Welcome to the Sept. 26 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Popcorn company one of multiple potential buyers hoping to acquire General Mills factory

The General Mills plant closed this past August. It sits on more than 15 acres in New Albany. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling
The General Mills plant closed this past August. It sits on more than 15 acres in New Albany. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

General Mills shut its long-operating Pillsbury plant in New Albany in August, but other companies seem ready to take its place.

The closure of the plant meant the loss of more than 400 jobs in New Albany, but with General Mills looking to offload the 35.25-acre site from its books, it creates an opportunity for a growing manufacturing business to possibly set up operations in a prebuilt factory.

Kelsey Roemhildt, spokeswoman for General Mills, told Insider Louisville, “We’re in conversations with interested parties, but no sale has been finalized.” She added in a follow-up email that the company doesn’t comment on sale price and doesn’t have a timeline for when it hopes to sell the property.

IL knows of one particular company that is eager to buy it, however. An executive at Ramsey Popcorn Co. has expressed interest in setting up shop in the factory and is seeking investors to help it do so.

Ramsey Popcorn is a 60-year-old prepackaged popcorn company that sits just under 30 minutes away from New Albany in Ramsey, Ind. Its most popular brand is Cousin Willie’s popcorn. It also makes Camp Masters Gourmet Popcorn, the popcorn that Boy Scouts of America sell.

The company is looking to expand and start packaging its goods in-house, rather than outsourcing, Dan Sieg, vice president of Ramsey Popcorn, told a group of business people and potential investors at last week’s Real Estate Venture Exchange event in Louisville.

“We already have the distribution. Our market share is growing. We have excellent relationships with retailers that are carrying it,” Sieg said. “We are looking for investors who might be interested in purchasing the facility and then leasing part of it back to my company.”

According to Sieg, General Mills wanted $9 million for the facility. He is seeking $7 million from investors, which Sieg said he believes would allow Ramsey Popcorn to submit a competitive bid on the property.

“The good thing about it is, it was a General Mills facility that was already set up for food production,” he said, adding that Ramsey Popcorn would only need about 100,000 square feet to start, but would expect to expand within the 450,000-square-foot factory.

“We are in growth mode.” —Caitlin Bowling

Rooibee Red Tea relaunches brand, introduces new flavors

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-11-41-40-amLouisville-based bottled tea company Rooibee Red Tea has relaunched its brand and is delivering more bang for the buck. The certified organic tea, created from the rooibos plant found only in South Africa, is now being offered in 16.9 oz. BPA-free plastic bottles — the same price as it was sold in its 12 oz. bottles.

Rooibee Red Tea has added three flavors to its lineup, including: Wild Berries, Sweet Tea, and Half and Half Lemonade. The company made the move from glass to plastic bottles in 2015.

In 2015, the company raised $2 million through both traditional investors and crowdfunding. “Our funding played a part in allowing us to rebrand and be more competitive in the ready-to-drink tea category,” Morgan Hamilton, a spokeswoman, said in an email exchange with Insider Louisville.

Hamilton said: “The rebranding decision came from the desire to appeal more to the organic consumer, i.e., a fresher, simpler, more contemporary look that better positions our brand in the organic market. Our new PET bottle celebrates the healthy benefits of rooibos with the plant symbol at the top of each flavor, in its associated color, and is overall, less cluttered and balanced visually. The front and back label lists our many benefits: USDA organic, naturally caffeine-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, BPA-free and naturally sweet.”

Rooibee Red Tea briefly moved its HQ from Louisville to Newport, Ky., in 2015, but it’s back in the area now. “We have brought Rooibee Red Tea back to its original roots – Louisville – where the brand was started in 2009,” Hamilton said.

CEO Dave Salmon has served the company since April of this year. The company has been expanding to new partners across the country and recently hired a regional sales director.

According to Hamilton, the company has temporarily suspended its Rooibee Roo brand that came in smaller bottles and was marketed to children. Rooibee Red Tea will assess that product at a later date, she said.

The tea is sold in many local groceries and on Amazon, where it sells for around $23 for a 12-pack, and is part of the Prime program. —Melissa Chipman

Louisville Forward losing economic development director to UofL

John Gant | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government
John Gant | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

Just under two years after taking the position of director of economic development, John Gant will leave his role in Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government for one at the University of Louisville.

UofL spokesman John Karman confirmed that Gant accepted a job as director of industry partnership at the Institute for Product Realization, which is part of UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering. Gant’s first day is today.

The job is a newly created position at the school, Karman said in an email. Gant “is going to be responsible primarily for connecting industry with our advanced manufacturing and logistics assets at the university. Those assets include faculty, students and our labs and service centers.”

Louisville Forward did not have a timeline for when Gant’s replacement will be named.

“We look forward to working with John and the University of Louisville on this new venture in research-driven business development,” reads a statement emailed from Louisville Forward spokeswoman Jessica Wethington.

Gant was named director of economic development in late 2014 and was part of the staff at Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development arm. Prior to that, he served as general manager of Louisville-based Carbide Industries. —Caitlin Bowling

Pizza Hut hired first-ever chief customer officer, introduces new pizza

Helen Vaid, Pizza Hut's chief customer officer | Courtesy of PR Newswire
Helen Vaid, Pizza Hut’s chief customer officer | Courtesy of PR Newswire

It’s hard to say which Pizza Hut announcement is bigger — the fact that it created a position called chief customer officer or that it introduced a new cheesy crust pizza.

The pizza chain and Yum Brands subsidiary tapped Helen Vaid to fill the executive role of chief customer officer. While the role is new, her responsibilities aren’t foreign to the restaurant industry as the customer experience and how technology plays into that has become a more prominent focus for restaurants.

“Vaid will oversee the transformation of the Pizza Hut in-restaurant and digital customer experience,” according to a news release about her hiring. “Around the world, digital ordering represents the greatest growth opportunity for Pizza Hut, and the customer journey is paramount to that experience.”

Before joining Pizza Hut, Vaid served as vice president of digital store operations and experience at Walmart.

Now for the more tasty announcement.

Pizza Hut last week added the Grilled Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza to its menu. The crust is filled with mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, bread crumbs and melted butter, which produces a crunchier texture than a traditional stuffed crust, according to Business Insider.

A large one-topping Grilled Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza costs $12.99. For an added cost, customers can get multiple toppings. —Caitlin Bowling

Large urban farm planned in South Louisville neighborhood

Urban farms and orchards, such as Produce Park (pictured), are cropping up on the west and south ends of Louisville. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling
Urban farms and orchards, such as Produce Park (pictured), are cropping up on the west and south ends of Louisville. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

A group of public and private partners are pulling together to create a 15.75-acre farm in the South End’s Hazelwood neighborhood.

Louisville Metro Public Housing AuthorityKentuckyOne Health, Louisville Grows and Hope Community Farm submitted plans to Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services for an educational farming, food production and sales facility. The majority of the land will be used for farming, but the site also would house a pavilion, a storage facility and a food processing building.

The farm would be at 1400 Bicknell Ave., next to Hazelwood Elementary School and, at least tentatively, called the Iroquois Urban Farm Project.

Louisville Metro Public Housing Authority has owned the land since the 1980s and needs to get the property rezoned from residential to traditional neighborhood. —Caitlin Bowling

Zoom Zoom Yum trying to make the jump to a brick-and-mortar store

Zoom Zoom Yum’s food cart is located in Kroger in Prospect. | Courtesy of The Kroger Co.

The sign is up, but there’s no opening date.

Zoom Zoom Yum owner Gia Burklow is hoping to move her Turkish food truck indoors at 974 Barret Ave., a few doors down from the former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. Burklow will still run the truck, but like other food truck owners, she wants to offer customers a regular place to pick up her food.

The stationary Zoom Zoom Yum also will have an expanded menu, though Burklow hasn’t worked out what Turkish delicacies she will add.

When IL talked to Burklow Friday, she said she wasn’t quite sure when Zoom Zoom Yum will open because she found out that the building needed upgraded electricity and many other costly changes. She added that she may start out slow, only using the location as a catering kitchen.

Keep an eye out for an open date in the future. —Caitlin Bowling

Humana lauded for dedication to corporate social responsibility

humana building

Humana has been recognized for its efforts to improve people’s health in a sustainable way.

The Louisville-based insurer was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America indices.

Humana said it was recognized for the 10th consecutive year and was one of just six U.S. health care companies on this year’s world index.

The company said in a press release that it received the honor in part because it “assumes an active role in the search for solutions and the creation of effective, sustainable health care systems by engaging with all relevant stakeholder groups.”

President and CEO Bruce Broussard said in the release, “It’s rewarding to see our dedication to responsible business practices and improving the health and well-being of the communities we serve being acknowledged year after year.”

The insurer said it was named industry leader among eight health care companies on the North America index because it scored better than the industry average on core criteria, including economic, environmental and social dimensions.

Humana said that running a sustainable business will help it reach its goal to make the communities it serves 20 percent healthier by 2020. It highlighted efforts including encouraging volunteerism and collaborating with community organizations, such as providing a grant to New Roots in Louisville to promote healthy eating.

S&P Dow Jones Indices and RobecoSAM had invited the world’s largest 3,400 companies to participate. The organizers said environmental, social and governance metrics have attracted ever more attention since the indices were started in 1999.  —Boris Ladwig

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana receives grant for technology

The Boys & Girls Club is all about keeping kids on the right track, and having fun.
The Boys & Girls Club is all about keeping kids on the right track, and having fun.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana received a $305,062 grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation for its Technology Infrastructure Initiative, which will help the organization provide updated technology for both its staff and club members.

If the organization has better technology to offer boys and girls, it could serve as a recruitment tool and bring more children into the organization to use their services. The grant also will allow the BGCK to hire an IT director to oversee the organization’s use of tech.

“We are honored and excited about this generous grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation,” says Jennifer Helgeson, president & CEO of BGCK. “This gift will allow BGCK to invest in the 21st century technology that is vital to learning. When our club members walk through our doors they will be met with the tools and technology they need to be successful, caring citizens and our dedicated staff will have the resources they need to provide a safe, exciting club experience for every young person that comes to us.”

BGCK serves approximately 2,500 youth (ages 6-18) in five clubs, in the Newburg, Shawnee and Parkland neighborhoods in Louisville, and in Jeffersonville and New Albany, Ind. –Melissa Chipman

Red Hog now open in Crescent Hill

Red Hog is sells fresh, smoked and cured local meats as well as cheese. | Photo by Jessica Wethington
Red Hog is sells fresh, smoked and cured local meats as well as cheese. | Photo by Jessica Wethington

Good things come to those who wait.

Red Hog butcher shop opened at 2622 Frankfort Ave. last Thursday, and the cafe and bar component is coming soon. The shop will sell a variety of fresh, cured and cooked meat from local farms, while the cafe side will serve sausages, 8-inch pizzas, paninis, and wine and cheese plates.

“A life lived on the grass and in the dirt is good for the animals, and for us as well,” states a quote on the company’s website from co-owner Bob Hancock.

Red Hog has been in the works since last year. Owners Hancock and Kit Garrett, who also own Blue Dog Bakery & Café, gave media a preview back in May.

They’d hoped to open sooner, but the renovation of the former gas station took longer than expected.

“It is wonderful to see Red Hog turn a prominent vacant property into a beautiful spot which complements Louisville’s local food movement” Louisville Metro Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, said in a statement. “This property has been a missing link in a thriving retail area for many years.”

The business’s hours of operations are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. —Caitlin Bowling

Portland Museum wins grant of nearly $25,000

The Portland Museum | Courtesy of Portland Museum
The Portland Museum | Courtesy of Portland Museum

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has selected the Portland Museum for a Museums for America grant award totaling $24,979. We’re hoping someone throws in an extra $21 to make it an even $25,000.

But in all seriousness, the funds will be used to improve the stewardship of the museum’s collections, which document the heritage of Louisville’s Portland neighborhood. Included now at the museum are rare paintings and drawings by John James Audubon, books, historic photographs, documents and even objects like handmade cast nets and antique cooking utensils.

“When the work is complete, the museum plans to have a collection that is safe, accessible and utilized for the good of the community in ways that support the mission of the Portland Museum,” said the museum’s executive director Nathalie Andrews in a press release. “This is a big step forward in the care of our collections.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the country’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. The Portland Museum’s application was one of 206 projects selected from a pool of 548 that received a total funding of more than $21 million. —Sara Havens

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Portland Museum received a grant that was nearly a quarter-million dollars, when in fact it was nearly $25,000.

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