PLT founder Marvin Flowerman was a first-generation American. The son of parents who emigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe in the early part of the 20th Century, Marvin was raised in a house that embraced music, intellectual pursuits and cultural awareness (he spoke 4 languages) – qualities that would remain an important part of the family over the ensuing decades.
Marvin graduated from college at 18, but like many of his contemporaries, put his life on hold to serve in the US military during World War II. Rising to the rank of Platoon Sargent and seeing action at the Battle of the Bulge, Marvin got his first taste of the international scene during the post-War period in Germany where he served as an interpreter due to his facility with language.
Arriving back in the United States with little money and a young family soon to follow, Marvin found a job in a field he might never have imagined – a company that imported agricultural raw materials from what were considered exotic locales around the world. His first project was gum Arabic, sourced from the gum belt stretching from Senegal to Eritrea – a material that PLT still works with today.
Like many with the entrepreneurial spirit, Marvin looked at how business was conducted and decided it could be done better. In his case, ‘better’ was traveling to the countries where he sourced ingredients and developed relationships with the local producers. As a part of his work with these suppliers, Marvin encouraged the companies to improve the quality and consistency of their materials so that they could compete for businesses with top US companies. It was an idea that helped propel what was to become P.L. Thomas & Company, a company focused on developing relationships with leading consumer companies, and to branch out into other agricultural raw materials used in products destined for store shelves in America.
In his young life, Paul Flowerman was a student of history and science at Princeton and Harvard Universities. In the mid-1970s Paul’s wanderlust kicked in and he found himself teaching science as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia. Dreaming of international travel and exotic negotiations, Paul, then a 26-year-old graduate student, saw an opportunity for an exciting and fulfilling future by joining P.L. Thomas & Co. in 1976.
In 1979, P.L. Thomas & Co. was in the right place at the right time when a severe cocoa powder shortage created intense demand for a substitute, carob pod flour. Another breakthrough occurred when the company was selected after four years as the exclusive agent for the Sudan Gum Arabic Company. These early successes led to an ambitious new strategy to sell directly to consumer goods companies in the food and supplement industries.
In the 1980’s PLT built and expanded a global network of supplier partnerships with a focus on providing high quality ingredients, mainly to the food and beverage industries. “For many years, I devoted two to three months traveling all over the world to develop partnerships with innovators who would trust us to turn their discoveries into commercial success.”
Heading into the 1990s, I developed a trusting relationship with Ganga Raju, the founder of Laila Nutraceuticals – one of PLT’s longest standing partners. This relationship continues stronger than every today, and that was based on major investments in science. This was the start of PLT developing a portfolio of branded ingredients. It was also the time when PLT began to focus on using clinical science to support our ingredient sales and our customers’ messaging.” This focus was fortuitous as the nutraceutical industry as a whole began to grow following the passage of DSHEA in 1994, and PLT was well positioned to for the shift toward a preference for clinically-supported ingredients.
As the industry moved, so did PLT, investing in personnel and systems to support science – but also to address emerging issues of ingredient identity, traceability, quality systems and sustainability of supply. In 2007, PLT’s relationship with Nektium Pharma CEO Miguel Jimenez was initiated and allowed PLT to deliver a broader range of high-quality botanicals sourced from across the globe as well as leading innovations in a broad range of health categories.
Late in his academic career at Cornell University, Seth Flowerman was engaged in running an education and recruiting start-up. He was named one of BusinessWeek's 25 Under 25 Entrepreneurs and featured in media like Forbes, The Boston Globe, and Yahoo! Finance among others. Seth successfully sold his business and joined PLT in 2010.
“When I joined the company, PLT had an incredibly strong foundation. As a well-run and trusted company with a global network of partnership and access to some very exciting technologies, PLT was well positioned for significant growth. By focusing on building team and capabilities, expanding our global reach, and investing in science and technology, we have experienced exceptional growth over the past decade. We continue to invest heavily to bring innovative solutions to market that help our customers develop new concepts, new products, and grow successful brands…all in the service of helping people live happier, healthier lives.”
In 2018, Seth was appointed as President and CEO of the organization and oversees PLT’s leadership team. He lives with his wife, Michelle in New York City.
As a leader in value-added Health & Nutrition ingredient technologies, PLT heads into the new decade focused on novel, research-driven solutions with the potential to transform lives. Committed to sharing our knowledge, infrastructure, and commercialization expertise to nurture cutting edge, science-based innovation, we look forward to innovating the future together.