Community and Business Leaders Honor FONA's Joe Slawek on 50 Years in Business

November 18, 2016
Community and Business Leaders Honor FONA's Joe Slawek on 50 Years in Business

Geneva, IL, November 18, 2016 - Community, business and food industry leaders gathered at FONA International's headquarters last Friday to surprise - and celebrate - Joseph Slawek, the company's founder and CEO, on his 50th anniversary of work within the flavor industry. FONA, located in Geneva, Illinois, is a family-owned creator and manufacturer of complete flavor solutions.

About 150 leaders from all across Chicagoland gathered to honor the legacy of their mutual friend and partner, as well as enjoy speeches, toasts, music and dinner. Speakers at the surprise event not only spoke of Joe's entrepreneurial spirit but of his generosity, kindness, and dedication to the community.

Brian Vogt, President of Brisan Ingredients (Chicago, IL), described Joe as a personal mentor and partner of 20 years who "always has an open door."

"In our industry, 'partner' has become a cliché. But from the outside looking in, FONA lives it," he said. He said FONA's people represent Joe's core values. "The investment you've made in your people has engendered a lot of loyalty, and it's something I aspire to."

Barb Pugesek, FONA's Director of Customer and Culture Excellence spoke from an employee perspective. She said often Joe's ideas are ahead of their time.

"Sometimes we have no idea what he's talking about. But what happens is whether it's six months or six years later, it all makes perfect sense and he was right. He saw a pattern or connections of things that others didn't," she said. "And it renders what others are doing irrelevant."

She said that Joe leads with his heart, and looks at FONA employees as group that he is responsible to, not people who are responsible to him. She pointed out that each month, he tells employees that he is grateful and indebted to them.

"We come here every day not to be a part of the status quo but to challenge it. We're inspired and supported and valued," Barb said. "When we talk about your legacy, we know you're really just getting started because all of your employees will carry that special, creative and loving heart forward."

Emir Abinion, president of Fox Valley Buick and other area dealerships also spoke.

"Joe is the epitome of what a servant leader looks like and acts like," Emir said. He described Joe's business and community leadership as inspiring and contagious. "If you don't want to learn to serve the community, don't talk to the Slaweks."

Joe was a Chicago high school student in Chicago when he started at flavors manufacturer Food Materials Corp. A later graduate of UIC, Joe's trajectory took him from the plant to sales to management. In 1987, he set out on his own, founding the company now known as FONA.

Joe's vision led to a company guided by core principles. FONA is consistently recognized for product quality and employee treatment. Most recently, Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work named FONA one of the best workplaces in the nation. In fact, FONA was ranked #36 out of the top 100 medium-sized workplaces in the country. Also in 2016, Food Quality & Safety magazine awarded FONA its Food Quality & Safety award. For 11 years, FONA has been a Best & Brightest Company to Work For in Chicago and has also been recognized nationally as a "Best & Brightest." FONA has averaged 15% growth throughout its nearly 30 years.

Throughout FONA's history Joe also committed his time to various causes, including McGraw Wildlife Foundation, Riverwoods Christian Center, Wheaton Academy and CASA Kane County.


Founded in 1987, FONA International creates and produces flavors for many of the largest food, beverage, and nutritional companies in the world. It offers flavor solutions for the confection, grain, beverage, performance nutrition, OTC and emerging markets from its state-of-the-art, 33-acre campus in Geneva, IL. FONA's seven core values drive it to pursue excellence and foster incredible partnerships. More than just great flavors - FONA provides complete market solutions.