sweet and sour at pickle biz:
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Garrettsville- Dill's grassy tang perfumes the factory air where Larry
and Karl Hermann make pickles five days a week. This is where the
brothers still speak the language of kosher, half- sour and sweet
horseradish styles. Their lives - and more - have been steeped in
vinegar, spices and brine.
pickle smell is still in your shoes when you put them on in the
morning," says Karl.
been 38 years since the Hermann family, descendants of Hungarian Jewish
immigrants, started making dill pickles on Ohio 88 in Garrettsville, a
northern Portage County community. Their dad, Don, was in the live
chicken business until 1967, when a contagious disease swept in,
infected his coops and killed off his broods.
finally, to encouraging friends and family, Don took his personal recipe
for less-sour homemade refrigerator pickles and started selling it to
It was a
crunchingly good decision.
the Hermann's have strong sales in Ohio and contiguous states, including
high-profile, deli-related restaurants such as Yours Truly, Winking
Lizard and Corky & Lenny's.
also make custom-label pickles for accounts they aren't allowed to name
but are widely distributed in supermarkets, alongside their own brand.
years ago, they extended their reach across the country under an
agreement with Nathan's Famous, a New York hot dog restaurant chain
known as a surviving food icon of a Coney Island amusement park.
dog company is on a roll, buying fast-food chains, opening more than 150
of its own restaurants and selling Nathan's products to more than 2,000
existing restaurants. It is contracting with companies such as Hermann's
to make Nathan's Famous products - from pickles to hot dogs to mustard
to "krinkle-cut" fries.
Consequently, the Hermann's version of Nathan's pickles is being sold in
more than 6,000 supermarkets in the country.
sweet and sour at pickle biz
Krevans, head of Nathan's branded products, said that adds up to $5
million in his company's pickle sales each year. Nathan's represents
about one-third of Hermann's pickle production, says Karl Hermann, but
he declined to say whether that figure represents one third of all of
"Hermann's handles the selling, distributing and marketing," Krevans
said. "All we do is collect some money from them, and sample and inspect
the product on a regular basis."
the Hermann pickles quickly developed a following, especially among
folks who like garlicky pickles.
and Karl Hermann won't divulge that recipe, although garlic, dill oil
and coriander seeds are part of it. But they gladly show off their
first, the family grew its own cucumbers, picking them daily when they
reached jar height. The Hermann's mother, Ruth, washed them by hand in a
basement sink until somebody came up with the idea of using a wringer
washing machine. They bought five and got them running.
the pickles are made in a combination of quaint and complex ways. No
longer cuke farmers, the Hermann's buy through brokers who follow the
harvest north from Texas and Florida to South Carolina, Ohio and
Michigan, and back down to Mexico.
200,000 pounds of cukes arrive each week. They are poured into a
cleansing bath, run twirling through a brushing machine and, if sliced,
are shot through a bladed tube onto a conveyor.
Hermann's made the kind of pickles that sat on a shelf like Vlasic and
Claussen, they'd have to hot-pack them and add preservatives. Instead,
they make refrigerated pickles packed in cold liquid that must be stored
cold. The products contain few, if any, preservatives beyond vinegar and
brine, so the flavor of the pickles deepens over time.
make "kosher" dills or "full sour," "half sour," "sweet horseradish"
pickles and pickled tomatoes and sell another company's sauerkraut under
their own brand. (See related explanation of pickle types.)
their pickle-making is automated. Workers remove damaged and broken
cukes, drop seasonings into jars, pack the jars and trim cukes that are
sweet and sour at pickle biz
diverse setting: a 45-member work force that is male and female, white
and black, Amish and non-Amish, all packing kosher pickles to the loud,
hard beat of country rock music.
Hermann will only say his employees make above minimum wage. To help
retain Amish workers, he provides them van rides to work.
runs the company's sales and marketing out of Phoenix while Larry
handles sales and production here. They plan to add a third pickle
production line this year.
Don, their father, died
a few years ago, but they say he approved of the link with Nathan's. The
pickle field is competitive, with thousands of brands vying for
supermarket space. Flavor can be a top priority, but so is a hook for
people to try it.
said they have no regret that the Hermann name is in small letters on
the Nathan's labels.
to a distributor with our own label and people would say, 'Who are you?'
With the Nathan's label, they say, 'Where have you been?'
helps us grow."
this Plain Dealer reporter: