6 Major Food Companies That You Didn’t Know Were Founded in Ohio

6 Major Food Companies That You Didn’t Know Were Founded in Ohio

Frances Nicol

Growing up in Ohio your whole life, you might think you know everything about it. We cheer for the Buckeyes, we HATE Michigan, we refer to distance in time, not miles, we have the perfect midwest “accent” and, for some people that have lived here for a long time, it may seem to be the most boring place to live ever. But what you might not know is for some reason, many major food companies have found this so called boring buckeye state to be the perfect place to call home. Take a look at some of these companies that you may or may not know got their start in Ohio!


  1. J.M. Smucker Company – Orrville, Ohio

Mr. Jerome Monroe Smucker pressed his first apples at his mill in 1897 to make some apple butter. Who knew over 100 years later his little roadside stand in small town, Ohio, would turn into a brand name that owns the highest quality fruit products–from jams and jellies to peanut butter and everything in between. In addition, they have gained ownership of other products such as pet foods (Milkbone), coffee, and ice cream toppings and brands such as Jif, Pillsbury, and Folger’s. Smucker’s has and continues to make a mighty impact on niche farmers in fruit production, especially in Ohio.


  1. Wendy’s – Dublin, Ohio

Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy’s in Columbus in 1969. The headquarter for this fast food restaurant is located in the heart of Dublin. It quickly grew to a popular place to go and the company went international in 1975. The name “Wendy” was inspired by his daughter’s nickname, and her red hair and pigtails gave way to the iconic logo that we all know and love. Dave was adopted, and his story and his desire to give back influenced the start Wendy’s largest charity of raising money for adoptions, along with supporting dozens of other community organizations. Wendy’s has also been known for their great support beef farmers and modern agricultural practices, which is a rare find in today’s world. We are so lucky to say that this world wide fast food chain grew its roots here in the heart of Ohio!


  1. Graeters Ice Cream – Cincinnati, Ohio

Louis Graeter first moved to Cincinnati to sell his ice cream at the street markets in 1868. Apparently, Cincinnati was the perfect place to kick start a business. Even after the Great Depression and both World Wars, Graeter’s Ice Cream prevailed and continued to grow and gain customers. What separates Graeter’s from other ice cream is that they still use a french pot freezer doing one batch at a time, the same way they have been making it for over 145 years! They have opened several stores in Kentucky, Dayton, and Columbus and are selling their products at Kroger’s grocery. With small plans to expand more, Graeter’s has always stayed close to its family roots. They are a huge supporter of dairy and poultry operations in Ohio and Kentucky and we are delighted to have their delicious ice cream close to home!


  1. Spangler Candy Store – Bryan, Ohio

If you weren’t that surprised by the previous companies, I can bet you were confused by this one! Spangler Candy in small town Northwest Ohio is the one and only maker of the famous Dum Dum suckers. Spanglers opened its factory in 1906 as a producer of baking soda and powder, cornstarch, and spices before it became a candy store in 1908. In 1959, Spanglers started to make Dum Dums, which is now the #1 lollipop! Today, if you are ever visiting Bryan, you can take tours in their factory and museum, and of course, purchase their candy! Folks, Ohio is starting to look pretty cool!


  1. Bob Evans Farms – Rio Grande, Ohio

Bob Evans has always been a supporter of agriculture. They pride themselves on serving farm fresh foods. The founder, Bob Evans, was a farmer himself. Bob had a farm in Rio Grande where he raised his family and sold sausage out of their front yard. That homestead is now the place of their first restaurant, which opened in 1962. There are now over 500 restaurants and dozens of different products being sold in grocery stores. Bob Evans keeps their farm roots by allowing visitors to tour their farm grounds. They also give a lot back to communities and organizations through different fundraisers. This past year, they began the very fisrt Ohio Farm Bureau & Friends Days that supported Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio FFA Foundation, and Ohio 4-H!


  1. Skyline Chili – Cincinnati, Ohio

Yet another restaurant calls Cincinnati home! Nicholas Lambrinides from Greece wanted to bring his family recipes to America to start a business. In 1949, Nicholas settled in Cincinnati and opened his first restaurant that overlooked the city’ skyline, thus the name that we all recognize today. From their chili spaghetti to their coneys, Skyline continues to use their old recipes and uphold their standard of excellent, unique food that you can’t find at just any fast food chain. With locations in central Ohio, Cincinnati, and Kentucky, Skyline has kept that small fast food feel and makes Ohio proud!


Agriculture is the leading industry in Ohio but no one seems to realize why. We have 3 major cities, some may argue more, and we still find room to make agriculture our largest job and money maker. Ohio’s combination of urban and rural areas and major waterways (Ohio River, Lake Erie, etc.) makes it the hot spot for starting up companies. While this list didn’t include every single food company founded in Ohio, it sure makes you realize just how awesome Ohio is and how much these companies affect Ohio’s agricultural industry! Really makes you proud to be a buckeye, doesn’t it?