Pictured is the Fremont Company which has filled 5,000 ketchup bottles with the front of the container noting, “Rockford Bicentennial.” (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Pictured is the Fremont Company which has filled 5,000 ketchup bottles with the front of the container noting, “Rockford Bicentennial.” (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

ROCKFORD – Rockford Clerk/Treasurer Lisa Kuhn noted that the Fremont Company, one of the town’s most prominent businesses, has filled 5,000 ketchup bottles with the front of the container noting, “Rockford Bicentennial.” The ketchup bottles will be distributed in honor of the town’s Bicentennial, which will begin celebration on Dec. 31, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Rockford Community Building.

Kuhn noted that, appropriately, the business, founded in 1905 in Fremont, Ohio by the Slessman Family, and first known as the Fremont Kraut Company, established a plant in Rockford in 1924 by A.L. Sharp and was known as the Rockford Canning Company. Its main product was canned tomatoes, and ketchup was the by-product. In 1961, the Sharp family sold the company to the Fremont Company, which was based in Fremont, Ohio.

“The company produces different brands all over the world,” said Kuhn. “Over the years, the plant focus changed to ketchup and barbecue sauce. The plant produces products for several private labels and also co-packs for several national labels. Today the plant exports produce to 60 foreign companies.

“This past summer, the plant was saluted as Rockford Business of the Year,” said Kuhn.

Today, the company is a manufacturer of tomato-based sauces, with a state-of-the-art facility handling private label and co-pack business. The facility has a multi-million dollar high-speed bottling line, class 1,000 cleanroom for sanitizing filling, and is certified organic by Global-Organic Bottling Alliance USDA.

In 1999, an ice storm badly damaged the building. At that time, the company undertook the challenge of replacing all of the remaining older buildings while still maintain production. This extensive project lasted three years and left the company with a more efficient facility.

In 2018, the plant started a major expansion project of $27 million that more than doubled the plant size and production capacity. The Rockford plant currently has 155 full-time employees under plant manager, Ken Pond, and assistant manager, Tyler Westgerdes.

The plant is active in benevolence and helps such needs as the Rockford Ministerial Association, Parkway Local Schools lunch program, and Western Ohio Food Bank.

Those who haven’t had the opportunity, yet, to see the bicentennial bottles will do so when they are introduced at the Rockford Bicentennial Grand Celebration on Dec. 31 at the Rockford Community Building.