FORT COLLINS — Vanilla extract producer Rodelle Inc. is marking 80 years of business, with no signs of slowing down.
The firm was started in 1936, when the Rodelle family moved to Denver from the south of France. Unable to find suitable vanilla extract for their baking needs, family members solved the problem themselves by opening Rodelle Laboratories. Initially a wholesale producer, the company was sold in 1984 and moved to Fort Collins, where it began supplying extract for the retail market as well.
Now, according to marketing manager Jenna Baker, Rodelle is one of the largest vanilla extractors in North America. “Nationally, we’re in over 75 percent of grocers, and we also have international distribution,” she said. Clients run the gamut from Kroger and Target to local bakeries and specialty shops.
While owning a building seems like something every successful business should do, that’s not always the case. For many companies, it makes more sense to continue leasing space, freeing up time and capital that can be better utilized in other ways.
One of those bakeries is Mary’s Mountain Cookies, a Fort Collins institution for more than 20 years. As owner Mike Neal explained, “It all comes down to price and quality. I’ve been doing this a long time and you can tell those subtle differences when it comes to extracts or flour or sugar. … We’ve tried other brands and Rodelle’s is far superior.”
• Owners: Joe Basta and Daniel Berlin
• Employees: 60 local
(seasonally as high as 80)
While vanilla extract remains the company’s primary product, Rodelle has branched out with other flavorings and seasonings. These include a gourmet baking cocoa as well as premium spice blends such as brisket rub and turkey seasoning.
“We also make a wassail, which is a mulling spice for cider and wine,” Baker said, “and we do some private label products for various restaurants and bakeries.”
A recent expansion roughly doubled the size of the company’s facility, pushing it to 67,000 square feet. Currently, Rodelle maintains a staff of about 60 employees, but that number swells on an annual basis.
“Vanilla extract is in high demand for the holiday baking season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so our production ramps up each year around late July and into August to accommodate,” Baker said. “At any point in our busy season, we’ll have at least 10 to 20 extra employees.”
While the firm maintains impressive gains, reporting double-digit growth each of the last 10 years, it also hopes to foster social change. Baker said Rodelle co-owners Joe Basta and Daniel Berlin are committed to making an impact on those regions where the vanilla beans are grown, mainly Madagascar and Uganda. In an effort to improve the standard of living in these developing countries while also nurturing sustainable and fair farming practices, part of Rodelle’s proceeds go to social programs that directly benefit the farmers and communities producing the beans the company uses.
Meanwhile, Rodelle is always looking to expand its reach.
“There’s a lot of interest in new markets, specifically in Asia, that may not have the same baking heritage as Europe and North America,” Baker said, adding that those markets look promising.
“We just started distributing our baking cocoa to Japan,” he said, “and that proved to be very successful over the holiday season.”