December 17, 2010
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Father-daughter duo focuses on future growth of Castle Cheese 

By Kate Sander

NSLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Ever since Michelle Myrter was a little girl, she has been busy helping with her father George Myrter’s cheese company, Castle Cheese Inc.

“As a little kid, she did paperwork and all kinds of different things,” says George Myrter, the pride in his voice unmistakable.

Now all grown up and with two children of her own, Michelle Myrter still does paperwork — she oversees purchasing for the company — but as vice president, she also is gradually transitioning to running the entire company.

George Myrter is excited about the transition and is anxious for the industry to get to know his daughter.

“She does an incredible job,” George Myrter says.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE — Michelle Myrter works alongside her father George Myrter at Castle Cheese. In the future, she will assume full responsibility for running the family business.

JUST LIKE ITS NAME — Accurately depicting its name, Castle Cheese’s facility in Slippery Rock, Pa., has a castle-like appearance. Castle Cheese manufactures a variety of substitute cheeses, including some that are low in sodium and higher in protein, calcium and vitamins than natural cheese. The company’s cheese products are available in Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Romano, Cheddar, American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Bakers Cheese and Cream Cheese, and the company also produces blends with natural cheese.

“This is what I have worked for all my life,” he adds.

George Myrter started in the food business in the 1960s when, with a background in health foods and martial arts, he saw the need for no cholesterol/no lactose dairy products.

The needs he saw eventually led him to open his own business. Castle Cheese, which manufactures substitute and imitation cheese, was first established in 1985, and in 1991, the business moved to its present facility in Slippery Rock, Pa. Reflecting the company name, the outside of the plant’s entrance area does indeed have a castle facade.

There are a number of benefits to substitute cheese products, according to George Myrter.

The company manufactures a variety of substitute cheeses, including some that are low in sodium and have higher amounts of protein, calcium and vitamins than natural cheese. The products can be used to replace natural cheese in many applications because of the ability to formulate product to very low or high melt standards. Substitute cheeses also are ideal for use in salads and on salad bars, he says.

The company’s substitute cheese products utilize soy oil. There are related health benefits clients can use in marketing these products, according to George Myrter. The company’s marketing materials note FDA has authorized the use of the health claims that a diet that includes soy protein and is low in saturated fats and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The company also can use a number of different oils including soy, palm, canola, sunflower and cottonseed, and the products can be formulated for extended shelf life.

In addition, Castle Cheese produces blends that contain a specific portion of natural cheese in conjunction with its line of substitutes, including 75/25, 50/50 and 90/10 blends. These blends can make economical cheese product where cost and specifications are particular factors, he says.

The company’s cheese products ­ — available in a wide variety of styles including Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Romano, Cheddar, American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Bakers Cheese and Cream Cheese — come in nearly any format a customer can request, George Myrter says.

“You name it, we can do it — grating, shredding, dicing, drying and cutting to almost any specific size or shape, drying to reduce moisture and to increase shelf life,” he says.

The company has the ability to produce 15- and 20-pound blocks, 5-pound loaves and shredded, fine shredded, diced and grated cheese in a number of bag, jar and tub sizes.

The majority of Castle Cheese’s business is private label for foodservice and industrial customers. The company has a full complement of quality control and research and development staff that is able to work closely with customers to provide the product they need to exacting specifications, according to George Myrter.

“We work hand-in-hand with customers to develop new products that work for them,” he says, noting that the company has developed a number of different flavor profiles customers have needed. “Customers want something unique to them.

“We’re open to what customers need, even if they are products we don’t typically manufacture,” he adds.

To meet growing demand from customers, Castle Cheese also is planning to add spray drying equipment in the relatively near future. Currently, the company operates out of a more than 100,000-square-foot facility that includes 20,000 square feet of refrigerated space, 30,000 square feet of production area, and 40,000 square feet of warehouse space. The company, which has adequate property for multiple expansion projects, is in the process of adding space for additional equipment lines. As a result, it can accommodate any customer’s needs, George Myrter says, noting that the company keeps a large inventory and in most cases can ship orders within 24 hours to any location in the United States.

In addition, Castle Cheese has its own in-house laboratory to runmicrobiological and chemical tests as part of its quality assurance programs, he notes. The company currently has nearly 100 employees, and the management team combines for about 150 years of management experience, George Myrter says.

During the next five years, George Myrter hopes to see the company double its volume. He is happy with where the company is at, but he sees more potential. While the father-daughter duo aren’t ready to delve into specifics, the elder Myrter is looking forward to his daughter’s additional responsibilities within the company.

“She’s going to take it to new levels,” he says.

Michelle Myrter’s children, Jena, age 9, and Matthew, age 8, already spend a fair amount of time at the facility. It’s too soon to say whether these young trainees will make Castle Cheese a third generation family affair. Grandpa hopes it will be.




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