Smooth Selling in Global Marketplace for Redex

SALEM, Ohio – During the late 1970s, Bill Kennedy Sr., a pharmacist by profession, realized that he had had enough of the retail trade and began looking for another venture and the next chapter in his career.

In 1978, the University of Pittsburgh graduate became interested in a company that manufactured cosmetics for the dairy industry, and he thought he could do better. That year, he purchased the business and Redex Inc. was born.

“He’s a very smart man,” says son and Redex President Bill Kennedy Jr. The company has manufactured and sold its Udderly Smooth brand of udder cream, a water-based product that helps moisturize and smooth a person’s skin. “Most people have workshops. Dad was always mixing and making things downstairs,” he says with a laugh.

When his father purchased the company, Kennedy says, he tinkered with the formula and changed it from a Vaseline-based product into the water base that today is marketed as Udder Cream. Soon farmers were using it on their livestock, and farmers’ wives used it on their hands. “It reached a point during the mid-1980s that we were featured on Oprah,” he recalls.

The product took off and became known for its distinctive packaging – signature black and white spotted labels that resemble the hide of a cow. “Two years ago, we did a label update and won a design award [for the cow-themed packaging],” he says. “The look makes it pop right off the shelf.”

Today, jars and tubes of Udderly Smooth can be found in most of the major retailers across the country, including Walmart. “Sometime in the mid-1980s, we had our first meeting in Bentonville with Walmart,” he says. “We’ve been with them ever since.”

Redex started production of Udder Cream in Alliance, and in 1989 constructed a new plant at the Salem Industrial Park. Over the years, new investment in technology, processes and products has helped the company enjoy great success in the domestic market and now the global market.

“Business is very good and progressively growing,” Kennedy relates, “especially as we get a broader footprint in the international market.”

Redex ships its products to Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea, Singapore, Canada and Brazil.

Critical to this growth is introducing variations of the Udderly Smooth product, Kennedy says. “We make the original formula that Dad developed in 1978. We also meet the existing market with shea butter, aloe vera, vitamin E, and cocoa-butter cream products,” he notes. “There are some unique formulas for each product.”

Chamois cream, for example, is in high demand in England because bicyclists use it for skin protection. “We send thousands of tubes to England because cycling is so big over there,” he says.

The product continues to have a strong local following, say area retailers who have stocked the cream for years.

“We were one of the first local customers to retail their product and it’s been steady ever since,” says Tim Parks, owner of Parks Garden Center in Canfield. “We’ve had a steady following and it’s remarkable what they’ve done.”

In the late 1970s, Parks says, his father and Kennedy Sr. struck an agreement to stock the product at the garden center: “In gardening, you work with your bare hands and you get beat up. That’s why my father and his father got together.”

Keeping your product line fresh and relevant in the industry is vital for long-term success, Kennedy understands. “We always have to be building a better mousetrap or else you’re out of the market,” he says. “You become obsolete if you don’t keep it new and fresh.”

The Redex plant consists of a batch manufacturing section, two filling lines – one for jar cream and another for tubes – and a storage and distribution area.

The manufacturing process begins by blending wax that is a derivative of palm tree oil with lanolin, Kennedy says. These ingredients create an oil-soluble mixture. Simultaneously, large tanks heat a mixture of purified water and glycerin from vegetables such as corn to just under the boiling point. Once that is achieved, the oil solution is pumped in and blends with the water-based material. As the temperature is lowered, the concoction achieves a white, creamy texture.

“We produce 1,000 gallons every day,” Kennedy says. “During the winter months, it’s not uncommon for us to go 2,000 to 3,000 gallons.”

After the cream is mixed, it’s pumped through a piping system that transfers the product to the filling lines. On this day, Redex’s jar operation is running. Workers unpack boxes of plastic jars and place them on a conveyor. As the jars move down the line, they automatically stop – three at a time – beneath three nozzles that discharge 12 ounces of cream into each jar.

They are then fed to a capping machine. Caps move down a chute that meets a rotating carousel where the jars are in place. As the carousel rotates, a timing screw automatically affixes the lids.

One of the last operations is placing adhesive labels on the jars as they move toward the end of the line. The labels are stamped automatically as they move toward final packaging and shipment. Once the labels are on, the product is shrink-wrapped, boxed and sent to the company’s warehousing area for distribution to customers all over the world.

“The Cleveland Clinic loves to use our product to take care of their employees,” Kennedy says. “It’s used in oncology clinics across the world to take care of patients’ dry skin. Men use it on their hands before they go to work on a car because it makes them easier to clean up.”

Kennedy says that reinvestment in the company will continue this year, noting that Redex intends to purchase new equipment. “We have 18 employees and four warehouses – one in Canada, Chicago, Indianapolis and here,” he says.

And, the company continues to expand as the third generation of the family joins the business, “Michael, my son, just joined us on Memorial Day,” Kennedy says, “and there are more waiting in the wings.”

Pictured: Company President Bill Kennedy Jr. says Redex constantly adapts to customer demands.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.