September/October 2020

Oh Snap! parlays grab-n-go, brine-less pickle appeal into new production facility

Longtime sauerkraut producer GLK Foods got into the grab-n-go pickling market in 2015 when it launched Oh Snap!, a line that includes single-serve, brine-less pickled cucumbers, carrots, snap peas, green beans and jalapeños.

The line has grown to the point where the Appleton, Wisconsin-based producer needed to open a new facility, which it did earlier this year in the way of a 67,000-square foot, all-refrigerated building in Little Chute to go with its existing buildings and distribution centers in Appleton, Bear Creek and Seymour.

Oh Snap! Pickles’ new all-refrigerated production facility in Appleton, Wisconsin. Photo: Oh Snap!

Previously, Oh Snap! products were processed and packed at the Bear Creek facility, which was designed to produce sauerkraut, not pickled vegetables.

“When we had the idea for this product line, we were kind of shoehorning equipment in. We started very small; there was no flow to the layout,” said Ryan M. Downs, company president. “As the line grew, we just flat out ran out of space.”

Whereas the facility in Bear Creek has limited cooler space, the new Oh Snap! building is totally refrigerated. Increased chilled space will allow the company to source more Wisconsin-grown vegetables.

“The Wisconsin (cucumber) season is about a six-week season,” Downs said. “The idea is to bring in as much as we can because we can now store it while it’s brining. It’s a lot cheaper to buy the stuff grown in your backyard rather than getting it from Mexico.”

The move also gave GLK the chance to address its makeshift pickling production line. Production now moves methodically through the building, with vegetables entering at one end of the facility and, after processing, brining, packaging and packing, leaving out the opposite end.

“We think we can improve the product quality by having the entire facility refrigerated,” Downs said. “Also, we now have the space for more modern packaging technology, automated case packing and all those types of things.”

End-of-line packaging

When the Oh Snap! brand was still in its infancy, Downs was introduced to Somic America end-of-line packaging equipment through his corrugated rep, John Bartmann of PCA. At that point, the need for the advanced automated equipment was just a wish for Downs.

Somic America’s end-of-line packaging equipment in production at Oh Snap!. Photo: Somic

“I said, ‘If Oh Snap! ever developed to the point that we needed some of this Somic equipment, that would be something,” Downs recalled. Three years later, he and his staff were shopping for such equipment. They decided on two Somic 424 W3 wraparound case packers to open the facility and have since bought a third.

“We loved the simplicity of the design, its compact nature and the references we received could not have been more glowing,” Downs said.

Peter Fox of Somic worked with Oh Snap! on getting the right equipment for its needs, which include dealing with the standup pouches in which its products are packaged.

Somic’s 424 W3 case packers at Oh Snap!’s production facility. Photo: Somic

“They wanted to minimize the space requirements for the machines as their floor space is limited. They could not afford to consume this area with multiple machine modules so a compact, all-in-one system was critical,” Fox said. “Secondly, our ability to collate the small pouches in a retail-ready standup orientation was also very important. With our lamella chain collation technology, this is ideal.

“Next, the layout flexibility in being able to accommodate a reverse flow also provided a more compact system layout. It provides the ability to discharge the finished cases onto a spiral conveyor discharge that is strategically positioned to convey the product up and out of the packaging area. It also provides a clear area for forklift traffic right after the machines. Finally, our machines have the ability to collate the proper retail ready case configuration in a variety of case counts and formats to meet their current and future customer needs.”

Grab-n-go appeal

GLK has been producing sauerkraut for decades — its brands include Flanagan, Cortland Valley and Saverne — but the company saw an opportunity for on-the-go pickled vegetables with consumers’ increasingly busy schedules and desire for healthier snacks.

“Snacking is a little bit more of a meal event than it used to be in that people want to get a fix of a snack, but they don’t want it necessarily to be complete junk food,” Downs said. “In this instance, they’re getting a relatively healthy snack.”

Brine is not added to the pouch with the pickled vegetables, which makes eating it a little neater for the consumer.

“People really seem to like the idea that there is no brine added back to the product, so there is no mess,” Downs said. “Our product is not heated or pasteurized, so the texture stays really good. It’s a really easy, on-the-go format, which really seems to be resonating with Americans. Well, frankly, internationally as well these days.”

Oh Snap! packaged whole or sliced pickles in dill and hot flavors, as well as pickled green beans, snap peas and sliced carrots. Pouches can be sold individually or in packs of six or 12.

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