Updated 7 months ago
Olivier Monin was only a few years into his tenure heading his family’s syrup and flavoring business when he sought a place to build its North American headquarters. Founded in 1912 in Bourges, France, the company had survived world wars, changing tastes and the challenges of international business, but was on the rocks when Olivier, its third-generation leader, took over.
Monin needed to grow to survive. Working with hospitality and food industry veteran Bill Lombardo, who counts among his credits being part of the launch of the Olive Garden restaurant brand, Monin opened a manufacturing plant in Clearwater in 1996 and added an innovation center where new flavors are developed in 2015.
“Olivier Monin thought Florida was beautiful,” says Stasha Johnston, Monin’s senior vice president of marketing at the Clearwater headquarters. The location had two other things going for it: Florida’s growing population and a nearby supply of sugar from Everglades farms.
“It was kind of a triple threat – it was not only product and ingredient, but the state. It came together perfectly,” Johnston says.
The Clearwater headquarters and manufacturing facility now employs 300 of Monin’s 1,000 around the world. With two plants in France, a second American plant in Nevada which opened in late 2020, and facilities in China, Malaysia, Brazil and India, Monin products are found in 150 countries. The Clearwater facility exports to 30 countries, including Latin America.
The March issue of FLORIDA TREND’s Economic Backbone section features a series of international companies who make up Florida’s global presence – spanning sectors from a technology company in Orlando training Ukrainian soldiers on the frontlines to a Uruguayan family building a factory in Miami’s Little Haiti to produce products for its upscale restaurant chain.
Monin’s presence in Florida is an example of how the state geography; system of interstates, ports and air cargo capabilities; and natural resources have given it a competitive edge in the global economy. Foreign-owned companies employ more than 400,00 Floridians -- the 5th highest tally in the nation – and international trade supports more than 2.7 million Florida jobs, reports Enterprise Florida.
For global companies like Monin, a presence in Florida is part of the secret sauce of making the company’s flavorings and syrups a ubiquitous presence at coffee shops, restaurants and bars. “Tens of millions of drinks a day are made with our products,” Johnston says.
When the COVID-19 pandemic as closures brought a sharp drop-off in places to sell the flavorings, the Clearwater plant pivoted to produce products that could be used at home and even churned our hand sanitizer for local front-line workers. The Clearwater facility is consistently recognized on “best places to work” lists and often lauded for its community engagement projects, like a new program to build bee apiaries on corporate campuses and donating its natural syrups to help feed the threatened pollinators to beekeepers nationwide.
“We like being that Clearwater gem that people discovered,” says Johnston. “People take pictures when they see the product all around the world and send them to me.”
For Johnston, a 2006 University of Florida graduate who is originally from Sarasota, the presence of a global company also created an opportunity for her to build a career in her home state. Her career in marketing had taken her to Texas and then Chicago for a decade when she was recruited to join the Monin team in Clearwater.
“Florida has been a community that has been supporting us for all these years. They are the reason why we are doing so well,” she says. “We are strong believers in giving back.”