NORTH NORWICH – Rea-D-Pack Foods Inc., a long-time sauerkraut processing company and community fixture in North Norwich, was sold earlier this month to a larger competitor that plans to close the plant later this year, company President Rita Ashton confirmed last week.
Ashton said mounting transportation and market challenges were the main reasons behind the sale to Great Lakes Kraut Company LLC, a Wisconsin and New York-based kraut manufacturer. Specifically, the rising cost to ship-in cabbage supplies from western New York and ship-out kraut to customers, as well as a decline in demand for the product, made it logistically and economically difficult to keep Rea-D-Pack open in recent months, she explained.
“Everyday we didn’t know where we stood,” said Ashton. “It was all about competing in the market. In the end, it came down to economics.”
The company was started in 1958 in North Norwich by Ashton’s father, Sheldon Goldstein, whose family had been in the kraut business since the early 1900s.
Originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Goldstein established customers in cities like New York and Chicago, selling sauerkraut to delicatessens and grocery stores in ethnic neighborhoods. Ashton said a lion’s share of the hot dog vendors in New York City carry Rea-D-Pack kraut. It even supplied Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s inauguration in 2007.