Although the company has been around for nearly 70 years, Spring Glen Fresh Foods has flown under the radar in the fresh refrigerated foods industry. However, General Manager Joe Ward says that is going to change. As the company continues to bring in big-name customers like Trader Joe’s through its private-label and co-pack operations, Ward says he expects Spring Glen to become a much bigger name in the industry in the coming years.
“We’re a diamond in the rough,” Ward says.
Started in 1942 by the Sensenig family as a way to sell its baked goods to neighbors, Spring Glen has developed over the years into one of the Northeast’s leading producers of fresh refrigerated foods such as soups, deli salads and entrees. The company has been part of the Hanover Foods family of companies since 1990.
Spring Glen’s product line ranges from dips and sauces to fully prepared entrees. The company also specializes in desserts and grab-and-go items. Currently, Spring Glen’s products can be found in stores from Maine to the Carolinas and as far west as Illinois. Ward says the depth of the company’s offerings is one of its greatest assets. “There’s so many things we can do, and we have so much capacity to do it,” he says.
The depth of Spring Glen’s experience and capabilities give it a strong advantage when customers come to them to put together products either for store shelves or for private-label applications. “It’s our ability to take a product from idea to the grocery store shelf, and how we are able to lead and partner with the customer through the R&D process,” Ward says. “Not to mention the fact that we have such an amazing ability to do so many things well.”
Ward says Spring Glen has a stronger emphasis on R&D than many of its competitors, which customers appreciate because oftentimes they will come to Spring Glen with little more than a concept or half-formed idea. “We let people come to us with recipes in their heads,” Ward says. “What we’re good at is identifying what stage the customer is in in that process and laying out the steps toward completion.”
The food industry is one of the most volatile there is, with prices swinging wildly depending on supply and demand. Ward says recently price fluctuations on raw materials have been Spring Glen’s most pressing concern. “As a manufacturer, we run on fairly lean margins because we’re a volume producer,” he says. “When beef goes up 35 percent in one month, that’s difficult.”
Ward says the company typically has an eight- to 12-week product development cycle. Sometimes the company will be able to price a new product early in the development cycle only to see prices for ingredients change dramatically before the product is ever ready for stores. Ward says Spring Glen accounts for fluctuations in ingredient pricing when developing new products but large swings make it a little more difficult.
The other major challenge Spring Glen faces at the moment is turnaround time for USDA approval. Federal government staff reductions have had an impact on the USDA’s staff, resulting in turnaround times that have increased from an average of about a week to sometimes more than eight, according to Ward. This has impacted the length of time it takes Spring Glen to bring new products to market.
A Good Partner
Despite the challenges, however, Spring Glen has reason to be optimistic about the future. Ward says the company is prepared for an increase in the amount of business it generates from its co-pack and private label operations. “The next couple of years for us will see a dramatic growth of that category,” he says.
Spring Glen already is seeing this growth take place, Ward continues. He says the partnership the company has with Heinen’s and other high-profile customers has increased the company’s visibility in the eyes of retailers as well as branded companies seeking manufacturing partners.