Carlton Myers was not planning to open another sweetener manufacturer when he sold his first sweetener business, Western New York Sugar and Syrup, to Archer, Daniels Midland Co. in 1980. But he felt compelled to when he found ADM had decimated what he had built since founding the company a decade earlier.
Under a management contract, Myers had stayed on with ADM, serving as head of production with the understanding that ADM had planned to grow the operation. He didn’t like what he saw.
“They took 80 percent of the business and threw it out the window, along with about 80 percent of the people that worked down there,” said the 66-year-old president and CEO of Sweeteners Plus Inc., a Lakeville, Livingston County, manufacturer of a wide range of liquid and dry sweetener products for companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts. “So that’s why it behooved me to start Sweeteners Plus and get separated from them.”
It was a decision that served him—and the community—well. Sweeteners Plus annually posts revenues of $150 million to $170 million, and the company has no debt. Myers began with six full-time employees when he started the new business in 1983. Ten years ago Sweeteners Plus had 100 employees.
“We exceed that right now,” Myers said.
Myers, like his father and grandfather before him, began his career as a brew master at Genesee Brewing Co. In fact, five generations of Myers’ had served as brew masters. The tradition stopped with him when a friend introduced him to sweeteners.
“Fortunately I moved on to the sweetener business where I had an opportunity to make more money. The brew masters weren’t the king of the roost like they used to be,” Myers said. “In the early days they ran the brewery like they owned it, and that’s the way it was.”
In 1970, Myers had the foresight to buy an interest in a privately-held railroad: Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad Corp. Myers chose Lakeville for his sweetener business because of its proximity to the railroad, which he felt would be advantageous for inbound goods shipments.
A portion of the track passes through Sweeteners Plus’ 30,000-square-foot industrial complex, and the company also owns a trucking company. Sweeteners Plus’ philosophy is “long haul by rail and short haul by truck.” The philosophy enables the manufacturer to use its railroad for the majority of inbound raw materials, while finished products are shipped with company-owned trucks and driver employees.
Myers and his team are known for their ongoing initiatives to improve operations and reduce waste. Sweeteners Plus sells empty sacks to a recycler for reuse; recycles all cardboard and paper products; recycles rinse water and uses it twice before discharge; recycles all lubricants for the Sweeteners Plus fleet; and has reduced gas, electric and air consumption by 14 percent in the last three years.
In 2008, Sweeteners Plus received the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award.
“This is a company that doesn’t rest on its laurels,” said chamber President Cynthia Oswald.
The Ann & Carl Myers Charitable Foundation Inc. in 2015 donated a total of $1.3 million, which includes gifts to UR, Aquinas Institute and Rochester Melanoma Action Group, among others.
The Myers family donated $2 million toward the $5.8 million cancer center at Nicholas Noyes Memorial Hospital, an affiliate of University of Rochester, for the Ann & Carl Myers Cancer Center. The center makes state-of-the-art cancer treatment accessible to residents in Livingston, Allegany and Steuben counties.
Myers said what he has enjoyed most in his career is being his own boss for 50 years, adding that he couldn’t have achieved the success he has without his staff.
“We’ve had a lot of good people go through here, and a lot of people have stayed here,” he said. “I take pride and get up each and every morning for that reason alone.”
But he also commends his wife, Ann, for her hard work making Sweeteners Plus what it is today.
“I’ve got a dear wife who worked right alongside me and she still works in the business,” Myers said. “She’s been a tremendous asset to me. She and I enjoy what we’re doing and enjoy being the owners of this company.”
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