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Sunday, 15 September 2013 22:00

A Nutty Business: BC firm provides fulfillment for nut and candy fundraisers

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Ashdon Farms leverages its relatIonships with West Michigan businesses in the fulfillment of nonprofit fundraisers for organization such as the Girl Scouts. Ashdon Farms leverages its relatIonships with West Michigan businesses in the fulfillment of nonprofit fundraisers for organization such as the Girl Scouts. COURTESY PHOTO

BATTLE CREEK — Reggie Mahoney’s work life gets a bit crazy every year from July through August.

That’s because Mahoney, a Battle Creek-based sales and marketing consultant for Ashdon Farms, is busy printing out and customizing paperwork for 83 Girl Scout councils nationwide, including Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. This paperwork will be used to collect orders from the magazines, nuts and candy program, an annual event that raises money for girls and troops.

However, Mahoney isn’t the only Battle Creek connection to Milwaukee-based Ashdon Farms.

The R. William George Co., headquartered in neighboring Springfield, Mich., handles the fulfillment end of the program for Ashdon Farms.

“The product gets shipped to Battle Creek and and distributed from there,” Mahoney said. “We ship it to a delivery agent like Corrigan Moving and Storage, and they distribute it to the various Girl Scout service units.

“We are supporting the local economy.”

The relationship between the Girl Scouts and R.William George Co. began more than 40 years ago with deceased company founder R. William George and continues today with his sons, who now manage the business. The company currently employs a staff of seven who are assisted by seasonal staff for programs such as the magazines, nuts and candy program.

The relationship between the two companies and the nonprofit came full circle when Ashdon Farms, which employs 130 nationwide, began working with the Girl Scouts in 1996. This was 10 years after Ashdon was formed as the fundraising arm of parent company A.L. Schutzman, which was founded in 1921 to provide snack products for the local fountain, drug and grocery store trade.

Approximately 80 percent of Girl Scout councils nationwide use Ashdon for their magazines, nuts and candy fundraising programs. Mark Beveridge, COO of the Milwaukee-based Ashdon Farms, said the company does a lot of research and development work for the Girl Scouts, which is how top sellers like a mint penguin and a cranberry nut mix became part of Ashdon’s product portfolio.

Chocolate-covered raisins and nuts, nut mixes, and just plain nuts are among the product offerings that also are sold at major retailers.

“We have a very large retail division and it’s strictly a private-label company. If you go to Meijer, Kroger or CVS and buy something under their label, the chances are it’s ours,” Beveridge said.

Cashews in a can are the number one seller for Ashdon, followed by deluxe pecan clusters.

The company has a portfolio of 24 products with 16 of them designated gluten-free. A gluten-free symbol has been added to the product packaging.

“All of the the nuts are naturally gluten-free, as are products like chocolate-covered raisins and peanuts,” Beveridge said. “So many people don’t understand the importance of a gluten-free diet. People with celiac disease know that nuts and chocolates are good for you.”

The products that don’t pass the gluten-free test include the peanut clusters, which are manufactured on the same production line as pretzels, which contain gluten.

Nuts supplied to Ashdon come from states like California, Florida and Georgia and countries including Africa, Brazil and Vietnam. They are shipped directly to Ashdon where they are roasted and salted in preparation for distribution.

The candy is produced in-house. This includes the peanut butter bears, mint chocolate penguins and dulche de leche owls.

“We make those from scratch,” Beveridge said. “The penguin, which we introduced last year, was our best-selling new item ever. A lot of the Girl Scout troops call these designer chocolates.”
Beveridge said a nut is a nut.

“I’m concerned that people might think a cashew that’s gluten-free is better than a regular cashew. That’s not the case because they’re one in the same,” Beveridge said.

Read 6053 times Last modified on Sunday, 15 September 2013 15:07

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