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Will retailers see the Lite with this food company?


Retailers factor in all kinds of variables when evaluating suppliers and a recent change at sauce and dressing manufacturer Litehouse gives sellers of food and consumables something new to think about.

The 50-year-old family owned Litehouse company based in Sandpoint, Idaho recently became 100% employee owned following the execution of an employee stock ownership plan. Litehouse first formed an ESOP plan in 2006 when it sold 30% of the company as a commitment to employees and their communities.

The move to 100% ESOP ensures continued local ownership. The Litehouse brand was founded by brothers Doug and Edward Hawkins more than 50 years ago at their family’s restaurant in Hope, Idaho. The brothers merged Litehouse with the Chadalee Farms dressing company in 1997 that was founded by Wendell Christoff and his family in Lowell, Michigan.

“We are incredibly proud of our company and want our legacy to be shared with the talented and dedicated employees who have contributed to its growth,” said Litehouse Chairman Doug Hawkins. “The move to 100% employee ownership allows every employee to be an owner and ensures the future success of Litehouse for generations to come.”

Doug, Edward and Wendell Christoff will continue their roles as board members while Jime Frank, name president and CEO in 2010, will remain in his role.

“We are excited to have created this opportunity for our employees and we are confident that the ESOP will make us an even stronger company,” Frank said. “The success of the Litehouse brand and the move to a 100% employee-owned company is a strong reflection of our founders guiding principles: faith, stewardship, integrity, commitment to excellence and accountability. These principles continue to guide us today.”

Being employee owned by itself does not make a company a good supplier or necessarily impact product performance. Product taste, marketing support, food safety compliance, margin and supply chain capabilities are more important to retailers. As long as Litehouse is on equal footing with other brands in these areas, the employee owned thing certainly doesn’t hurt.

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