There's More Than Strength in Numbers
There's quality. Integrity. And a pride in product that seems to grow exponentially with time. Or so it seems, given the history of Knouse Foods.
More than 70 years ago, in the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, a prominent group of neighboring independent fruit growers recognized the enormous potential at their fingertips. Given their shared commitment to raising quality fruit, they formed an alliance and began working together as a grower cooperative.
Building the Foundation for Success
They soon became aware of two key weaknesses. First, they needed a reliable processor for their fruit. And second, they needed an effective leader. They addressed the first issue by purchasing apple processing plants and equipment in Peach Glen and Chambersburg, Pa. They satisfied the second need by recruiting Milton E. Knouse, a pioneer in the fruit processing industry since the 1920s. He assumed active leadership of the cooperative and on April 15, 1949, Knouse Foods, Inc. began operating officially in Peach Glen, Pa.
Creating a High Quality Process
From the beginning, Knouse Foods was committed to developing processing methods that would preserve the high quality of the growers' raw fruit. During the first season in 1949, that approach was applied to the processing of apples, apple sauce, apple butter, apple base jellies, apple juice, vinegar, cherries and tomato juice. And with great success, too. That first year of business brought in $5 million in sales and created such a demand for Knouse products that the company purchased another processing plant in Orrtanna, Pa.
Fulfilling a Market Need
Over the next two decades, Knouse Foods continued to grow and expand its product line with market-driven offerings. For instance, as more and more women found work outside the home, fewer and fewer were able to find time to can fruit and make pies from scratch. Knouse responded by introducing ready-to-use fruited pie fillings. In June 1966, Milton E. Knouse retired, and Dean Carey was appointed president of Knouse Foods. Dean, who began his career at Knouse Foods in 1949 as an accountant, had been serving as general manager since 1963. Under Dean's leadership, Knouse Foods continued to make Lucky Leaf products a household name through the 1970s and 1980s.
Expanding its Leadership Position
In 1982, Knouse Foods purchased a fruit processing plant in Paw Paw, Mich., giving the company an opportunity to expand into other parts of the United States. The Musselman's plants in Inwood, W.Va., and Biglerville and Gardners, Pa., were acquired in 1984. This gave Knouse Foods the Musselman's label and further solidified its position as a leader in the fruit processing industry.
Growing the Knouse Foods Family
The 1990s proved to be an eventful decade with the purchases of the California Apple Time label in 1990 and the Speas Farm and Lincoln labels in 1993. Now Knouse Foods products are available in just about every supermarket in the United States. And the variety of the products has grown to nearly 400 items. Knouse Foods continues to flourish under the guidance of Ken Guise, who in July of 2000 became only the third president in the Cooperative's 50-plus year history. Ken, who began his career with the company in 1978, had previously served as an accountant, as vice president of marketing, assistant general manager and as vice-president/general manager. Today, Knouse Foods is proud to say that we are one of the world's largest apple processors and are still "Growing through Quality," our motto from the beginning. As a grower-owned cooperative, Knouse Foods is an outstanding example of how the relationship between growers and a processor can bear fruit.