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Ghee Wiz: Beneficial Blends takes a sustainable approach to making cooking fat

Inside a tidy factory near Tampa International Airport, workers package jars of coconut cooking oil and heat enormous kettles containing butter, which they’ll reduce, removing the water and milk proteins, to create ghee, a butterlike cooking fat that’s popular in India and growing in popularity in the U.S. The company, Beneficial Blends, packages the cooking products under its own brand, Kelapo, and also under private and store brands, including Publix.

Founder Erin Meagher says the 35-employee company has streamlined its manufacturing process to save energy, reduce waste and recycle to lessen its environmental impact. The company is also fair-trade certified, which means it knows where its coconuts are grown — typically on farms in India, Sri Lanka or the Philippines — and that a third party has approved the growing methods and worker conditions.

“The bulk of our production is organic,” says John Weaver, the company’s vice president of business development. “The products we produce are organic. Everything from the agricultural side to us is about reducing the environmental impacts. The entire supply chain tries to address that aspect.”

The company currently operates at two locations — a 10,000-sq.-ft. packaging and manufacturing facility by the airport and a 40,000-sq.- ft. warehouse nearby. This year, Beneficial Blends will move into a single 120,000-sq.-ft. headquarters in Ybor City, which will help the company eliminate more waste. Instead of receiving the coconut oil as it does now in 1,000-liter boxes, which must be recycled, the bigger facility will enable the oil to arrive in tanker trucks and be pumped directly into storage tanks.

“We’ll be eliminating the majority of the corrugated cardboard,” Weaver says. “That will reduce the footprint and increase efficiency.”

Beneficial Blends founder Erin Meagher gives Gov. Rick Scott a tour of her company, which has streamlined its manufacturing process to save energy, reduce waste and to lessen its environmental impact.

Players

  • Jeffrey Seward was named interim CEO of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. He replaces Katherine Eagan, who is now CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.
  • Bob Spencer, chairman of Palmetto-based West Coast Tomato, is the new chairman of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority.
  • Joni James has stepped down as CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership to join the senior leadership team of the non-profit Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, which owns 20% of Bayfront Health. David Metz was named the downtown partnership’s interim CEO.
  • Tony DiBenedetto, co-founder and CEO of Tampa-based Tribridge, has left the company and was replaced by Brian Deming, another company co-founder.

Business Briefs

DADE CITY — Adventist Health System, the parent company of Florida Hospital, has purchased the 120-bed Bayfront Health Dade City Hospital.

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Manatee County is negotiating the purchase of the 126-acre Premier Sports Campus sports complex for $5.2 million. Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, which developed Lakewood Ranch, built the complex but wants to get out of the recreation business.

NAPLES — A $1-million cleanup of Naples Bay, targeting stormwater runoff that can contain nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants, is expected to begin this year.

PORT CHARLOTTE — Las Vegas-based airline Allegiant has launched the first phase of the Sunseeker Resort, a development along the Peace River that will include 720 condominiums, a 75-room hotel and a marina, along with restaurants and shops.

SARASOTA COUNTY — The county saw a 4.2% boost in visitors during the fiscal year that ended in September 2017.

  • Overall, the county hosted 1.2 million tourists in 2016-17, according to Visit Sarasota County.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Penny Hoarder, a Millennial-oriented website that features advice on saving and making money, plans to boost its workforce from 80 to 245 by 2020. The city’s development review commission rejected a proposed 300-foottall condominium near downtown, saying the tower would be out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. The developer plans to appeal the decision to city council.

TAMPA — JW Marriott will run the 519-room hotel that will be part of Strategic Property Partners’ Water Street Tampa development downtown.

  • A downtown block, once home to an establishment where lunch counter sit-ins took place during the 1960s, has sold for $9 million. The developer plans to restore the buildings that once housed a S.H. Kress & Co. department store and a F.W. Woolworth’s. The Museum of Science and Industry, which lost $1.4 million in 2016 and was on the verge of shutting down, made a $90,384 profit during the fiscal year that ended last September.

WINTER HAVEN — The city is looking to start work on a $22-million expansion of the Chain of Lakes park complex. The work will include a 100,000-sq.- ft. practice facility for the Lakeland Magic, the Orlando Magic’s G League team.

 

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