Gerber Products Company
The Gerber baby, which appears on the packaging of all Gerber products, is a portrait of five-month-old Ann Turner Cook.
|Founded||Fremont, Michigan, U.S. (1927 )|
|Founder(s)||Daniel Frank Gerber|
|Subsidiaries||Gerber Life Insurance Company|
Gerber Products Company is a purveyor of baby food and baby products. A formerly American-owned company headquartered in Fremont, Michigan, Gerber is now a subsidiary of Nestlé Group. Its subsidiary, Gerber Life Insurance Company, is headquartered in White Plains, New York.
Gerber was founded in 1927 in Fremont, Michigan by Daniel Frank Gerber, owner of the Fremont Canning Company, which produced canned fruit and vegetables. At the suggestion of a pediatrician, Gerber's wife Dorothy Gerber began making hand-strained food for their seven-month-old daughter, Sally. Recognising a business opportunity, Gerber began making baby food. By 1928 he had developed five products for the market: beef vegetable soup and strained peas, prunes, carrots, and spinach. Six months later, Gerber's baby foods were distributed nationwide.
The brand eventually became a major company in the baby food industry, offering more than 190 products in 80 countries, with labeling in 16 languages. Its primary competitors are Beech-Nut and Del Monte Foods, but Gerber controls 83 percent of the baby food market in the United States.
In 1994 Gerber merged with Sandoz Laboratories. Two years later, Sandoz merged with CIBA-Geigy to form Novartis, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. In 2007 Gerber was sold to Nestlé for $5.5 billion.
In 1960 Gerber started selling its baby food in glass jars, which often found new life as household storage, especially in home workshops. Soon after, other items such as pacifiers, baby bottles, and small baby toys were introduced. In 2003 Gerber partially replaced the glass jars with plastic tubs for vegetables and some fruits. Other fruits and meats are still sold in jars.
In 1967 executives at Gerber Products decided to offer a line of life insurance products aimed at young families. Today, the Gerber Life Insurance Company is one of the largest purveyors of direct-marketed life insurance in the United States. Gerber Life currently has more than two million life insurance policies in force, with more than $650 million in assets. The company's term and whole life insurance products for adults and children are available in the United States, Puerto Rico, and most of Canada. Gerber Life currently has an "A" ("Excellent") rating with independent rating entity AM Best, the third-highest rating out of thirteen categories.
Early in the 1990s, Gerber tried to enter into the sugar-free food market with a Sugar Free Vanilla Custard flavor, favorable to diabetic babies. The product did not see as much demand as expected, so it was dropped after a few years. Gerber also began to produce juices, which are still being sold as of March 2009. In 1999 Gerber established Gerber Skincare products for babies.
Other Gerber products currently produced include breastfeeding supplies, such as the Premium Feeding System Manual Massaging Pump, as well as baby bottles and nipples. They also market a line of health care products, including Tooth and Gum Cleanser and Vitamin Drops.
Gerber has a long history of projecting a family-friendly image. When Gerber Products established a consumer relations department in 1938, then ten-year-old Sally Gerber began answering each customer's letter individually, a practice she would continue for many years, even after she became a senior vice president of the company. In 1986 the company set up the Gerber Parents' Resource Center, a toll-free customer relations hotline, which has been providing information on baby food and parenting issues ever since.
According to Gerber, Ann Turner Cook is the famous Gerber baby, whose portrait is featured prominently on all Gerber product packaging. Cook is now a retired teacher and mystery writer. She was depicted in a charcoal sketch by her neighbor Dorothy Hope Smith. Smith entered the sketch for the company's logo contest.
Numerous urban legends have incorrectly identified the Gerber baby. Some legends claim that the baby is Sally Gerber herself, the reason why the company itself was established. Another urban legend says that Richard Nixon was the original Gerber baby.
Tax break and expansion
In September 2008, Gerber's Fremont facilities were designated as a Michigan Agricultural Renaissance Zone, receiving $43 million in tax breaks over 15 years. In order to receive the incentives, Gerber agreed to continue its employment in Fremont at 1,100 jobs and invest $50 million in its Fremont facilities over the course of the next ten years. However, to get the full 15 years of tax breaks, Gerber agreed to increase employment by 200 and spend a total of $75 million on its facilities. The Tax Breaks have been largely supported, despite large revenue losses by local governments: $300,000 in losses per year for the City of Fremont (10% of their budget) and $160,000 a year for Newaygo County. It is estimated local governments would give up potentially $15 million in revenue over the 15 years as part of the tax break. Both the county and the city will be working with the Fremont Area Community Foundation to receive funds in the initial years to help with specific projects and programs. The Fremont Public School District would receive assistance through the state school aid formula. Nestlé Nutrition North America CEO Kurt Schmidt said that the Fremont research and development center will be one of 23 worldwide Nestlé "product technology centers" and also include scientific research for baby and infant nutritional products. It is expected that the new investment will help make Newaygo County a "global leader in scientific research."
- "Novartis Completes its Business Portfolio Restructuring, Divesting Gerber for USD 5.5 Billion to Nestlé." Novartis, 12 April 2007.
- "Novartis Completes Divestment Program with Transfer of Gerber Baby Foods Business." Novartis, 3 September 2007.
- Alexander, Dave (September 22, 2008). "Tax breaks could save Gerber $43 million, extend company operations 15 years". The Muskegon Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- Alexander, Dave (December 17, 2008). "Gerber investment to create 200 jobs". The Muskegon Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- Alexander, Dave (September 24, 2008). "Gerber gets unanimous backing for low-tax zone". The Muskegon Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-01-05.