The 2010 IW 50 Best Manufacturers: The Best of the 500

The 2010 IW 50 Best Manufacturers: The Best of the 500

IW's top 50 manufacturers range from makers of cigarettes to natural beverages and everything in between.

Can a company founded in 1760 still be relevant in 2009? For Lorillard Inc., the answer is yes. If one product has endured the test of time in the United States, it's tobacco. Despite public smoking bans, warning labels and health concerns associated with tobacco products, Lorillard's 2009 performance was strong enough to earn the No. 1 spot on the 2010 IW 50 Best Manufacturing Companies list.

The 250-year-old company spun off by Loews Corp. in 2008 posted revenue of $5.2 billion last year, representing a 24.5% increase over 2008, with a profit margin of 18%. Its flagship brand, Newport, generates more than 90% of the company's sales. Another tobacco company, Philip Morris International Inc., ranked No. 5 on the list. While the company's Marlboro brand continued to do well, its smokeless tobacco brand Copenhagen showed solid growth in 2009.

See the 2010 IW 50 Best Manufacturing Companies list with Web-exclusive profiles and data.

In putting together IW's eighth annual 50 Best Manufacturing Companies list, IW ranked IW U.S. 500 manufacturers based on financial performance over the past three years in revenue growth, return on equity, profit margin, asset turnover, inventory turnover and return on assets. Securing the No. 2 spot is Western Digital Corp., which is the second-largest hard-disk-drive manufacturer in the world.

Revenues for 2009 were $7.5 billion with a profit margin of 6.3%. Last year, the company expanded its offerings as it entered the enterprise market segment.

The No. 3 spot belongs to high-tech company Apple Inc. In its fiscal 2009 the company grew revenue by 12.5% and realized profits of $5.7 billion. Helping the bottom line were the 20.7 million iPhones sold in 2009.

While tobacco demand is still strong, in 2009 many consumers turned to healthier products, such as natural beverages. Those healthy habits helped Hansen Natural Corp. earn the No. 4 spot on this year's IW 50 list. Hansen, which manufactures natural beverages, grew revenue 11% to $1.1 billion in 2009. The company also acheived a profit margin of 18% and achieved a return on equity of 48% in 2009.

Representing the growing alternative-energy market is First Solar Inc., a manufacturer of photovoltaic modules. Holding the No. 10 rank, the company, with manufacturing facilities in Ohio; Frankfurt, Germany; and Kulim, Malaysia; reported net income of $640.1 million for 2009 with a strong 65.8% revenue growth. As income grew so did capacity, which reached 1,228 megawatts in 2009, an increase from 716 megawatts in 2008.

One of the newcomers appearing on this year's list is Flowers Foods Inc. The producer of packaged bakery goods realized a revenue increase of 8% to $2.6 billion in 2009. The company also achieved a return on assets of 21%. Another newcomer, Idexx Laboratories Inc., is finding success serving its veterinarian customers with diagnostic and information technology-based products. It had revenues of $1.03 billion in 2009.

Valmont Industries Inc. also makes its first appearance on the IW 50. The company received some national recognition in 2009 when it received the Presidential E Star Award. The award recognizes continued superior performance in increasing or promoting exports. This manufacturer of mechanized poles, towers and structures for lighting, traffic, utility and communications achieved a profit margin of 8.62% on sales of $1.8 billion in fiscal 2009. No. 23 Apogee Enterprises Inc., enters the IW 50 for the first time with record revenue of $925.5 million, an increase of 5% compared with the prior year. The Minneapolis-based company provides glass solutions for enclosing commercial buildings as well as framing art. Its architectural segment revenues were up 7% but large-scale optical segment revenues declined 14%.

In the fertilizer and animal feed ingredients market, Mosaic Co., based in Plymouth, Minn., saw its revenue increase 5% to $10.3 billion. The producer of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients operates three mines in Saskatchewan and two in the United States. Another fertilizer manufacturer making the list is No. 14 CF Industries Holdings Inc. CF Industries acquired rival fertilizer manufacturer Terra Industries Inc. in April for $4.7 billion after more than a year of bidding. Since the deal occurred in 2010, Terra still qualifies for this year's list and comes in at No. 29.

Though 2009 was a challenging year on all fronts, the companies on the IW 50 Best Manufacturers list were able to both strengthen their core businesses and in some cases expand their offerings to emerge holding strong positions in their respective markets.

See the 2010 IW 50 Best Manufacturing Companies list with Web-exclusive profiles and data.

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