Founded almost 90 years ago, C.J. Dannemiller Co. has deep roots in Ohio. A wholesale business-to-business (B2B) seller of nuts, popcorn, and other foodstuffs and supplies, the company is interested in expanding its business in these and other areas to meet increasing demand.
New Demand Drivers
The way John Dannemiller, president of C.J. Dannemiller Co., sees it, today’s increased demand results from two different factors. “We’ve been around forever, and initially we were all word of mouth. Then we started to work on promoting our website and focus on e-commerce sales. Now we’re starting to dip our toes into food shows and other avenues of marketing to get in front of other food businesses.
“In addition, we’re also now SQF [Safe Quality Food] certified, which is a big thing in the food world. It means a third-party auditor has verified you’re doing things right. We missed some opportunities to sell to some larger organizations by not having this SQF certification in place, so we went after that, which was a big undertaking. Together with a stronger online store presence, it helped spur our growth.”
John characterizes C.J. Dannemiller’s typical customers as partial truckload buyers. “If someone is buying full truckloads of almonds, pecans, and cashews, they’re going to bypass us. But if somebody wants to build a pallet – 30 cases of this, 30 cases of that – we would be a good source for them.”
Organic Growth Preferred
To meet its anticipated new demand, the company has chosen a home-grown expansion strategy. “We’ve entertained acquisitions, but they have never been the right fit,” says John. “Instead, organic growth is our primary avenue.”
To that end, last Spring, C.J. Dannemiller completed a 5,300 square-foot (sq. ft.) addition to its production area and is currently adding 16,000 sq. ft. in warehouse space. The new storage facility will feature two different temperature zones. A 6,000 sq. ft. zone will be a cold room with the temperature kept at about 40°F. The 10,000 sq. ft. area will be air-conditioned with temperatures at approximately 65°F. These temperature-controlled areas will ensure products stay fresh and maintain their high-quality levels.
While good for handling the anticipated new demand, the expansion also solves some other issues as well, such as the danger of cross-allergen contamination from different types of nuts. “You don’t want to have cross allergens, so part of what we did when we added this production capacity was to buy more roasters that allow us to have more designated lines, where a peanut processing machine is only used for peanuts, and cashew machines are only used for cashews. In the past, we would have had to ‘clean and switch’ the machines between each type of nut. The more separation you have, the less risk, and the extra space and equipment allow us to do that.”
In Search of Organic Nuts and New Taste Sensations
C.J. Dannemiller Co. continuously looks for ways to expand and improve its product offerings – which is why the company is offering a selection of organically grown nuts. “Part of our mission statement is listening to our customers and adding products they want. And one thing we’ve heard consistently is, ‘Do you sell organic nuts?’”
The move to organic farming has been an ongoing trend in America, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has established specific certification requirements that enable a farm or processing facility to sell, label and represent their products as organic. Part of this process involves the use of natural fertilizers instead of chemical ones. It also requires the enforcement of a three-year transition between the final application of prohibited substances and the use of the term “organic” to represent the crops grown on the land.
Likewise, customers are always looking for new taste sensations. “Salt and sweet combinations are pretty successful, and sweet and spicy, too.”
Asked to define what makes C.J. Dannemiller special in the eyes of its customers, John replies, “I think the thing that differentiates us is what we offer – awesome products and awesome service. For instance, we try to turn things around as fast as humanly possible for our customers. We load our trucks every morning, and always get messages asking, ‘Can you get this on today’s truck?’ And we get it on that truck.”
That sounds like a winning strategy. If you’re not already a subscriber – sign up to get tasty updates like new products.