The Garlic Company

When people use garlic, they expect it to enhance their recipes with its robust flavor. This requires a producer such as The Garlic Company to deliver garlic cloves that have been grown and processed to a high standard, Partner Joe Lane says.

To ensure this quality, “We have control of our garlic from the seed to the finished product,” he says. “The Garlic Company is on the cutting-edge of harvest techniques that ensure a high-quality peeled garlic product for our customers.”

In addition to its main line of peeled and whole bulb garlic, the Bakersfield, Calif.-based Garlic Company sells whole and peeled shallots, whole and peeled cipollinis, elephant garlic and fresh ginger. The Garlic Company services retail, foodservice and industrial clients across the United States, and sells more than 40 million pounds of garlic annually.

Joe Lane co-founded the company with Partner John Layous in 1980. Previously, John and Joe first met as they attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Upon graduation from Cal Poly with degrees in agriculture business, they went to work for two separate garlic companies.

John and Joe became friends as they found themselves traveling in the same areas of the country harvesting garlic. In their spare time, the two discussed the idea of starting their own business. “One day, we decided to do it,” Lane recalls. The company took on a third partner, Tom Bengard, in 1984.

Today, The Garlic Company’s client list includes many of the leaders in foodservice, is an ingredient in many products that are household names on grocery shelves, and has a retail presence in some of the large super stores.

“The foundation of The Garlic Company’s success is built on customer service, food safety and a ‘fair deal’ to our customers,” Lane says.

Market Shifts
In its 33 years of business, The Garlic Company has evolved from a whole bulb packer that sold 30-pound boxes to the produce markets into a leading supplier of peeled garlic throughout the United States. In the late 1980s, peeled garlic began to appear in the garlic markets. “Over the years, at least for The Garlic Company, peeled sales have grown from zero percent to over 60 percent of our business,” Lane says.

There are good reasons for the shift from whole bulb to peeled garlic in the industry. The reasons include convenience of use, and the savings in labor and time from not having to peel garlic. “Also, peeled garlic is a bargain in that there is no waste,” Lane says. “You can use everything that you pay for.”

Into the Business
John and Joe are proud of the work environment at The Garlic Company. “We treat our employees well and are aware that we could not be where we are today without good loyal employees,” Lane says. “We have many full-time production employees that have been with working with The Garlic Company for over 20 years.

“Our permanent employee turnover is very low,” Lane says, noting that this is true for the firm’s management team as well. “Our sales manager, Bob Lords, has 30 years experience in the garlic industry, and 20 of those years with The Garlic Company.

“John Duffus, [who is the] director of industrial sales and heads our seed production, has been with The Garlic Company for 10 years and worked in the garlic industry for over 30 years,” Lane continues. “John Merkle, our raw material and cold storage manager, has over 40 years experience in the garlic industry and has been working for The Garlic Company for over 30 years.”

The management also includes members of the Lane and Layous families. John’s son, Michael Layous, works in sales and accounting, and Joe’s son, Bill Lane, works in peel production and general operations. Joe’s daughter Tiffany Manning works in sales and customer service and transportation. “We are fortunate that all three of our kids are hardworking and passionate about the garlic business,” Lane says.