Herr Foods: Putting people first

by Sarah Hubbart and Kerry Lynch
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Herr's pretzels being made
Herr’s considers itself to be in the business of ‘snack-ertainment,’ offering a snacking experience through its chip and pretzel products.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary this spring, Ed Herr, president and chief executive officer of Herr Foods Inc., called the company the most “family” snack food business in the world. His father, James S. Herr, founded the company in 1946, with a loan of $1,750 by selling potato chips door-to-door in Lancaster, Pa. Today, this multi-generational, family-operated snack food company serves a strong presence in the mid-Atlantic region with distribution in every state.

With a wide variety of potato chip flavors from BBQ to Old Bay Seasoning, Herr’s continues to give customers plenty of options, including new and reintroduced snacks from its kettle and pretzel lines coming in 2016. Herr’s is dedicated to continuous improvement and takes a keen interest in innovation, new products and new flavors.

While many changes have occurred over the past 70 years, the Herr’s commitment to provide quality and consistency in every bag remains. Herr’s knows its customers look forward to snacking on products that are made to perfection.

“Consumers always want to open a perfect bag every time,” Mr. Herr said. “There is a fine line between a perfectly made potato chip and one that’s just okay.”

As with other family businesses, Herr’s has faced challenges over the years. In 1951, the business suffered a large fire that destroyed the entire production plant. This caused the company to rebuild in Nottingham, Pa. The family experienced first-hand the great comradery in the industry; local companies helped produce chips while the company was in transition. This “family-like” mentality is still alive and well in the snack industry today.

Over the years, Mr. Herr has attended many Snack Food Association (S.F.A.) meetings and continued to observe the steady growth and the high increase of demand in the industry.

“We are in the business of ‘snack-ertainment’ — our consumers are busy — even anxious about life, and they deserve and look forward to a reward, a ‘Herr’s’ reward,” Mr. Herr said. The consolidation among snack manufacturers and retailers has become the new norm, and the trend continues today.

Herr’s is proud to remain a family business, with the next generation of family members soon ready to step into management roles. The company culture is collaborative — “one team, one goal” — and its leaders remain focused on attracting and keeping the right people.

“Putting employees first and treating customers like kings goes a long way,” Mr. Herr said. ”Our mission is to grow profitable sales with the best service and the best quality. To do this, you must have the best people.”

Herr’s not only provides “snack-ertainment” for consumers but also offers snack factory tours of its facilities. The Herr’s Factory tour was recently named USA Today’s “No. 1 Food Factory Tour of America.” Visitors see firsthand the full process of how a potato chip is created and how a tortilla chip gets its seasoning. At the end, guests can taste fresh products right off the line. Herr’s attracts more than 110,000 visitors each year.

Herr’s also encourages local community events that bring families together for a “good snacking time,” as the company calls it. Herr’s hosts annual facility events like the “Christmas Snacktacular,” which demonstrates the company’s community values, for both employees and consumers.

Herr’s has been a longtime advocate for the S.F.A. with its founder, James Herr, having served as chairman of the association. Ed Herr pointed out S.F.A.’s “gold-star” work as a helpful resource.

“We are thankful for S.F.A. and their involvement with lobbying on critical issues,” he said. “We have a shared bucket of wisdom, and S.F.A. is a good collection point of resources for the industry as a whole.”

Mr. Herr reiterated that it’s the innovative ideas along with the best quality people and products that will help Herr’s continue to succeed in the future.

“By following our future vision and mission we can put our customers first and focus on making quality products for years to come,” he said.
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