Hill & Valley Inc.

Hill & Valley Inc. is dedicated to making delicious sugar-free desserts and snacks. For CEO Scott Florence, this focus is more than just a way to tap into a large consumer market. “Diabetes has run in my family for generations,” Florence says. “My father has Type 2 adult onset diabetes, and my uncle died in his 30s of Type 1 juvenile diabetes.” Although Florence himself does not suffer from diabetes, his family’s struggles with it were enough to motivate him to change the company’s initial focus on a wide variety of traditional treats to sugar-free items, he says.

“I spent my entire childhood watching family diabetics at get-togethers either forgoing mom’s cooking or cheating by eating full sugar desserts because there were so few sugar-free choices that tasted good,” he continues. “Today, my goal is to bring diabetics back to the table and provide a product the entire family will enjoy.”

Hill & Valley is one of the nation’s largest producers of sugar-free des­serts and snack foods. In addition to being sugar-free or no-sugar-added, the company’s products address other health-related needs by being trans-fat free with reduced carbohydrates.

“We use a combination of alternative sweeteners that are lower in calories than sugar by at least 35 percent,” Florence explains. “We always have identified our product as one for people who choose to limit or reduce their intake of sugar.”

By limiting their sugar intake with artificial sweeteners, diabetics can vary their diet while controlling their sugar in­take. Sugar substitutes used by Hill & Valley metabolize slowly, allowing blood sugar levels to remain more stable over time. People with reactive hypoglycemia also benefit from the company’s products, as they must avoid high-glucose foods and often choose products with artificial sweeteners.

Though recent economic conditions have impacted sweet goods sales across the industry, the company believes it has combated the slump by continuing to ensure its products have value to the consumer. “For Hill & Valley, that value comes in the form of great-tasting baked goods that taste like homemade but without the sugar,” the company says.

New Products

The company recently introduced its fall and winter 2010 Harvest Line of sugar-free products, which include its award-winning pumpkin crème pie, which has bested sugared competition at the American Pie Council’s Nat­io­nal Pie Championship contests, the company stresses.

Harvest Line was introduced at this year’s International Dairy-Deli Bakery Assoc­iation show in Houston.

Harvest Line products also include:

  • Candy corn cupcakes, which are similar to the appearance of candy corn with orange and yellow colors. The candy corn cupcakes are available in four-count packages;
  • Pumpkin spice mini cupcakes, with a cream cheese frosting that is new to the company. The cupcakes are available in 12-count packages;
  • Pumpkin streusel mini muffins, which have only 100 calories per serving and carry an American Dietetic Association label; and
  • No-sugar-added 5-inch red velvet cake, which is double-layered with gourmet dec­orating that includes red velvet sprinkles and the new cream cheese frosting.

All of the Harvest Line products have a shelf life of six days ambient, 10 days refrigerated and 39 weeks frozen. Upcoming products for spring 2011 include new citrus cookies, angel food cakes and an improved angel food bar.

History and Future

The company was founded as Rock Island Baking Company in 1987 by George Coin, Florence’s father-in-law. A sugar substitute was first used in its pies in 1988, changing its focus along with its name, as it soon became known as Nancy’s Pies Inc., after Coin’s wife.

Few in-store bakeries at the time had time or resources to specialize in making bakery-quality sugar-free desserts, giving the company a solid business niche.

“In those beginning stages of sugar-free production, bakery buyers were not really aware of the need for pro­ducts with alternative sweeteners,” Florence says. “Today, with diabetes reach­ing epidemic proportions, everyone knows that these products have a very substantial customer base.”

The company again changed names to Hill & Valley Inc. as its growth continued. Its current focuses include developing baked goods using local ingre­dients. “We’re based in the heartland of the United States, where growing is essential to the community,” Florence explains.

Hill & Valley is also looking at ways to extend shelf life while pre­serv­ing nutritional value and taste. “Everyone is looking for value in his or her purchases,” he notes.

“To the consumer that value may be as simple as the taste exceeding their expectation; to the retailer, that value may be the shrink of the products being reduced significantly and thereby increasing their bottom line.

“Hill & Valley’s main goal in 2010 is to satisfy both of these ‘better value’ requests,” he adds.

Seeking a Cure

In addition to producing products that can help diabetics with their nutritional needs, Hill & Valley also directly addresses diabetic-related issues by sponsoring the American Diabetes Association (ADA)’s StepOut Walk to Fight Diabetes. This signature fundraising event of the ADA is held in communities across the country.

“We have our own corporate team here at our headquarters that has raised thousands of dollars for our local ADA,” Florence says. The company has also approached retail partners in nearly 20 cities to help promote walks in their communities.

“Yes, our goal is to grow, but it’s also about more than snacks and desserts; it’s about finding a way to improve the quality of life for diabetics,” he adds.

“I am very gratified by our leadership’s support of these efforts, and I want my kids’ life expectancy to exceed my own.”