Schwan's Celebrates 65 Years in Frozen Food Business
In the United States, 65 is generally the retirement age for those who have spent most of their adult lifetimes laboring in the nation’s workforce. At Schwan’s Company, reaching the milestone marking a solid and durable foundation that has provided jobs for thousands of people and fed millions more over the past six and a half decades has kicked off a year-long celebration of the 65th anniversary.
The Marshall, Minnesota-headquartered enterprise was founded in 1952, when a 23-year-old Marvin Schwan loaded up 14 gallons of ice cream from Schwan’s Dairy into a road-weary Dodge panel van and began selling it to customers in rural communities of the western part of the state. Today, the company’s wide range of frozen food products can be found wherever consumers eat across the USA.
Since Marvin’s first ride, Schwan’s grew to become a multi-billion-dollar leader in the frozen food industry. Its legacy home-delivery business delivers more than 300 SKUs nationwide, its direct-to-store business offers well known brands in grocery stores and other retail outlets, and its foodservice business provides foods to venues such as schools, restaurants and convenience stores.
“I believe that Marvin Schwan would be proud that his entrepreneurial spirit still drives us today,” said CEO Dimitrios Smyrnios. “We are committed to continue building on our legacy of making of high-quality, indulgent-to-wholesome food and driving innovation that will enable our company to grow in new and exciting ways. I’m proud of what our company and people have accomplished and excited about where Schwan’s is heading with our employees, customers and consumers.”
The privately-held company will celebrate its rich heritage throughout 2017 with company and product brand renovations, employee events, social media story-telling, Schwan’s Chef Collective customer and consumer engagements, new charitable commitments, and by serving as a founding partner to the 2018 Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.
In an archived speech about the start of the business, Marvin Schwan once told employees: “I wanted to make a living. I wanted to be successful. I noticed to the county north of here (Canada) that ice cream was 14 cents a gallon higher than it was in Marshall (Minnesota); and I noticed farmers were starting to get home freezers. I thought, well, maybe farmers might buy ice cream right off the truck.”
Paying attention to employees’ ideas and monitoring consumer trends led to many other innovations throughout the years. Although the Schwan’s home-delivery business in the early 1950s focused mainly on dairy products, Marvin began steadily adding items from other categories.
Today, the company’s home-delivery business, Schwan’s Home Service, Inc., offers more than 300 food items at its website: www.Schwans.com.
In the 1960s, Marvin took the advice of an insightful sales manager and added pizza to his delivery routes. The product became so popular that the company purchased the Tony’s pizza brand and manufacturing facility in 1970. The pizza platform has been an ongoing success, with the launch the Red Baron label in 1976 and Freschetta pizza in 1996. The company went on to add pizza and other foods in foodservice venues such as school cafeterias in 1975.
In the 1980s, Marvin entered the Asian-style foods category with the purchase of a Houston area egg roll plant. The company has since grown to become the No. 1 provider of Asian-style snacks in the country with the Pagoda and Minh brands.
Schwan’s has worked to continue to meet the needs of consumers. In 2001, it purchased Edwards pies and the brand has steadily grown to become the leading crème pie brand in the United States. The company also owns and markets Mrs. Smith’s fruit pies.
Becoming a National Force
Today, serving millions throughout the country through its home-delivery, grocery and foodservice channels, Schwan’s is focused on meeting the needs of busy consumers with convenient and tasty products.
The company announced several food simplicity commitments in 2015. As a part of the initiative, it eliminated the use partially hydrogenated oils and artificial trans fats, artificial (certified) dyes and high-fructose corn syrup. It has also committed to phasing out artificial flavors by the end of this year.
In 2016 the Schwan’s Chef Collective, a team of internal and external chefs from across the United States who are developing the next generation of Schwan’s foods, came into being. Each member brings a unique perspective to the kitchen and is tasked with scouting emerging ingredients, cooking methods and global cuisines to continually influence innovation.
Back to the Future
During the 65th anniversary period, the evolution of Schwan’s will continue. New branding was recently introduced for the parent company and its home-delivery business. The rebranding efforts include companion logos featuring the company and brand name, along with an updated swan that has been featured on logos since the old Schwan’s Dairy in the 1940s. The logos were redesigned to be more modern and inviting to customers.
In addition, The Schwan Food Company will now be known as Schwan’s Company. Schwan’s was the shortened name of the operation for more than 50 years until it was changed to The Schwan Food Company in 2003. Most customers, consumers and employees still refer to the company as Schwan’s today.
Commitment to Giving Back
Schwan’s also has a legacy of giving back and will continue to support the communities where the company operates by investing in new programs in 2017. Schwan’s and Schwan’s Corporate Giving Foundation are engaged in improving the quality of life in communities where its employees live and work. The foundation focuses on efforts to end hunger, promote youth education and leadership development, and provide essential services that advance healthier communities. The company and the foundation support Feeding America and the University of Minnesota’s Women Invested Leadership and Learning (WILL) program. Among other community organizations, the foundation supports Southwest Minnesota State University and a scholarship program for employee children.