Touring the Gold Medal Products Co. giant facility in Cincinnati is akin to entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory — without the chocolate fountain, Oompa Loompas and odd occurrences. Still, the company emits the heavenly smell of popcorn, has a top-secret flavor department and keeps a room open just for proffering samples of cotton candy and apple cider slush.
As the company adds 10 to 15 new products each year, Gold Medal is growing at a rapid rate. The 500,000-sq.-ft. building is expanded from the original 370,000-sq.-ft. facility and yet the company broke ground in November 2011 on a new 3,000-sq.-ft. expansion to increase office and showroom space.
“The economy over the last few years has affected some customers in the different markets that we sell to, but fortunately not to a great degree,” says Chris Petroff, Gold Medal’s national sales manager.
“Our business continues to grow at close to 10 percent each year. The party rental customers are doing great as are the carnival operators and the parks and recreation customers. Many families have cut back on vacations and making large purchases, so they stay close to home and frequent the local places or entertain more at home. They still have graduation parties, retirement parties and birthday parties, and rent popcorn poppers, cotton candy machines, Sno-Kone® machines and frozen drink machines. These items can make any home party more fun and enjoyable,” he says.
The company has 400 distributors that carry parts for the machines and service items that they sell to customers. Gold Medal also provides machines and popcorn to national movie chains, including AMC Theatres.
Much of the material is bought raw and then processed at the Cincinnati facility. “That way, we can control the production, quality and cost,” says Steve Taylor, food service industry account manager.
“Our manufacturing plant in Cincinnati manufactures more than 45,000 various machines each year of which approximately 20,000 are popcorn machines,” Petroff says. “Our manufacturing system is driven by past history. We also build in an incremental amount for growth.”
Stainless-steel popcorn kettles are made in a 4-oz. size up to a 60-oz. kettle that will pop 75 lbs. of popcorn per hour. The company makes more than 200 models of popcorn poppers, as well as popcorn scoops, which come with each machine. These are punched out of a single piece of metal. The company also makes the wire harnesses and connectors needed for each machine.
“We try to plan all the parts, so everything is ready for the assembly line at once. This isn’t the kind of work you can mechanize, so we still do a lot of it by hand,” Petroff says. “We have recently expanded our assembly lines to help speed up production.
We now have 11 assembly lines and sub-assembly lines running.”
The assembly line gets things done in short order, but the company does keep plenty of inventory on hand to keep turnaround times low. For larger pieces, such as popcorn machines for stadiums and arenas, it takes about six to eight weeks to manufacture these, Petroff says.
The company does have a separate 35,000-sq.-ft. building for storage
and about 85,000 sq. ft. in the main building is used to warehouse inventory. The company moved from three separate buildings in 1997, to the newly built 370,000-sq.-ft. facility. The building has 30-ft. ceilings and houses 310 employees.
“We estimate that the rental industry accounts for between 8 to 10 percent of our total sales. We have picked up a lot of business when it comes to stadiums and arenas,” Petroff says. “Also, we have many international orders. Thirty percent of our total business is international. We also have distributors and suppliers internationally. We do a tremendous business in Australia and in Russia.”
|Gold Medal helps make a wish come true|
|It’s not often that a company can dramatically and directly impact a child’s life, especially when he and his family are battling a life-threatening illness. Yet, Gold Medal Products Co., Cincinnati, its distributors and employees were given the chance to make one life-changing wish come true.|
Joseph, a brave seven-year-old boy who has undergone 30 chemotherapy treatments in battling brain cancer, asked to go to Walt Disney World® Resort in February. This special vacation will allow him to escape the countless tests and medical treatments, and spend much-needed quality time with his family.
The Gold Medal family answered by raising $7,500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, Southern Ohio Region, during its annual Distributors’ Conference in December. This amount will not only fulfill Joseph’s wish, it will also go a long way toward helping another child’s dreams come true.
“Joey and his family are wonderful and caring people,” Dan Kroeger, president and CEO of Gold Medal, said. “I thank God that I had the opportunity to meet them and in some small way help give them some fun time together that they so much deserve.”
The Walt Disney Co. will provide theme park tickets and other perks for Joseph and his family as part of their overall relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation®.
Gold Medal outsources its powder coating, but does screen printing in-house, as well as custom LED and neon lighting for the larger machines. Shipping requires a team just to build crates, as everything is crated before being sent out. “Shipping is a killer,” Petroff says, “so we go the extra mile to overpack everything so it arrives in perfect condition.”
“The popcorn is bought from various suppliers and then packaged to our specifications,” Taylor says. Popcorn has changed a great deal over the years and the company gets a special “monster mushroom” variety, exclusive to Gold Medal. The label describes the size and shape of the popped kernel, rather than the flavor. The company also sells pre-made caramel corn.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about Gold Medal is that we only sell equipment. That is certainly not so,” Petroff says. “One of the things that makes our company unique is that we are truly a one-stop shop for both equipment and supplies. Supplies are a huge focus for Gold Medal. We have a state-of-the-art flavor department here in our Cincinnati facility that allows us to make everything from popcorn flavoring mixes and seasoning salt to cotton candy Flossugar and even Sno-Kone syrups.”
Gold Medal’s flavor department is a two-story portion of the building that is used to mix flavorings for the cotton candy, for syrups and other fun food mixes. About 38,000 lbs. of sugar come into the building each day, which adds up to more than 10 million lbs. each year. The flavorings are mixed on the top floor and gravity-fed to the first floor for packaging. Visitors are not allowed in due to FDA regulations. Locally, Gold Medal also sells frozen foods and a huge freezer stores frozen pretzels, pizza and hot dogs to go with the warmers and cookers they build. “We sell everything but the bun,” Petroff says.
The Sno-Kone® name is a copyright of Gold Medal. The company also holds several patents for cotton candy and for popcorn. In fact, one of the first items ever manufactured by Gold Medal was a cotton candy cone, a paper cone created specifically for winding cotton candy.
“We’re the only company in the world that makes a cotton candy cone,” Taylor says. The paper rolls also can be custom printed for customers. “We also make the paper popcorn cones right here in this building,” he says.
- Gold Medal Products Co. has one of its original popcorn machines from the 1970s that used to sit in Montgomery Ward.
- The Sno-Kone® name is a copyright of Gold Medal Products Co.
- Gold Medal Products Co. makes the batter mixes and sells the machines for the waffle cones and waffle dishes served at Cold Stone Creamery and Maggie Moos.
- Joe’s Crab Shack uses Gold Medal Products Co. popcorn cones.
- The company is the only cotton candy paper cone producer in the world.
- Although rebuilt and repaired over the years, some of the company’s original machines from the 1940s are still in use today.
- Hot dogs are cooked differently across the U.S., so Gold Medal Products Co. manufactures hot dog grills and steamers.
Gold Medal Products Co., Cincinnati, gmpopcorn.com
American Rental Association associate member since 1987
History: Gold Medal Products Co., Cincinnati, was founded in 1931, when David C. Evans borrowed $2,000 on his home and bought Kings Ink. He added paste and glue to the ink line and then created a new food line of products, including soft drink concentrates, cake flavors and coloring. He named it “Gold Medal.”
In 1933, Evans hired his first employee. Volume increased and soon drink concentrates were sold in larger bottles to the carnival and amusement park industry for beverages and Sno-Kones®. Sno-Kone® cups followed, as did ice shaving machines, crockery syrup dispensers, popcorn supplies and caramel corn.
In the 1940s, Gold Medal was a major producer of ice shavers and popcorn machines and introduced its first small popcorn popper and first cotton candy machine. In 1951, the company perfected a machine that could produce a cotton candy cone, eliminating hand rolling. Gold Medal introduced more popcorn machines and moved into a 92,000-sq.-ft. building to produce it all.
Later, Evans’ sons, David Bruce and J.C., took over the company, marketing specialty products and creating a dealer network. The company moved from three separate buildings in 1997 to the newly built 350,000-sq.-ft. facility. More recently, the company expanded to cover more than 500,000 sq. ft. Today, J.C. continues to work with Dan Kroeger, Gold Medal Products Co. president and CEO.