From the Daily Journal 2-17-18
MOMENCE — Silva International is perhaps better known as the “other” supplier of dehydrated vegetables, herbs, fruits and mushrooms in Momence.
The company, started in 1991 in Momence, is expanding its footprint yet again in the small city along the Kankakee River. Its growth can be attributed largely to consumers seeking healthier diets.
The company will be nearly doubling its 190,000-square-foot footprint in Momence as it recently started an $8 million, 180,000-square-foot expansion — the bulk of which will be used as a zero-oxygen warehouse.
“We kind of like to fly under the radar here,” said Kent DeVries, vice president and CEO of Silva, which employs 220, of which about 175 are devoted to sorting and packaging more than 60 varieties of product.
The company has an “active” customer base of 600 to 700 companies and has annual sales of about $100 million.
Silva, headquartered at 523 N. Ash St., the site of the former Spieth’s Market grocery store, supplies a wide variety of dehydrated products ranging from apples to zucchini.
Unlike the “other” producer of dehydrated products in Momence — Van Drunen Farms — Silva does not grow any of its raw product. The company purchases its wide assortment of vegetables, herbs, mushrooms and fruits, dehydrates them through an air-drying system, processes them, packages them and ultimately gets them to its customers.
The raw product arrives by truck, typically five to six loads per day, or about 1,000 loads annually, from as many as 15 countries throughout the world. Importing nations include Chile, France, India, Poland, Canada, Spain, China, Germany, Egypt, Turkey, Kenya and Serbia, among others.
DeVries estimates some 98 percent of its finished product — in the form of powders, granules or blends — winds up in the hands of North American food producers.
And by food producers, DeVries said that includes producers of food for humans and more than 100 makers of pet foods. He estimated as much as 40 percent of Silva’s customer base is pet food makers.
Regardless of whether consumers are of the two- or four-legged variety, the public is seeking and — more appropriately — demanding healthier foods.
“There is such a big emphasis on health and nutrition,” he said. “We simply know more as a society. We know what we consume affects our health, and this results in [the] need for natural products, and that’s fruits and vegetables. We [Silva] fit nicely into that category.”
The company operates two, eight-hour shifts, six days per week, at its manufacturing site, 513 Mechanic St. on the city’s northwest side. The plant is idle only on Sunday.
Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, said Momence has turned into an economic engine with employment opportunities, and Silva is just another example of what’s taking place in eastern Kankakee County.
“This is a substantial project,” Nugent said. “A lot of people don’t know the millions of dollars being invested locally. This is what we’ve been after for years here. We’re seeing job creation, money being invested and wages going up. How can anyone not like this?”
Nugent said companies obviously have faith in the region and its workers.
“These companies are choosing Kankakee County to be their home, and they are doing that for good reasons,” he said.
Momence Mayor Chuck Steele said what Silva is accomplishing is amazing.
“This is a very big expansion and just another example of what’s happening here. We have some really good companies here,” he said. “I say, ‘Keep it coming.'”