Producing tasty foods that are wholesome and good for you is not an easy task, but for 65 years ASK Foods has been an industry leader in doing just that.
The company’s efforts have not gone unnoticed either: the Palmyra-based business has been named the 2013 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year by Refrigerated & Frozen Foods magazine. ASK was the magazine’s cover story in its January issue.
“We are really excited because it is an honor to be nominated and recognized by your peers,” says CEO Wendie DiMatteo Holsinger. “Our company, starting with my grandfather and my father, has always been about using natural products – even before that became a popular trend, so you can say they were really ahead of their time.”
Learning they were a top five finalist in the competition, Holsinger said a rigorous judging process ensued, including an extensive survey about the company’s growth, business philosophy and new products, to name a few of the criteria that had to be answered.
“We are foodies; we’re very passionate about food,” Holsinger said. “That is one of the reasons why we have grown over the past 10 years. It is our goal to make great-tasting food that wows you and makes customers want to come back again.”
Holsinger admits accomplishing that goal isn’t always easy.
“One of the challenges is how do we make superior, quality, natural food that is not only good for you, but still looks good when you make 10,000 pounds of it,” Holsinger said. “We keep pushing ourselves to improve quality and we engage our employees in that process.”
While ASK has always produced wholesome foods, Holsinger said much of the company’s growth is centered on “healthy lifestyle” foods made with reduced fat and lower sodium. The company will be launching a new line of healthy foods this spring, Holsinger added.
“A dilemma in the food industry is that many of the foods that taste the best may not have the best nutritional profile since they have lots of ingredients that really aren’t all that healthy for you,” Holsinger said. “Our retail customers and restaurant owners hear from consumers that they want, and are demanding, that they be more responsible in the foods they present.”
Holsinger noted that ASK is also experiencing growth in ethnic specialties, and will launch this spring new cuisine including Asian, Hispanic, Greek and Italian selections to its cultural line of food products. ASK typically rotates between about 800 all-natural, preservative-free fresh and frozen meals, entrees and side dishes that are sold to restaurants, grocery stores and wholesale markets in 22 states, Holsinger added.
“Diners have educated palates and they want a variety of ethnic choices,” Holsinger said. “We’ve really seen growth in this area over the past 10 years too.”
Product growth has led to an expansion of the plant, which will grow by 8,000 square feet to 83,000 square feet when construction is completed next month. Holsinger expects to add 20 jobs as well, growing the workforce from 210 to 230 employees.
“Our success is the result of the dedication, devotion and hard work of each and every employee who does each job with a passion,” Holsinger said. “This passion and the willingness to try new things have allowed us to excel as a company. The honor of this award is dedicated to them.”
As the Lebanon County company celebrates its Diamond Anniversary, Holsinger said she is keeping the award in perspective.
“I’m sorry that my father passed away this past summer because he would have been very excited about the award and he would have been excited to celebrate the company’s 65th anniversary,’’ Holsinger said. “But my father also used to say that you are only as good as the next pound of food you make. So our goal and inspiration is to make the best-quality, best-tasting food we possibly can every day.”
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