June 27, 2008

N.J. Firm Acquires Local Popcorn Maker

By Tim Mekeel

A New Jersey food manufacturer sees a bright and healthy future by coming to Snack Alley.

World Gourmet Marketing LLC has purchased the rest of Rivard Popcorn Inc. that it didn't already own for an undisclosed price.

Now that it has full ownership, World Gourmet plans to expand the 2870 Yellow Goose Road plant in a $5 million investment that will double Rivard's 50-employee work force.

World Gourmet president Jason Cohen said today that the expansion will follow a $3 million investment made in the plant by World Gourmet since January 2007.

That's when it acquired a 40 percent stake in the East Hempfield business.

In the wake of this latest transaction, the production of World Gourmet's Sensible Portions line will be brought here from Butler, N.J., said Cohen.

The impact of the shift on its 28 production employees in Butler remains to be seen, he said.

With the relocation of World Gourmet's manufacturing of healthy snacks and crackers to the 70,000-square-foot plant here, World Gourmet envisions diversifying over the next five years.

Among the new lines being eyed are ice cream and other frozen desserts, TV dinners, beverages, cereals and cookies, said Cohen.

World Gourmet, established in 2001, sells to club, deli, supermarket and specialty retailers. Major customers include Wal- Mart, Costco, BJ's and Sam's Club. Cohen declined to disclose its annual sales.

Rivard, which is changing its name to Sensible Snacks, makes popcorn, caramel corn and fried and baked pellet snacks. Its annual sales exceed $5 million, said Cohen, with the bulk of the business being private label work.

Cohen said Rivard offered an ideal situation for World Gourmet - a sizable building, a skilled work force and proximity to suppliers, customers and main roads.

He noted that the latter attributes have made the area popular with numerous other snack makers, leading to its nickname within the food industry as Snack Alley.

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