The Crider family has owned and operated Crider Foods for more than 70 years. In 1944, William Ahtee Crider, best known by his middle name, and wife Emma Lou Crider established the business as a fish market.
Over the years, the family established longstanding relationships with local stores. Building on this success, the company introduced value-added products, processing seafood in-house and eventually adding canned chicken.
Eventually, the family sold the canning operation, but after a short hiatus, the Criders were at it again. In 1977 the couple’s son, William “Billy” Ahtee Crider Jr., started up a new processing facility in Stillmore, Georgia, and Crider Foods, in its current form, was born.
Crider Foods’ primary revenue source is co-packing for larger brands and supermarket generic lines. In 1985, Billy’s first major customer for the new operation was Hormel.
While most of the company’s clients operate within the United States, the business’ geographic footprint extends into Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In recent years, Billy and his team have also established customers in Europe, a growing market for the company.
Billy has a strong team between management, administration, sales and production. He employs approximately 450 people, including Mark Howell, executive vice president of Crider Foods.
Mark has been in the industry for 28 years, beginning his career with Hormel Foods after graduating from college. He worked in marketing there for several years before moving to work in the plastics industry where he was employed when Billy hired him onto the Crider Foods team in 1998.
Billy and Mark take great pride in the team’s ability to produce high-quality chicken products. With a headquarters in Stillmore, Georgia, as well as a separate freezer facility, the business incorporates a canning plant and a fully-cooked product plant for frozen items.
“We have one major manufacturing plant in Georgia and in total, we have three separate business operations,” Mark explains. “We have the canning facility, and then our fully-cooked business produces things like sized chicken breast fillets, diced and strip chicken meat, all frozen. We own our own dry warehousing and a frozen cold storage facility in Claxton, Georgia.”
The canned poultry aspect of the business makes up the largest division. Clients for branded and private label products include: Costco, Publix, Kroger, Swanson and Bumble Bee.
Demand continues to grow and to keep up with the market, Crider Foods is constantly reinvesting in facilities, equipment and technology. In mid-2014, the business completed a major expansion and renovation of $45 million on the new and improved state-of-the-art canning facility.
One major aspect of the business that sets Crider Foods apart from competitors is purchasing power. “There are really only two major competitors in our market,” Mark explains. “We are the largest and we do as much business as the other two combined. We have the efficiency and the volume to stay ahead in this market, especially with our private packaging capabilities.”
The company’s streamlined operations and high volume capacity allow the crew to keep up with consumer demand. “Our primary goal is to stay in step with our customers’ needs and wants,” Mark says. “Raw material pricing affects us, but our vertical integration keeps operations running smoothly. We also have a diverse line, especially with international and ethnic food markets. We also process and pack beef and pork, as well as kosher and halal foods.”
The international market is presenting major opportunities for business growth. “Europe is a big market and we are looking at growth in Asia, too,” Mark notes. “We also have a good product for the African market where we also see a lot of potential.”
Product research and development continues to play an important role as Mark and his crew look to fill diverse market niches abroad. Crider Foods’ business strategy is innovation. The team is consistently developing more products for global expansion. The company’s market growth outside of the United States has been a key factor in Crider Foods’ success, particularly with shelf stable items, such as canned chicken and other meats.
While international business is important to Crider Foods’ growth, Mark says the company is experiencing market growth within the country, as well. The convenience, health benefits and shelf life of these products are attractive to consumers the world-over. On top of that, the business boasts a SQF Level 3 certification for food safety.
Consumers trust Crider Foods products for a number of reasons, including food safety, quality and taste. More than a food manufacturing business, the company strives to serve as a community member. Billy is socially conscious, driving community involvement and charitable acts within the business.
Crider Foods consistently gives back both monetarily and by donating products to food banks. In 2015 and beyond, Mark’s team will continue the Crider Foods family tradition of quality, service and community involvement.