 3 roller system also provides a higher weight accuracy, flexibility in product structure and individual ingredient visibility in comparison to other 2 roll forming systems.
Overall, Riverside also specifically had a good experience with Bühler when they installed the line.
“It’s not just about the product, it’s about us treating our suppliers with respect and vice-versa and the suppliers taking ownership if there is a problem and jumping in and trying to fix the problem, because nothing goes smoothly 100 percent of the time,” Nima says. “At the end of the day Bühler is a family-owned business, which I like. And they spend a lot of money and re-invest a lot of their money into R&D and into their people, which in turn gives them a better product and service.”
If history is any indication, there’s no doubt that having that passion for what they create and who they work with will continue to propel Riverside onward and upward.
“We’re a young company but we are progressive as far as innovation and product development,” Nima says. “We spend a lot of time on that to make sure what we offer the retailers are unique offerings that will make their current users happy and bring on new users to their store.”