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RITA: a growth spurt at 50: the privately-held specialty chemical company shows no signs of middle age as it dedicates a new facility, enters new markets and launches new products.

RITA may be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but the specialty chemical company certainly isn't showing its age. In fact, the Crystal Lake, IL-based maker of ingredients for the personal care industry is growing faster than ever by launching new products, entering new markets and expanding its capabilities.

The company recently opened a new 120,000-square foot facility in Crystal Lake. The new 19-acre site enables RITA to maintain all three of its laboratories--analytical, technical services and quality control--under one roof.

"The new facility will allow us to respond more quickly to our customers," observed Brian Goode, president of RITA. "It was inefficient to have operations in two different locations. Now we can respond even more quickly to our customers' requests."

Enhanced Capabilities

The site includes a much larger warehouse that enables RITA to efficiently move preservatives, emollients, esters, emulsifiers and ethoxylates whenever and wherever the customer needs them. Plans are also underway to expand instrumentation by adding High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) equipment to complement RITA's existing capabilities in gas chromatography (GC).

"Some things are just easier to analyze using HPLC," explained Katherine Maka, RITA's application lab manager. "HPLC will enable us to ship products even faster because we won't have to conduct as many wet chemistry tests."

At the same time, the additional space will enable the company to increase its staff by 15-20%, according to RITA executives. Ms. Maka told Happi that the company is determined to expand its capabilities in applied research and development and to add more personnel in the applications lab.

"That's our first priority, because we know that many of our customers rely on us for at least a starting formulation," said Ms. Maka. "Adding staff will enable us to expand in this area and provide faster service."

Adding staff is a necessity as RITA expands into new product categories, including natural and synthetic polymers, natural actives and specialty emollients.

Elsewhere, RITA opened a new 34,000-square-foot facility in Forney, TX last fall to handle orders for the southwestern portion of the U.S. It joins other RITA locations in Ramsey, NJ; Chino, CA and Winder, GA.

New Markets and Products

With its infrastructure in place, RITA is ready to enter a variety of new markets. The company has set its sights on expanding its color cosmetics offerings by entering lip color and pressed powder segments. Mr. Goode also anticipates growth opportunities in areas outside the cosmetic sector. Specifically, RITA is moving into industrial and institutional cleaners, specialty lubricants and pharmaceuticals, focusing on OTC topical creams.

At the same time, however, the company remains committed to developing new products to fit the needs of its existing customers. For example, RITA recently received regulatory approval to market triclosan, which has applications in toothpastes, antibacterial hand washes and scrubs and antiperspirants. The material is a direct drop-in for existing formulas.

Besides developing products internally, RITA represents a variety of companies and their products to meet the needs of the global personal care market. For the past three years, RITA has been the national representative for Lamberti, an Italian supplier of natural and synthetic rheology agents whose product line includes natural guars, acrylates and acrylic polymers.

In addition to the specialty product line, RITA has maintained a 30-plus year relationship with Industria Quimica del Lerma (IQC), a large manufacturer of esters, lanolin, preservatives and ethoxylates. Mr. Goode credited a large part of RITA's initial growth to the cooperation between his company and Camil Khoury, founder of IQC.

"He is one of the finest business people that I have ever had the pleasure of doing business with," said Mr. Goode.

RITA also represents Silab's line of botanical ingredients for the personal care industry along with Seiwa Kasai's line of specialty proteins.

A Long Way from Lanolin

New products, new markets and strong global alliances: RITA has come a long way since the company's inception in 1954. Mr. Goode's uncle, Steve Goode, founded the company as a lanolin and lanolin derivative supplier. Since becoming president 16 years ago, Mr. Goode and his team have diversified RITA's lineup well beyond lanolin. Mr. Goode stressed the importance of teamwork at RITA, emphasizing that his brother Tom Goode, and Bart Falco, who serve as co-vice presidents of sales, have played key roles in RITA's growth.

"We have nearly 100 employees and we are committed to promoting from within because it's the right thing to do," insisted Mr. Goode. "We have a team philosophy at RITA."

As an example of this philosophy, Mr. Goode pointed out that Genevieve Heilman began her career at RITA 10 years ago as an accounts payable clerk and is now the corporate controller.

Rowing in the Same Direction

While RITA has become a global supplier in the personal care industry, it retains a down-to-earth business philosophy that's based on three rules:

* The first guy who thinks he's better than somebody else is out;

* Don't believe your own B.S., and

* If we all row in the same direction we reach our goals faster.

Mr. Goode and his team have some aggressive goals set for the company. RITA's business outside the U.S. currently represents 12-14% of sales. Mr. Goode said he expects to double that percentage in two years, noting that RITA is making strong advances in Asia and South America.

Moreover, he expects corporate sales to double in five years via strong international sales and delivering exactly what the customer wants exactly when he or she wants it. RITA will achieve this growth, stressed Mr. Goode, as an independent company.

"We're not for sale," he insisted. "We've had two serious offers in recent months, but it just wouldn't be fair to the people who have helped RITA grow. We are very pleased with the rate of growth we experienced in our first 50 years and we are now very excited about how we are properly positioned to meet the challenges that the next 50 years will bring."
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Title Annotation:Industry News
Author:Branna, Tom
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:May 1, 2004
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