Georgia is lauded for its peaches, peanuts and of course, Vidalia onions.
But thanks to a number of companies with co-packing programs, knowledge of these and the state’s other top commodities spreads throughout the country and around the world. Co-packers, which manufacture and distribute private-label products for a variety of clients, help take Georgia agriculture across the globe.
“We sell many of our products internationally,” says Stuart Saussy, vice president and one of the owners of Braswell Food Company in Statesboro. “It’s a good way to get the Georgia name out there, to show the world the products that are grown here.”
Braswell Foods has been in business since 1946, primarily making specialty preserves, salad dressings, sauces and condiments. It manufactures 400 to 600 products in 27 different categories. The co-packing and private-label side of its operation has been around since the 1960s.
“We were one of the first companies to establish a private-label section,” Saussy says. “It’s been a good program, and we have a large following.”
Co-packing at Braswell Foods works in a couple of different ways, as it does at similar companies. Clients can provide their own logo and design and have them incorporated on a label printed at Braswell Foods and placed on a choice of products from its 27 varieties.
“These are time-tested flavors and recipes we have developed since 1946, so we know what the market likes,” Saussy says. “We can certainly suggest to a client what sells better in their particular part of the country.”
Alternately, groups or individuals can have their own special recipes developed into products manufactured at Braswell Foods.
“Let’s say someone brought in a barbecue sauce they wanted as their signature product, using their own formula and recipe,” Saussy says. “We would take the formula and the recipe to our lab, where one of our full-time R&D people will recreate the product and then get it approved by the customer.
Saussey adds, “We can then go ahead and create the product, private-label it, send it off for all approvals from a (quality control) and regulation standpoint, and even provide nutritional information from our lab.”
Giving New (Shelf) Life
Co-packers not only help spread the word about agricultural products grown in Georgia, but they also directly benefit local producers. Of particular note are Georgia Grown members who are able to have their own food business because of co-packing.
“We manufacture a lot of private labels for area farmers, orchards and things of that sort,” Saussy says. “We use as many local products as we can, such as onions, peaches, pears, blueberries and honey.”
The owners of Hillside Orchard Farms in Lakemont also do their part to help local farms through their co-packing program. The company was founded by Robert and Patsy Mitcham in 1983. Private-labeling makes up about 90 percent of its business.
“We have between 600 and 700 different customers,” Patsy Mitcham says. “They want to sell their name, and that’s what we encourage.”
Hillside Orchard’s client list includes local farmers.
“We’ll take a farmer’s produce that may not go into a fresh market, like strawberries, for instance, but we can turn them into preserves and they can have a shelf life,” Mitcham says. “That’s how we help the farmers. There are quite a few in this area that do that.”