Mini-cast 163: Litehouse Foods Rebrands with Certified EO



Bret Keisling discusses Litehouse Foods' decision to rebrand with the Certified EO logo on its products, why this is huge for employee ownership, and why all of us who support EO should celebrate this program.

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Mini-cast 163 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling, and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. There is big and exciting news in employee ownership this week! Certified EO has announced that Litehouse Foods has rebranded their products to include the Certified EO logo.


[00:00:28] From its website, we know that Litehouse Foods is a leading producer and marketer of refrigerated salad dressings, cheeses, dips, sauces, and freeze-dried herbs. Litehouse is a leader in the food industry with innovative and great consumer products, keeping a strong commitment to the employees and communities in which they operate.


[00:00:46] Just very briefly, Litehouse Foods started in 1958 when Edward Hawkins and his wife Lorena purchased a restaurant in Hope, Idaho. People loved the salad dressing so much that they brought empty jars to fill and take home. In 1963, they started mass producing jars by hand to sell. And in 1997, they merged with another firm located in Michigan. They continued to expand and add more products. In 2006, they became 30% employee owned and by 2014, they were a 100% ESOP. And now in 2021, they're adding the Certified EO logo to all of their packaging.


[00:01:24] I'm very excited that Litehouse is using the certified EO logo for a number of reasons. First, what a prominent, eye-catching way for Litehouse to proclaim to its customers and everyone in its distribution chain that it's an employee-owned company and proud of it.


[00:01:39] Second, as more products begin to use the Certified EO logo, and I have no doubt they will, that logo will become even more recognizable to more consumers. Regular podcasts listeners know that in the last year I've often discussed with EO and ESOP leaders how employee ownership can become a movement. We often talk about a sure sign that EO is not a movement is despite 3 million employee owners at privately held companies, we have zero impact as consumers. If consumers begin to more mindfully shop for employee-owned products, they will go a long way to helping us build a movement.


[00:02:15] Third, every time somebody sees employee ownership branding it's an opportunity for them to learn about employee ownership. Certified EO's logo is perfectly designed and placed visibly enough on the products that more people will be bound to talk about employee ownership simply because they saw the logo.


[00:02:31] Fourth, it's Certified EO that set up the branding program. Here's why that's important. In order to use the branding, presumably you must belong to Certified EO. In order to belong to Certified EO, you must be 20% employee owned or more. That means credibility. People who come to recognize the logo and want to shop employee owned will know that the company using the logo is truly certified employee owned. By the way, although you can be a minority employee-owned company and belonged to Certified EO, Litehouse happens, as I mentioned, to be a 100% ESOP.


[00:03:05] I want to thank Litehouse Foods for expressing their commitment to employee ownership so prominently on their product labels. I want to thank Certified EO for setting up the program and congratulate them for having such a prominent and wonderful employee-owned company participate.


[00:03:19] I also want to send a message to everybody in employee ownership. This branding program is something we can all support. There may come a time down the road when we're actually a movement where there might be other branding opportunities such as the Certified EO logo program, but I'd be very disappointed if any organization that attempted to copy them anytime soon. To truly become a movement, we all need to support what others are doing that doesn't directly conflict with our own missions. And if someone's doing a program that's not conflicting with our mission, now's the time to support it. Now's the time to support others and then find unique ways to grow the EO sandbox for our individual missions.

 

[00:04:07] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you. You can find us on Facebook at EO Podcast Network and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. This podcast has been produced by Bret Keisling for the EO Podcast Network, production assistance by Victoria Huerta, original music composed by Max Keisling, branding and marketing by BitsyPlus Design, and I'm Bitsy McCann.


Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.


A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The EsOp Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.