When Chuck Eggert founded Pacific Foods in 1987, the health food movement was still an off shoot of the ‘70s hippie culture. Today — with organic food one of the fastest growing segments of the grocery industry — Eggert’s Tualatin-based natural foods company is on an upward trajectory. Pacific is one of the largest food companies in the state, and Eggert says the privately-held company has seen double digit growth every year. The company distributes 300 million pounds of organic broths, soups, and chowders annually. And that’s only part of the company’s expanding product line. Pacific also makes “soup starters,” non-dairy beverages like almond and hazelnut milk and even refried beans and mac & cheese.
We spoke to Eggert about why his company has flown under the radar in Oregon, how saving a family-run chicken hatchery has helped his bottom line and why he thinks organic food is anything but elitist.
OB: How has the natural foods industry changed since you founded Pacific Foods?
Eggert: There’s a Natural Products Expo every spring. Back when we started there were maybe 2,000 people there; this year, they have 65,000. It’s gone from where you knew virtually everyone there, to filling the entire Anaheim Convention Center. Peoples’ eating habits are changing so quickly—which is great!
OB: Is there great demand for your products all over the country? And is Oregon a big market?
Eggert: We’ll ship anywhere from 250-300 million pounds of soup and broth per year, nationally. About 12 million cases of products leave the state. Oregon is a very small market for us, actually—only 3-4% of our sales are in state. California is a huge market—and so is the Northeast. We’ll ship about 5 million cases to the East Coast.
We’ve flown under the radar here in Oregon. I don’t think people realize how much product we’re doing on an ongoing basis.
OB: What are your most popular items?
Eggert: Chicken broth and roasted red pepper soup.
OB: I know that sourcing ingredients locally is important to you. But with such robust demand for your products—especially the three categories of chicken broth and chicken noodle soup—how do you manage to find enough Oregon-raised chickens?
Eggert: We grow a significant amount of the chickens ourselves. We also deal with a poultry supplier in Dayton. At any given time we have about 100,000 chickens around, year-round, on our own farms and other farms combined.
We process about 10,000 birds a week at our meat processing plant in Dayton: Dayton Natural Meats. We’re the only USDA poultry plant in the state. We do pork, beef, turkey, chicken, and duck. We bring in meat, and process it into broth at our Tualatin facility and do the packaging.
Continue reading at Oregon Business Magazine.