The story of Rich Products Corporation begins in 1935, when Robert E. Rich is the owner and operator of Wilber Farms Dairy. While later serving as Michigan’s War Food Administrator, Mr. Rich learns about unique research being conducted at the George Washington Carver Institute. Soybeans, it seems, have the potential to be used for innovative new food products.
In 1945, while investigating the use of soybeans as a vegetable-based replacement for whipped cream, Mr. Rich invents Rich’s® Whip Topping®, the world’s first frozen, non-dairy whipped topping. The landmark creation marks the birth of Rich Products Corporation.
From the success of its whipped topping, the young company turns its focus toward development of other revolutionary products, including frozen crème puffs, frozen éclairs and the product that will make Rich’s a household name, Coffee Rich®.
Today, Rich Products Corporation is a global operation, with more than 50 locations spanning six continents. Rich’s began reaching outside the United States and Canada in the late 1980s and now produces more than 2,000 products sold in 112 countries around the globe. The company remains one of the largest family-owned, frozen-food manufacturers, with more than $3.3 billion in annual sales.
Rich’s is founded in 1945 with a startling development by Robert E. Rich Sr., who directs a laboratory team to search for a vegetable-based replacement for whipped cream that is derived from a new source – the soya bean.
During the development stage, Mr. Rich discovers that the soya bean substance can be frozen, thawed and whipped. The new product, immediately hailed as “the miracle cream from the soya bean,” revolutionizes food processing and opens up a whole new world of non-dairy products to the growing frozen-food industry.
The miracle cream is called Rich’s® Whip Topping® non-dairy topping and later serves as the springboard for a series of groundbreaking, non-dairy products.
With the success of “whippable” topping established, the company focuses its attention on developing more products and innovations. In 1954, Rich’s introduces the first commercial line of frozen éclairs and crème puffs, for which it is still famous today.
Following months of exhaustive research and development, Coffee Rich, the nation’s first frozen, non-dairy creamer, hits the supermarket shelves in 1959, making Rich’s a household name.
Sparked by demand for Rich’s growing product line, the 1960s are a period of company expansion, beginning with the 1962 construction of a manufacturing plant in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada (just minutes west of Rich’s Buffalo, N.Y., headquarters). Eventually named to lead this new division of the company, known as Rich Products of Canada Ltd., is Robert E. (Bob) Rich Jr. – son of company founder – who joins Rich’s in 1964 as President of the start-up subsidiary.
Frozen baked goods are added to Rich’s expanding product lineup through the acquisition of Elm Tree Baking Co., of Appleton, Wis., in 1969.
Rich’s continues aggressive manufacturing expansion by acquiring nine new production sites – in California, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania – and building a new plant in Murfreesboro, Tenn. In 1976, Rich’s further diversifies its food portfolio with acquisition of the SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Company, a provider of seafood specialties based in St. Simons Island, Ga.
In 1978, Bob Rich Jr. becomes President of Rich Products Corporation. The same year, Rich’s builds upon its history of success and innovation in the non-dairy segment by introducing Bettercreme® Icing and Filling. The revolutionary product changes the cake-decorating industry with its spreadable nature and shelf-stable qualities.
During the decade, Rich’s solidifies its industry leadership with two significant product innovations. In 1980, Rich’s introduces Freeze Flo®, an all-natural process that allows food to remain soft while frozen or to be served straight from the freezer. And in 1986, Rich’s introduces On Top® non-dairy dessert topping, which is the first topping to be packaged in a pastry bag containing its own tip. The product offers operators unprecedented levels of convenience, decorating creativity and value. Rich’s continues its aggressive expansion throughout the 1980s, with purchases of frozen-food manufacturing facilities in California, Georgia, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Rich’s also continues to diversify its product offering with the purchase of frozen Italian pasta and meat specialty producer Casa di Bertacchi Corporation, of Vineland, N.J., in 1982 and the acquisition of barbecue and specialty meat producer Byron’s Inc., of Gallatin, Tenn., in 1988.
Along with significant increases in its frozen-food production capabilities, the 1980s also see Rich’s diversify its portfolio with the purchase of three Minor League Baseball franchises, including the Double-A Buffalo Bisons in 1983.
After joining the Rich’s family, the Bisons, who return to the Triple-A ranks in 1985, put up record-breaking attendance numbers and continue to be a model minor league franchise. Rich’s initial involvement with Minor League Baseball is spearheaded by Bob Rich Jr. and the company’s first General Counsel, William G. (Bill) Gisel, who joins Rich’s in 1982.
In 1988, Bob Rich Jr. charges Gisel with the task of extending Rich’s business into foreign markets and names him Vice President of the newly formed International Division. For the next eight years, Gisel leads the company’s expansion into Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Rich’s continues to grow its U.S. manufacturing network with acquisitions of production sites in Massachusetts and Ohio and the construction of a new facility in Niles, Ill. Led by Gisel in his new position of Executive Vice President of International and Strategic Planning, the company in the 1990s also continues to expand into international markets by opening more than 20 sales offices in major cities throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America.
As product demand grows internationally, Rich’s invests in several production facilities abroad, including Productos Rich (in 1994), one of Mexico’s first frozen-dough manufacturing operations; Rich Products of South Africa (1995), which provides bakery products for distribution throughout South Africa; and Rich Products of China (1998), the company’s first wholly owned, international, non-dairy production facility, which opens in Suzhou, China. Rich’s international business by now includes 11 manufacturing facilities and the company sells products in more than 80 countries around the world.
In 1996, Bill Gisel assumes the post of Chief Operating Officer and President of Rich’s Food Group, positioning the company to double its size and annual revenues through organic growth, acquisitions and international expansion during the coming years.
Rich’s further expands its product portfolio through acquisition and product innovation. Early in the decade, Rich’s adds an impressive assortment of fully finished frozen desserts by completing the acquisitions of Jon Donaire Desserts, of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and Mother’s Kitchen Desserts, in Burlington, N.J. Rich’s also bolsters its existing product lines with the acquisitions of frozen cake and bakery mix producer JW Allen & Co., in 2000, and leading donut producer Rolling Pin Manufacturing, in 2005. Additionally, Rich’s expands its product line and manufacturing capabilities in Europe with the acquisition of David Powell Bakeries, in Fareham, U.K.
In 2006, following the death of his father and company founder, Robert E. Rich Sr., Bob Rich Jr. takes the reins as Chairman of Rich Products Corporation with his wife, Melinda R. (Mindy) Rich as Vice Chairman, and Bob Rich Jr. appoints Bill Gisel President and Chief Executive Officer.
Along with acquisitions, Rich’s carries on a heritage of food innovation as its Research & Development team introduces several new, award-winning products, such as Rich’s Della Suprema Wheat Sheeted Pizza Dough, Tiki Bay Premium Blended Beverages, Niagara Farms Premium Blended Whipped Topping, and Birthday Party Bettercreme. The Bettercreme offering opens up a revolutionary niche in the icing category as the first icing to incorporate a particulate (multicolored sequin sprinkles).
While indulgence remains at the core of Rich’s product portfolio, the company also develops a focus on health- and wellness-related products by forming a strategic alliance with French Meadow Bakery, based in Minneapolis, Minn., and acquiring both WorldCatch LLC, a provider of all-natural seafood, and GLP Manufacturing, a gluten-free baked-goods manufacturer.
Rich Products Corporation kicks off 2011 with the acquisition of Celebration Foods, a leading manufacturer and distributor of frozen desserts and ice cream cakes. The Celebration Foods business brings with it a licensing agreement for Carvel-branded ice cream cakes in certain distribution channels, along with assets in manufacturing, corporate operations and R&D, plus a direct-store-distribution system.
Industry-leading product innovations continue as Rich’s introduces two new whipped icings, S’mores Bettercreme and Fudge Swirl Bettercreme. S’mores Bettercreme is the first icing of its kind to incorporate both a variegate (fudge swirl) and a particulate (graham cracker crumbs), resulting in an indulgent whipped icing that brings the delicious, nostalgic s’mores experience to a cake. Fudge Swirl Bettercreme, with fudge swirled into vanilla whipped icing, offers consumers the perfect blend of chocolate and vanilla.
Rich’s continues aggressive global expansion during fall 2011 with the opening of a manufacturing facility producing frozen and aseptic non-dairy creams for the bakery and foodservice industries. The state-of-the-art manufacturing platform supports Rich’s overall growth strategy to further develop its Korean and other Asian businesses.
Also in 2011, Rich’s is named to the list of the top 100 family-owned businesses in North America by CampdenFB magazine. Meanwhile, the company begins planning a strategic realignment to more-effectively take advantage of global market opportunities. The conversion to one global structure sets the stage for the company to leverage its enterprise-wide infrastructure and talented workforce to facilitate the flow of knowledge and best practices across its expanding global footprint. The major structural shift, made effective in 2012, converts the company’s two separate business groups – North America and International – into one seamless, global Rich’s organization consisting of five geographic operations: United States/Canada Region; Latin America Region; Asia/Pacific Region; Europe/Middle East Region; and South Africa Region.
Bob Rich Jr. continues to lead the family-owned business as its Chairman, with his wife, Melinda R. (Mindy) Rich serving as Vice Chairman and Bill Gisel serving as President and Chief Executive Officer and leader of the company’s executive team with Richard Ferranti as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, leading Rich’s five regional businesses.
After years of work and preparation, Rich’s expands into the emerging Western Asia market with the addition of Rich’s Turkey during spring 2012. In addition to presenting a huge growth opportunity within a country of 75 million people, Turkey serves as a gateway to an additional 130 million potential customers in the nearby countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan.
Rich’s wraps up 2012 with the acquisition of two companies, transforming it’s US-Canada business. Adding Goglanian Bakeries Inc., f’real foods LLC, and a joint venture, Twin Star Bakery, with business partner The Stolbun Group, brings increased depth and capabilities to Rich’s diverse product portfolio. The acquisition of family-owned Goglanian Bakeries nearly triples Rich’s current pizza business and provides the company with an exceptional line of par-baked pizza crusts, flatbreads and pitas, to complement its existing strength in frozen pizza dough within the foodservice channel. Giving Rich’s access to a new product line and greater penetration into the high-growth convenience store segment, f’real sells authentic, high-quality milkshakes, smoothies and frozen coffee beverages. Twin Star Bakery is a new joint venture partnership between Rich’s and The Stolbun Group. The addition of Twin Star’s iced cookies to Rich’s product portfolio allows Rich’s to supply an entirely new product offering through its in-store bakery division. Also, Twin Star’s fully-finished cakes and baked cookies add to Rich’s already robust selection of cakes and desserts