February 7, 2007

Smucker's

And the man behind the brand is...
Jerome Smucker

Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman planted the apples but it was left to Jerome Smucker to sell them. Chapman devoted his life to sowing the fertile midwestern soil with domestic apple trees. In 1897 Smucker set out to process some of the bounty from the apple orchards around his Orrville, Ohio home.

Smucker started out in a wooden cider mill with a steam-operated press to convert his neighbor’s apples into cider. He charged a penny a gallon. It wasn’t long before he discovered that cider in wooden tanks could be concentrated quickly by heating it with steam piped through copper coils. The concentrate formed the basis for apple butter.

Smucker used an old family recipe for his butter. He was proud enough of his product to hand-sign the paper lid on every stoneware crock of apple butter he made. He peddled the crocks to neighboring housewives from the tailboard of a drummer’s wagon.

Smucker’s Apple Butter was indeed well received and local sales climbed steadily over the next two decades. Sales in 1915 topped $59,000. With the adoption of automatic machinery and glass jars Smuckers was able to expand distribution past Orrville.

In 1923 the “Apple Butter King” branched out into the jam and jelly business and soon the Smucker line included a full complement of preserves and jellies. In 1935 , the company began fruit processing operations in Washington state, their first plant outside Orrville. National distribution of Smucker’s products began in 1942, when the first shipment of preserves and jellies was sent from Orrville to Los Angeles.

When Jerome Smucker died in 1948 at the age of 89 he was the largest single apple-butter producer in the world; his fruit products were available in every state. Each year Smucker’s was processing nearly a million bushels of apples; enough to cover half a billion slices of bread.

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