Rich Products Company History Timeline


Since 1945, Rich’s has been committed to developing food solutions that raise the bar on quality, convenience and efficiency for its customers.

In the spring of 1945 it was introduced through retail stores in New York.


In January 1946, to get national distribution for his frozen whip topping, Rich Products ran a quarter page ad in Quick Frozen Foods--the company's first ad for the product.


A huge national campaign was launched but recovery came only slowly; not until late 1948 had sales reached their first-year level.


The first lawsuit against the non-dairy product was in 1949 in California.


Coffee Rich was the second such liquid product to be sold in America; Presto Food Products in Kansas City, Missouri, had introduced a non-dairy coffee creamer named Mocha Mix (containing soy protein) in 1950, although Rich was not aware of it.


Rich's followed this lead and in about 1951 unveiled Chil-Zert, the world's first isolate-based commercial non-dairy frozen dessert having a registered trademark.


In 1952 came Sundi-whip in an 8-ounce pressurized can for soda fountains and over-the-counter trade.


In about 1953 appeared Rich's Green Label Whip Topping, which was developed for bakery and institutional use.

The original Coffee Rich used coconut oil and contained no protein, being based on the 1953 patent formulation.


In 1954, the company introduced the first commercial line of frozen éclairs and crème puffs, which are still produced today.


1955, as part of a business agreement, Diamond sold, assigned, and transferred all rights, titles, and interests to all of his patents (3 issued and 1 applied for) to Bob Rich in return for $5,000.

Prior to mid-1955 Whip Topping had been Rich's only product.


In May 1956 Rich Products added a completely new formulation of Whip Topping to its line.


Following months of exhaustive research and development, Coffee Rich, the nation’s first frozen, non-dairy creamer, hits the supermarket shelves in 1959, making Rich’s a household name.


1961: Coffee Rich nondairy creamer is introduced.

The first lawsuit was in Louisiana in 1961.


In 1963 Rich Products introduced Coffee Rich, a frozen liquid coffee whitener.

But the product started settling out, so the company switched to using sodium caseinate as a protein source, then in about 1963 began using soy protein (typically about 0.75% by weight) as the main protein source.


1965: Rich Products Corporation is incorporated.


By 1967 Bob Rich had built Wilber Farms Dairy into the largest solely owned, independent milk company in America.


At about this time (in 1968) the group finally established the National Association for Advanced Foods, to defend the rights of non-dairy products and to be sure that no small companies went off half-cocked and lost precedent setting lawsuits.


In 1969 Bob Rich's oldest son, Robert Rich, Jr., started to work at the company's Buffalo headquarters as sales manager.

The acquisition of Elm Tree Baking Co., in 1969, expanded Rich's offerings to include frozen baked goods.


Starting in 1972, I.D. magazine picked Rich Products for 12 out of 13 years as the outstanding frozen foodservice packer in America.


In 1973, they bought the rights to renamed the Buffalo Bills stadium to Rich Stadium for $60,000 each year for 25 years ($1.5 million total).


By 1974 the number of cases and victories for Coffee Rich had grown to 40.


As late as 1975, however, about 71 percent of Rich's revenues were still coming from nondairy replacement products.

In 1975 food sales from Rich Products and affiliates had topped $100 million a year.


1976: Company expands into frozen seafood with the acquisition of SeaPak Corporation.


In November 1978 Rich Products launched an exciting new product and a revolutionary new process.


In 1980, Rich's introduced Freeze-Flo, a process that allows foods to remain soft while frozen.

In the late 1970s Rich hired Mike Billoni, a local sports reporter, to write a company history. It was to be titled 35 Years Below Zero and published in 1980 to commemorate the company's 35th anniversary.


By 1982 company sales were at $400 million, and sales of nondairy replacement products accounted for about half of those revenues.

Gisel had joined the company in 1982 with a position in the legal department, then eventually became a key player in Rich's international expansion.

1982: Casa Di Bertacchi, producer of frozen Italian specialties, is acquired.


By 1983 it held 39 patents and was bringing in $2.5 million a year in licensing to 50 companies, mostly overseas.

In 1983 Rich acquired Nashville's Tennessee Doughnut Company and Antoinetta's Frozen Italian Specialties of Harleysville, Pennsylvania.

1983: Company expands outside food with the purchase of the Buffalo Bisons minor league baseball team.

But Freeze Flo is not used to make some other of Rich's products, such as frozen fish and meat balls (Rich Products 1983; Owen 1983). It was billing this "gentle freezing process" as "the most significant breakthrough in Frozen Foods in 50 years." Because of Freeze Flo, the ice cream and mellorine, both introduced in 1983, could rise in temperature to 5� above zero without defrosting; typical ice creams defrost at 20� below zero.


In 1984 Rich acquired a second baseball franchise, the Class AA Wichita (Kansas) Wranglers.


Rosenbaum, Rob, “Freeze Flo Success Grounded in Skills of Rich Researchers,” Business First of Buffalo, October 28, 1985.

After joining the Rich’s family, the Bisons, who return to the Triple-A ranks in 1985, put up record-breaking attendance numbers and continue to be a model minor league franchise.

In 1985 Rich Products, still privately owned, was the world's largest maker of non-dairy products, with sales of $545 million a year.

But as of 1985 Rich Products was seriously considering at least one product that would get the company much more actively involved with soy protein.

In 1985 Robert E. Rich Sr. recalled: "In the frozen food business, my heart has always been in the non-dairy segment of it.


In 1986 Rich entered into a joint venture with J.R. Wood Inc., of Atwater, California.

The company introduced another product, On Top, a non-dairy dessert topping, in 1986, which was notable for its packaging – a pastry bag with its own tip.


The company formed Rich Communications Corporation in 1987.

The African business was Founded by Evan Poulos in 1987 with the establishment of HotBake Systems (Pty) Ltd – a joint venture with Score Discount Supermarkets.


In 1988, Bob Rich Jr. charges Gisel with the task of extending Rich’s business into foreign markets and names him Vice President of the newly formed International Division.

In 1988 Rich's frozen food line added barbeque and specialty meats with the acquisition of Byron's, Inc., of Gallatin, Tennessee.

1988: Company expands into barbecue and specialty meats through the purchase of Byron's, Inc.


In the spring of 1990, Rich built a $17 million research and development center.


Crispens, Jonna, “New Products Priority in Rich Project,” Supermarket News, February 25, 1991.


“Rich Products Opens Mexico City Office,” Nation’s Restaurant News, January 27, 1992.

Riddle, Judith, “Rich Products Expanding Non-Dairy to Guadalajara,” Supermarket News, February 17, 1992.

“Rich Furthers Growth Plans with Seneau Baking Purchase,” Nation’s Restaurant News, July 8, 1992.

In 1992 Rich acquired the Seneau Baking Company of Marlborough, Massachusetts, which became Rich Marlborough, a state-of-the-art bakery products manufacturing plant.

In 1992, a search commenced for a partner to provide HotBake Systems with the know-how on how to establish and operate a frozen dough facility.


International expansion continued in 1993 with the establishment of Rich Products of South Africa, which began making and distributing frozen dough products.


Also in 1994 Rich Products formed a third baseball franchise in Jamestown, New York, the Jamestown Jammers, which became a Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers playing in the New York-Penn League.

After two years, in 1994, a restructure of HotBake Systems occurred involving Rich Products Corporation U.S which set the path for the creation of Rich Products Corporation Africa.


By 1995, the year the company celebrated its 50th year in business, sales had reached $1 billion.


In 1996, Bill Gisel assumes the post of Chief Operating Officer and President of Rich’s Food Group, positioning the company to double its size and annual revenues through organic growth, acquisitions and international expansion during the coming years.

1996 saw the establishment of a premium local manufacturing facility to produce a variety of best-in-class bakery products.


Back home, Rich entered into an alliance with Sara Lee Corporation in 1997, whereby Rich began marketing Sara Lee frozen cake and dessert products to in-store bakeries.

In 1997 the company was described as a "20-plant, $1 billion global food-processing corporation."


During 1998 Rich expanded in China through the establishment of a wholly owned subsidiary that opened a new state-of-the-art nondairy facility in Suzhou, China.


William G. Gisel, Jr., was named to the new position of chief operating officer of Rich Products in 1999.

Then, in late 1999, Rich Products acquired J.W. Allen & Co., a family-owned firm based in Wheeling, Illinois.

There were a number of additional developments in 1999 that also helped set the stage for the company at the dawn of the 21st century.


Since 2000, Rich's has acquired a number of companies to diversify its offerings.


Shortly thereafter in 2004, Rich’s Africa continued to expand with the establishment of a local non-dairy manufacturing facility.


In 2005, the company celebrated 60 years as a family-owned company with the "60 Delicious Years" worldwide birthday party on March 14.

With over 2,000 products sold in "more than 85 countries," 2005 sales, worldwide, was $2.5 billion.


In 2006, following the death of his father and company founder, Robert E. Rich Sr., Bob Rich Jr. takes the reins as Chairman of Rich Products Corporation with his wife, Melinda R. (Mindy) Rich as Vice Chairman, and Bob Rich Jr. appoints Bill Gisel President and Chief Executive Officer.


In 2007, the commencement and setup of an Export Division was established.


Rich Products Corporation kicks off 2011 with the acquisitions of Celebration Foods, a leading manufacturer and distributor of frozen desserts and ice cream cakes, and VSE International, the leading wholesale bakery manufacturing company in Sydney, Australia.

Rich’s continues aggressive global expansion during fall 2011 with the opening of a manufacturing facility producing frozen and aseptic non-dairy creams for the bakery and foodservice industries.


After years of work and preparation, Rich’s expands into the emerging Western Asia market with the addition of Rich’s Turkey during spring 2012.

Rich’s wraps up 2012 with the acquisition of two companies, transforming it’s US-Canada business.


On August 23, 2013, Rich's celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Fort Erie, Ontario plant.


The Innovation Center and Atrium @ Rich’s opens at the company’s world headquarters in Buffalo, NY (2014)


In 2017, Rich Products Corporation Africa concluded their first acquisition – Artisan Breads™ – an artisan bread manufacturing plant in Cape Town.


Soon thereafter, in early 2018, Rich Products Corporation Africa concluded their second acquisition, Panciera – a Johannesburg based dessert manufacturer – strengthening the company’s position within the dessert category and providing an opportunity to further expand into new and existing channels.


"Rich Products Corporation ." International Directory of Company Histories. . (June 21, 2022).

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Rich Products is 78 years old.

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Robert Rich Sr. founded Rich Products.

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