ACEnet Food Ventures tenant Milo’s Whole World Gourmet, LLC, is a fast-growing manufacturer of branded and private label specialty foods located in southeast Ohio. Founded in 2003 by Jonathan Leal and his team, Milo’s started with just three pasta sauces. Steadily expanding, in 2022 they implemented a major $1 million dollar, 2100-sq ft expansion to their production facility located in ACEnet’s Food & Farm Enterprise Center in Nelsonville.
The new facility was designed by Jim Thomas of BDT Architects, with general contracting provided by Mike Myers Construction. Plumbing is being done by Thompson Plumbing, electrical by Sun Electric, and HVAC by Airclaws. All contractors, including the general contractor, are located in the Athens County, Ohio area. “For the construction of our new plant, we wanted to keep our dollars local as much as possible, as this fits with the mission of ACEnet, and our commitment to growing the local economy in any way we can,” Jonathan explained.
The expansion will allow the company to dramatically increase its sales, while significantly upgrading equipment. The new facility will have upgraded machinery, multiple large kettles, and a whole host of other equipment and technology to enable fast, safe, and consistent production. The facility also includes a connected Product Development/QC lab, where the growing team of food technologists on staff perform the work necessary to get recipes ready for commercial production.
“With this new plant, we will be getting a number of additional certifications (including organic). Combined with the larger capacity (5 million jars a year vs 900,000 now), the number of clients we have in the queue is astonishing. With the amazing, deeply talented team around me, we’re all ready for the next exciting phases of our growth!”
A long-time supporter of all things local, Milo’s has donated gift baskets, products, and time to just about every fundraiser and non-profit in Athens. “The local community has been a huge supporter since we started, and we are happy to be able to give back in any way we can,” Jonathan said. Milo’s also supports ACEnet’s reentry workforce development program, hosting residents from the STAR Correctional Facility so that they have a current work reference when applying for employment in their home community upon release.
The Grand Opening event for Milo’s new facility in October was well attended by friends, family, local business owners, nonprofits and other longtime supporters of Milo’s. The Grand Opening featured tours of their new facility and equipment upgrades, along with a selection of hors d’oeuvres from Olive Branch Catering, and beverages from Jackie O’s Brewery and Dutch Creek Winery, also all local Athens County businesses. In addition to hosting the festivities and leading tours, the Milo’s staff offered a wide variety of products for sale from their Brownwood Farms line and engaged with community members into the evening.
“I’m often asked how I got started,” says Jonathan. “I tell people about ACEnet and the bottling room, and how I thought ‘How hard/expensive can that be?’ Such naiveté… the learning curve in the packaged foods business is incredibly steep, and it took a long time to figure things out. ACEnet has always been there with infrastructure and support, and it’s paid off over time. We’re now growing at light speed, expanding into a new plant, and working on plans already for the next, larger, location.”
Do you have an idea for a sauce, or do you make a sauce your friends love that you would like to take to the next level but lack the facilities or time? Milo’s offers co-packing services! From creating and bottling your sauces to helping you navigate the specialty food industry, Milo’s is a one-stop shop focused on you. “As someone who has built two brands from the ground up, I know how hard it can be to break into the food industry, and to build a successful, lasting brand. In addition to packing your products for you, we provide our co-packing customers with free consulting as needed across all aspects of the specialty food industry, including pricing, sales support, and general industry information and connections. Our goal is to help you be successful. After all, it’s a partnership – if you’re not successful, we’re not successful.”
Community Update by ACEnet Programs & Communications Coordinator, Meggan Loveland