On a sunny September weekday, trucks loaded to the brim with freshly harvested cabbage arrive
on the regular to offload their haul at
the GLK Foods facility in Bear Creek,
Wisconsin — the surest sign that it is,
indeed, peak sauerkraut season.
From late-August through early
November, this is standard operating
procedure for GLK Foods. Each year, the
company processes 140,000 tons of raw
cabbage into 105,000 tons of sauerkraut
between its facilities in Bear Creek and
Shortsville, New York, making it the
world’s largest producer of sauerkraut.
The company, which traces its roots
back to 1900 when a pair of brothers
started Flanagan Brothers in Bear
Creek, produces a number of top-selling
sauerkraut brands on the market, including
Silver Floss, Krrrrisp Kraut, Cortland Valley,
Saverne, Kissling’s and Willie’s. Beyond
its retail line, GLK also supplies product to
food manufacturers and foodservice and
private label customers.
And GLK Foods has recently moved
beyond its signature product.
In 2014, the company introduced the
OH SNAP! Pickling Co. line of single-serve refrigerated pickles, and earlier this
year expanded the OH SNAP! lineup to
include pickled carrot sticks and pickled
green beans. GLK plans to launch a line
of roasted chickpeas under the GoBitos
brand name, in multiple flavors, in
Food Manufacturing had the opportunity
to tour the Bear Creek facility and visit
with GLK Foods President Ryan M. Downs,
who represents the fourth-generation of
the company’s family ownership. During
that conversation — and via some follow-up correspondence — Downs discussed
the company’s history, operations,
products and more. (Editor’s note: some
responses have been edited for clarity and
Food Manufacturing: What can you tell
us about the company’s history?
Ryan M. Downs: (The Wisconsin) part of
the business, which was originally called
Flanagan Brothers, was founded in 1900.
And it actually originally didn’t start as
a sauerkraut business. What they were
doing was basically fresh market cabbage
that they were sending by rail, when the
railroad used to back right up behind
the main processing area (at the Bear
Creek facility) … They would ship fresh
Ryan M. Downs, President, GLK Foods
GLK Foods processes 140,000 tons of raw cabbage into 105,000 tons of sauerkraut
each year between its facilities in Bear Creek, Wisconsin and Shortsville, New York,
and the company has recently expanded beyond its signature product.
Sauerkraut Success Story