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World's largest sauerkraut maker to close New York plant

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 2/9/2018 Tracy Schuhmacher
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The company that bills itself as the largest sauerkraut manufacturer in the world will close its factory in Shortsville, New York.

GLK Foods, which processes a total of 130,000 tons of cabbage a year, announced that is consolidating its sauerkraut production to its plant in Bear Creek, Wisconsin.

Production will continue at the century-old Shortsville plant through mid-September, while shipping and receiving will continue through the end of the year, the company said in a press release. Many Shortsville employees will be retained throughout that time.

a building in the background: Great Lakes Kraut Co. in Shortsville, Ontario County. © File photo Great Lakes Kraut Co. in Shortsville, Ontario County.

"We worked for years and years to keep them here," said Michael J. Manikowski, economic developer for Ontario County Economic Development. The company had been talking about consolidating to the rural Wisconsin plant for many years, and in recent years it stopped responding to calls from the economic development office. 

GLK Foods did not have any existing tax agreement, and a past loan was paid in full, Manikowski said.

There are challenges with a sauerkraut plant in the middle of the village, Manikowski noted, such as complaints about the smell that comes from processing fermented cabbage. Those are likely to be less an issue in rural Wisconsin. 

a close up of food: Sauerkraut © file photo Sauerkraut

The closing of the plant will impact not only its workers, but also area farmers who grow cabbage. It's a major crop in New York; the value of New York's cabbage production exceeded $58 million in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ontario County has been a hub of sauerkraut production for more than 100 years, Manikowski said. Phelps, just east of Shortsville, has an annual sauerkraut festival.

GLK traces its roots back to a Bear Creek, Wisconsin, cannery that started making sauerkraut in 1900. Through mergers, Great Lakes Kraut Company was created in 1997 and was renamed GLK Foods in 2010.

Contributing: Maureen Wallenfang, Appleton (Wis.) Post-Crescent

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