A Foundation for Success

On Tuesday, March 18, 1952, a 23-year-old Marvin Schwan packed his beat-up 1946 Dodge panel van with 14 gallons of his family's signature ice cream and delivered it to rural families in western Minnesota. At the end of that historic trip, all 14 gallons were sold and the Schwan's home-delivery business was born.

Today, Schwan's Company is a multibillion-dollar private company with more than 7,500 employees who are passionate about bringing quality foods to millions of people every day. Based in Minnesota, the company sells fine frozen foods in grocery-store freezers and in the food-service industry.

Paul and Alma Schwan and their 19-year-old son, Marvin, buy out a partner and start the Schwan's Dairy in Marshall, Minnesota.

View 1948 Image > 1948

On Tuesday, March 18, 1952, a 23-year-old Marvin Schwan makes a delivery that would change his life and the lives of countless others. He packs his 1946 Dodge panel van with dry ice and 14 gallons of ice cream and heads north out of Marshall, Minnesota, to sell his family's premium ice cream. At the end of the day, he sells all 14 gallons and the home delivery business is born.

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Marvin buys his first refrigerated vehicle, a three-quarter-ton Ford. An artist friend, Milford Paxton, paints the truck a creamy yellow (later trademarked as the Inca Gold ® color) and added a logo. At this time, Marvin was selling about 120 gallons of ice cream per day. Marvin also hires his company's first "career" route salesman.

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Marvin begins his plans for expansion. He locates his first permanent distribution depot outside of Marshall, a 16-by-24-foot freezer warehouse located in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, allowing for additional routes.

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Melting snow and spring rains cause the Redwood River to rise to record levels, flooding many homes and businesses, including Schwan's Dairy. Employees pitch in to clean up the five inches of silt that had settled on the floors of the dairy.

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Route trucks begin carrying the company's first non-dairy product—a juice concentrate under the Vita-Sun® brand name.

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Marvin added fish to the home delivery offerings. By this time, the company was expanding rapidly, operating in eight states by 1963. After 10 years of business, the company had grown to more than $4.5 million in revenues and 83 trucks were on the road.

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The company is incorporated as Schwan's Sales Enterprises, Inc., and Marvin's older brother, Alfred, joins the company. Marvin's younger brother, Robert, had also been working for the company since 1948.

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The company begins manufacturing ice-cream drumsticks and sandwiches. It also ventures into frozen pizza when a Wisconsin salesman begins selling frozen pizza from route trucks.

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After acquiring Todd's Foods, the company begins producing sandwiches for its food-delivery routes.

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The company runs an ad in the Wall Street Journal with a simple headline: "Wanted: Frozen Pizza Manufacturer." The ad leads to the purchase of the company's pizza plant in Salina, Kansas, and the Tony's ® pizza brand.

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The company installs its first computer, a National Cash Register Series 100, in a mobile home that is placed on the roof of the Ice Cream Plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The huge computer has 16 kilobytes of memory, approximately the size of an e-mail with no attachments.

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On February 23, 1974, fire destroys the company's ice cream plant, corporate headquarters and distribution center in Marshall, Minnesota. After briefly entertaining the idea of moving corporate headquarters to South Dakota, Marvin makes the decision to rebuild in Marshall.

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With gas prices reaching unprecedented levels, the company begins converting its route trucks to run on propane fuel. Today, more than 70 percent of the company's estimated 4,500 delivery vehicles run on propane.

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The company creates its Food Service Division (now Schwan's Food Service, Inc.) and provides its frozen pizza and other products to schools and other venues in the food-service industry.

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Red Baron ® pizza is introduced by the company's Consumer Brands division. The quality of the new product catches on quick with consumers and grows to become the company's best-selling pizza brand. The home-delivery business introduces corn dogs and the Ranchero™ sandwich.

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To help market Red Baron ® pizza throughout the United States, the Red Baron™ Squadron is formed. The squadron of WWII-era biplanes would serve the brand for 28 years. During that time, it had become the longest-serving civilian aerobatic team in the United States and would carry more than 80,000 passengers.

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The company launches its newest innovation — a 5-inch single-serve deep-dish pizza that is first launched under the Little Charlies ® brand.

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The company enters the Asian-style foods category with the acquisition of the Minh Food Corporation and would later become No. 1 in the Asian snacks category with brands like Pagoda® and Minh® foods. Also in 1986, the company acquires Sabatasso Foods and begins operating the Kentucky-based pizza manufacturing facility that would later produce Freschetta® pizza.

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On May 9, 1993, Marvin Schwan, the company's founder, dies at the age of 64. Schwan's employees are stunned at the news. With one great idea and a lot of hard work and dedication, Marvin helped turn his tiny rural business into a multibillion-dollar company. Newspapers throughout the country carry Marvin's obituary. Some newspapers label him "The Emperor of Ice Cream."

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After Marvin's passing, his older brother, Alfred, was named as the company's president. Alfred had served as the company's head of manufacturing since he joined the company in 1964 and was intimately involved in all aspects of the business. Alfred leads the company with his strong, enthusiastic presence, guiding the business through both challenging and prosperous times.

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The company introduces Freschetta ® pizza in frozen-pizza aisles throughout the United States. To entice pizza lovers to buy its new pizza, the company builds an advertising campaign around "Etta," a spunky sample lady who asked the simple question: "Tried Freschetta yet?"

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The company buys Atlanta-based Edwards Fine Foods, a manufacturer and distributor of premium desserts. The Edwards® brand has grown to become a top brand in the U.S. frozen-dessert market.

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The company celebrates its first 50 years of business.

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The company officially changes its name from Schwan's Sales Enterprises, Inc. to The Schwan Food Company, and its major business units become their own corporations. The company would later change its name again to Schwan's Company.

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To further expand its position as a leading producer and distributor of frozen desserts, the company acquires the frozen-dessert business of Mrs. Smith's Bakeries and the Mrs. Smith's ® dessert brand.

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Schwan's Food Service, Inc. introduces Big Daddy's ® pizza to the school food service market. Created to be a great-tasting alternative to pizza brought in from outside, Big Daddy's ® pizza is made with whole grains and a zesty sauce kids love.

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Robert "Bob" Schwan, the longest-serving employee in the company's history, dies at the age of 76. Bob, the younger brother of Alfred and Marvin, first started working for Schwan's Dairy in 1948.

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Alfred Schwan, serving as chairman of Schwan's Company, is inducted into the Frozen Food Hall of Fame at an American Frozen Food Institute convention. He joined his brother, Marvin, who was inducted posthumously to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

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Alfred Schwan, the older brother of the company's founder, retires as the company's chairman of the board. He had worked for the company for 45 years.

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Alfred Schwan, the last remaining Schwan brother, passes away at his home in Salina, Kansas. He was 85. Alfred was known as an adventurous and outgoing person who had a quick smile, relentless energy and a can-do attitude.

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The company enters into an official partnership with Feeding America, the leading nonprofit organization working to end hunger in the United States.

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Dimitrios Smyrnios joins the company as its chief executive officer becoming the sixth CEO in the company's 61-year history. He follows Marvin and Alfred Schwan, Ken Noyes, M. Lenny Pippin and Greg Flack. Soon after joining Schwan, Dimitrios introduces six business priorities that include: Safety, Quality, Growth, Cost, Service and Culture.

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The company launches its Schwan’s Chef Collective — a team of internal and external chefs from across the United States who are developing the next generation of Schwan’s foods. Each member brings a unique perspective and is tasked with scouting emerging ingredients, cooking methods and global cuisines to continually influence innovation.

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The company changes its name to Schwan's Company and rolls out new branding in celebration of its 65th anniversary.

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As Schwan's Company works to increase its capabilities in the U.S. pizza market, the company acquires MaMa Rosa's Pizza (Ohio), Better Baked Foods (Pennsylvania) and Drayton Foods (North Dakota).

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CEO Dimitrios Smyrnios announces the creation of Strategic Partner Solutions, a new Schwan's business unit focused on growing the company's private-label and co-packing businesses.

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Schwan’s enters an exciting new era as an affiliate of CJ Foods. As a part of the agreement, CJ CheilJedang gains a majority stake in Schwan’s Company, and the company’s home-delivery business, Schwan’s Home Service, becomes an independent company that is 100 percent owned by the Schwan family.

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