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Made in Ohio: salad dressing and sausage

May 20, 2010 1:50:34 PM PDT
Here in northwest Ohio, we make a number of products that are used all over the world. You know about companies like Jeep, Owens-Illinois, Dana, Pilkington, Owens-Corning and Libbey Glass.

But there are many others you may not know are here. We make a lot of things related to the auto industry.

We also make a lot of food, like Heinz ketchup in Fremont and Campbell's soup in Napoleon. But we also produce some of the world's best salad dressing and sausage!

Nearly 1.5 million bottles of a specialty vinaigrette-style dressing are made in Perrysburg every year. It's called Garlic Expressions.

President Larry Croy told us, "I still run into people who will say they've been using it for years and they are just now realizing it is made locally."

Larry owned Croy's Supper Club, a popular Perrysburg restaurant for about two decades, and that's where the idea for Garlic Expressions was born.

All the salad dressings at Croy's were made by hand, and people often wanted to take some home. Croy recalls, "People would say 'Hey, can I buy some of that?' And we didn't really have any way to do that. So we'd put it in styrofoam coffee cups and sell a small container."

Garlic Expressions grew into a multi-million dollar business that employs 20 people and goes through about 80,000 pounds of garlic a year. Croy tells us, "These are whole, fresh garlic cloves from California."

Garlic Expressions got early support from the owners of local stores like Kazmaier's and The Andersons. Today it's on thousands of shelves throughout North America, from large supermarkets to specialty food stores, small independent grocery stores and meat markets.

Hickory Farms, a company that does up to $200 million in business annually, also got its start right here. CEO Mark Rodriguez says, "The company started here in 1951 and never left, and we've helped satisfy millions of people throughout North America."

The founder of Hickory Farms started by peddling his products on the road. Rodriguez says, "He started by selling cheese at county fairs. And as business grew he designed a sausage to work alongside the cheese."

The Hickory Farms products are now sold in thousands of stores. "We sell them through multiple channels. We do a direct business through internet and catalog sales. We also sell to major merchants like Target, Kmart and Sears, and we also sell to conventional grocery stores like Kroger and Albertson's."

Hickory Farms is working to give back to its hometown through local food banks. They are also making a world-wide effort. "We provide free shipping to military families so loved ones can enjoy products wherever they are. We'll ship to any APO/FPO address, and because of that, our products travel throughout the world." There is a long list of companies that make interesting products in our region, and we obviously didn't have time to tell you about all of them in our two-part series. Sp we'll continue to bring you stories of local businesses and what they make throughout the year.