Vanns Spices, a privately owned company based in Baltimore, has added 6,000 square feet to its warehouse space and hired five workers as part of an expansion plan made possible by improved tracking and planning, company president Mick Whitlock said.

The company expects a 15 percent increase in profits over the next year. Founded in 1981 by an art teacher who had started mixing and selling spices, it at times struggled to meet demand for custom-blend spices sent to New York restaurants.

"We found we didn't have the information we needed to have an idea of what our inventory was and when would need product and what the lead time would be to get it," Whitlock said. "Our new systems allow us to monitor all of that and anticipate what a customer is going to need, because we know their history."

Vanns manufactures more than 350 types of spices with ingredients imported from around the world at its Woodlawn facility. Space freed up by expanding into a nearby warehouse — "We literally just cut a hole through the wall in the building next door," Whitlock said — will allow for the installation of faster equipment. The company also plans to run a second shift in the coming months to keep up with demand.

About 30 percent of Vanns' sales come from the food service industry. They are also sold at high-end grocery stores, and online at vannsspices.com. Many of Vanns' spices do not carry the company's label; 10 percent of sales come from "private label" deals in which the company manufactures products for other food companies to sell.

chris.korman@baltsun.com

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