Zero to 60

By Tom Branna , Editorial Director | July 2, 2014

RITA may be celebrating its 60th anniversary, but the company shows no signs of slowing down.

When a privately-held company reaches a milestone like its diamond anniversary, its executives often wax nostalgic about founders’ missions and the changes that have taken place during the past 60 years—but not Brian Goode. The RITA president eschews much of what took place more than a half century ago and instead, gets juiced by the tremendous strides his company has made during the past decade—gains that should enable the specialty chemical company to keep growing and innovating for years to come.

“Sales have quadrupled during the past 10 years,” explained Goode, who said the increases can be attributed to the company’s decision seven years ago to focus on research and product development. As a result, major multinationals and entrepreneurial companies can come to RITA with a concept and leave the rest to the RITA staff that develops it, creates the formula, performs scale-up and even recommends a contract manufacturer to fill the product.

“There are hundreds of marketing companies in the industry with no R&D capabilities,” observed Goode. “We’ll develop the formula for them and they own it.”

Dan Beio, VP-R&D, joined RITA from Amway eight years ago, and Goode credits him with taking the lab beyond tech services by adding formulating and product development capabilities. Beio told Happi that his staff helps hundreds of companies every year, from concept to creating the story behind the product launch to the launch itself, while handling all of the technical due diligence along the way.

“It’s part of our background and we do it at no-cost to the customer,” explained Beio, who is currently working on a dozen projects where the RITA staff is the primary R&D resource.

That kind of output is possible, he explained, because formulation expertise is part of the R&D staff’s DNA.

A Talented Group

“The people that we’ve hired are impressive,” insists Beio. “With Alberto-Culver and Helene Curtis gone, we were able to get experts in product development.”

That level of expertise has become increasingly important to the industry, as more companies eliminate the R&D function or rely on new chemists who have little or no industry experience, according to Beio.

It’s a similar scenario in markets outside the US, according to Jim Cook, VP-international and business development, which is one reason why RITA’s blends have become so popular in the US and around the world.

“Blends can make it much easier for the customer to use our products,” he explained. “We have a robust product development staff and a complete lineup of products.”

It is a product lineup that is becoming popular around the world. The company’s Ritafactant surfactant line is popular throughout Asia, most recently in Vietnam. In Africa, RITA is expanding its presence in Nigeria, Kenya and Cameroon, as well as in Russia and India, two of the most important emerging markets. In addition to its headquarters in Crystal Lake, the company has operations in Winder, GA; Chino, CA; Forney, TX; Ramsey, NJ; and Mexico.

In fact, in Mexico, the company has a 40-year relationship with Industria del Central and its owner Camil Kuri, whom Goode described as “the most honest businessman that I’ve ever met.”

RITA is making good gains, too, as customers seek new sources for silicones, sulfate-free surfactants and other materials. In fact, RITA offers solutions in every category except color.

“We service the high and the low end, guys with R&D investment and those without,” explained Beio. “Between Brian, Jim and myself, we have 100 years of experience, so we’re able to create different formulas from the same technology. We can be an important resource for every customer.”

The company is a key resource, especially, for ingredients.

Ingredients Remain a Priority

RITA got its start 60 years ago as a lanolin supplier, and over the years, the company’s offerings were greatly expanded. In the past decade, as patents expired, RITA began offering carbomer and dl-panthenol.

“Customers told us that they wanted to have a second source for these ingredients and we already had boots on the ground to deliver,” Goode recalled.

More recently, RITA has had tremendous success by offering sulfate-free surfactants (Ritafactants), which create the same level of foam, rinse out, consistency, thickness and clarity as sulfated products, according to company executives. The products can be customized depending on application and customer preference. For example, Ritafactant 138 ANLG (INCI: Decyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside, sodium lauroyl lactylate) and Ritafactant 138 LG (INCI: Lauryl glucoside (and) sodium lauroyl lactylate) are all-natural, mild surfactant blends. Another mild, versatile blend is Ritafactant SCI-2 (INCI: Cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium cocoyl isethionate).

For cosmetic chemists seeking to thicken their formulas in very precise increments, there’s Ritathix DOE (INCI: PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate and methyl gluceth-10), which is a liquid based surfactant thickener that can be used in multiple combinations of surfactants. According to RITA, it is an excellent cold process ingredient that eliminates the need for heat and other associative thickeners. Ritathix DOE is a versatile ingredient that can be added during any step of the manufacturing process. Typical use level ranges from 0.5 to 3.0% and it is a good addition for clear surfactant systems where overall clarity is important. Finally, Ritathix DOE does not need to be neutralized with an alkali, unlike acrylate-based thickeners.

RITA also offers a wide range of silicones, from basic fluids, cyclics (volatile), cross polymers, cationics and various mixtures that can be used in hair and skin care products. One of the most interesting of these is Ritasil Shea Butter (INCI: Dimethicone, cylcopentasiloxane, polysilicone-11, butyrospermum parkii). The off-white gel contains 8-10 parts shea butter. Another, Ritasil 193C (INCI: PEG-12 dimethicone), has a conditioning effect and optimizes manageability and dry combability of hair. Other silicones in the range include: Ritasil SQ 2050 (INCI: Silicone quaternium-17), Ritasil 9040 (INCI: Cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone crosspolymer), Ritasil 949 (INCI: Amodimethicone, trideceth-12, cetrimonium chloride), Ritasil 1501 (INCI: Cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol) and Ritasil 190 (INCI: PEG/PPG-18/18 dimethicone).

Although Goode attributes much of RITA’s success during the past decade to Beio and his R&D team, during that same time, RITA has grown from 60 to 150, with additions to sales, R&D and support staff.

A Superior Staff

“Consultants came in and told us that we have a great varsity, but no JV. So, in the past three years we’ve added some very talented young people across the board, who have made the most of their opportunity. It is very satisfying.”
Genevieve Heilman, VP-finance, agreed.

“We are seeing 20-somethings come in and make a contribution right away,” she told Happi. “We’ve had tremendous growth during the past 10 years, but we are still a family.”

A family that takes care of and watches out for one another. For example, RITA pays 100% of education costs for all employees who maintain a B or better in a company-related field, such as chemistry or business, explained Heilman, who has kept business expenses flat during the past four years even as revenues have soared.

“We all wear many hats, so we are always adding more employees, but they have to be the right employees.”

That is, employees who are well versed in the RITA Company Rules, which are prominently displayed at company headquarters.
Those rules are:
  • No one is better than the next person;
  • Always be truthful;
  • Don’t believe your own bullshit; and
  • Play hard, work harder.
br />
“You can build a great company one of two ways,” explained Goode. “You can have a super system like Procter & Gamble or Unilever where you can slot in new people. Or you can have super people who are willing to outhustle the competition, who are willing to go the extra mile for the customer. That’s RITA.”