“Wow, What a Year!” – A year-end reflection from Stonewall Kitchen’s Chief Executive Officer

“Wow, What a Year!” – A year-end reflection from Stonewall Kitchen’s Chief Executive Officer

January 4th, 2019 • York, Maine
Written by: John Stiker, Chief Executive Officer

When we look back some day at the history of Stonewall Kitchen, people will say that 2018 was really something special. This year, we focused on a strategy to become the premier specialty foods platform in North America by creating a family of premium quality brands underneath the Stonewall Kitchen umbrella.

Let me back up for a minute. When I joined Stonewall Kitchen four years ago as CEO, one of our goals was to carefully manage our growth by continuing to offer the right combination of high quality products to premium retail customers. In the process of doing that, we’ve started transitioning from being a small company to being a “medium-sized” company, which is really exciting. One of the ways we can continue to grow as a mid-size company is by partnering with smaller specialty food companies that share similar values to ours, and then bringing them into our family. Using Stonewall Kitchen’s infrastructure, distribution and marketing, this will allow us to bring more high-quality, delicious products in new, complementary categories to our guests and retail customers.

In January of 2018, we started this by completing our first-ever acquisition with a company called Tillen Farms, a premium brand of cocktail garnishes, including uniquely-crisp pickled vegetables and delicious Pacific Northwest cherries. It was a great fit for us, as our drink mixers are also perfect for cocktails, and the cherries also go well with our dessert sauces! We’ve grown Tillen Farms substantially since then (I hope you’ve seen it at your local store!), and in July we took them into a new category with unique and delicious stuffed olives!

In April, we signed a licensing agreement with the renowned Boston-based seafood restaurant company, Legal Sea Foods. In the months that followed, we’ve been working with the team at Legal Sea Foods to bring a co-branded product line of restaurant-quality seafood condiments to grocery and specialty retailers nationwide. In November we launched four products, including the delicious House Cocktail Sauce, House Tatar Sauce, House Vinaigrette and Lemon-Dill Marinade. The full product line will be available for our 2019 January New Product Launch!

Then in November we completed our second acquisition, a company called Spruce Naturals. I couldn’t be more excited about this acquisition, as it provides us with a leading position in oils, vinegars, and pasta which are perfect categories for our business! Spruce Naturals is the parent company for Napa Valley Naturals (a premium brand of certified organic extra virgin olive oils, culinary cooking oils, Italian balsamic vinegars and aged wine vinegars), as well as Montebello (an artisan brand of organic pastas imported from Italy). We hope you’ll be able to find these two new brands wherever you shop for Stonewall Kitchen soon!

In addition to adding brands to our family, we’re also working to bring the Stonewall Kitchen experience to more guests nationwide. One way we’ve done that this year is by launching a new Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School and Café at the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, in partnership with our long-time customer and partner, Macy’s. The Cooking School classes are just like the ones we teach at our York, Maine campus, and you can get our trademark delicious Lobster Rolls and Pilgrim Sandwiches at the new Cafe. We’re thrilled to have partnered with Macy’s to expand our footprint into California, so even West Coast guests can get a “taste of Maine.”

From two acquisitions and a licensing agreement to opening our second Cooking School and Café, it has truly been a milestone year for Stonewall Kitchen. As I reflect on this year, I am so proud of how much we have grown – as I write this, I’m literally wrapping up 2018 with a smile on my face – but also that we’ve done it carefully, and always making sure we stick to the high quality standards that make Stonewall Kitchen so special. We cannot wait to show you what 2019 brings!

Happy New Year everyone, and thank you for being such wonderful guests!

John Stiker • Chief Executive Officer

Having grown up in Maine, John Stiker joined the Stonewall Kitchen family in 2014 as our Chief Executive Officer after a career that has taken him from toothpaste to tuna. When he’s not working, you’ll catch John attending live performances from the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra, training for his next road race, or visiting his three sons on active duty around the globe!