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World's largest sauerkraut maker closes N.Y. plant, shifts production to WI

Tracy Schuhmacher
USATODAY

The company that bills itself as the largest sauerkraut manufacturer in the world will close its factory in Shortsville, New York.

GLK Foods, which processes a total of 130,000 tons of cabbage a year, announced that is consolidating its sauerkraut production to its plant in Bear Creek, Wisconsin.

Great Lakes Kraut Co. in Shortsville, Ontario County.

The company announced the expansion of its Bear Creek plant on its website, attributing the development a response to consumer demand for increased product offerings and research and development growth opportunities.

“We are excited to expand operations in Bear Creek and are looking forward to future company advancements,” said Ryan M. Downs, GLK president. “As the long-time market leader in the sauerkraut industry, we’ve most recently seen success in our Oh Snap! Pickling Company line of pickled vegetable products, which we plan to build on.”

Western New York sauerkraut operation moving to Bear Creek, WI.

In conjunction with GLK’s Bear Creek plant expansion, the company says its closure of the New York plant was an "extraordinarily difficult business decision". Downs said the move to consolidate comes as a result of expansion opportunities at the company’s Bear Creek plant and does not reflect the valued commitment and talent of Shortsville staff.

“We do not take these decisions lightly, and we recognize the huge impact it will have on our Shortsville employees and their families,” Downs said.

Production will continue at the century-old Shortsville plant through mid-September, while shipping and receiving will continue through the end of the year, the company said in a press release. Many Shortsville employees will be retained throughout that time.

GLK Foods, which processes a total of 130,000 tons of cabbage a year, announced that is consolidating its sauerkraut production to its plant in Bear Creek, Wisconsin.

"We worked for years and years to keep them here," said Michael J. Manikowski, economic developer for Ontario County Economic Development. The company had been talking about consolidating to the rural Wisconsin plant for many years, and in recent years it stopped responding to calls from the economic development office. 

GLK Foods did not have any existing tax agreement, and a past loan was paid in full, Manikowski said.

There are challenges with a sauerkraut plant in the middle of the village, Manikowski noted, such as complaints about the smell that comes from processing fermented cabbage. Those are likely to be less an issue in rural Wisconsin. 

The closing of the plant will impact not only its workers, but also area farmers who grow cabbage. It's a major crop in New York; the value of New York's cabbage production exceeded $58 million in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

GLK Foods, which processes a total of 130,000 tons of cabbage a year, announced that is consolidating its sauerkraut production to its plant in Bear Creek, Wisconsin.

Ontario County has been a hub of sauerkraut production for more than 100 years, Manikowski said. Phelps, just east of Shortsville, has an annual sauerkraut festival.

GLK traces its roots back to a Bear Creek, Wisconsin, cannery that started making sauerkraut in 1900. Through mergers, Great Lakes Kraut Company was created in 1997 and was renamed GLK Foods in 2010.

The expanded facility in Bear Creek will provide job opportunities to the greater Fox Cities and Green Bay areas as the consolidation moves forward.

Colleen Kottke and Maureen Wallenfang of USATODAY NETWORK Wisconsin contributed to this story.