Michael Rosenberg still remembers touring the Horowitz Margareten matzo factory in Newark. He was young, but it was his first factory tour, and he’s never been able to forget it.
“I remember the automation and everything, I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I can’t say that I knew from that moment that I wanted to own a factory, but it definitely made an impression upon me.”
Rosenberg owns Promotion in Motion, the Allendale-based company that produces Welch’s Fruit Snacks. PIM broke ground on an 80,000-square-foot expansion of its Somerset production facility in August, and by early 2022, Rosenberg plans to offer tours akin to San Francisco’s famed Jelly Belly factory. Between school groups, senior groups, church groups and families, the facility could attract one million visitors a year.
The idea for the tour was hatched before PIM bought the building in 2004.
“I knew that there would be a huge demand for people to see how the products were produced. From the day we started looking for a facility, it was always top of mind that we would design a facility where we could offer a factory tour to the public,” Rosenberg said.
Besides the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, Calif., a handful of other companies offer small tours “that just sort of let you peak into a window and see something,” he said, “but we want to give people their money’s worth.”
That will be easy. The tour, projected to last approximately 30 minutes in addition to however long visitors want to explore the planned factory store, will be offered free of charge.
“We want people to have the opportunity to see how we make our products, how we package our products, and experience the joy and pleasures that we bring to consumers across the world,” Rosenberg said. “They can also see the quality of the facilities that they’re made in. Our facilities are pristine and immaculate, and we’re very proud of them.”
PIM’s capital expenditure program focuses on replacing older production lines, adding robotics, and increasing automation. It’s designed to drive capacity and keep the company cost-competitive—important, as consumers eat 100 packs of Welch’s fruit snacks a second, according to Rosenberg. With the implementation of PIM Somerset’s new production line and a new one in its other factory in Spain, company-wide capacity will be 250 million pounds of fruit snacks each year, with 60 percent of that coming out of Somerset.
Phil Kramer, the mayor of Franklin Township – which includes Somerset – calls the estimated one million PIM tourists “a major draw” and said he wants to advocate packaging the PIM tour with other attractions in the area, like the municipality’s 60 miles of hiking and biking trails, various historic sites, and breweries.
“So they don’t just come here for a [half-hour] tour and leave; we’ll offer them other things so they can stay and enjoy our community,” Kramer said. “We’ve been trying to market our tourism, our trail tourism, and our bird -watching tourism. I think the PIM plan would really lend itself to kickstart that. I’m very excited for them and us and hopefully we can get some synergy.”
It makes sense. PIM’s expansion has been tied into entertaining the consumer for decades. Rosenberg got movie theaters around the country to sell gummy bears as early as the 1980s, although PIM only produces Welch’s fruit snacks, it started as a marketing company and continues to represent and distribute other candies, eventually pushing Sour Jacks and chocolate covered raisins into theaters, and introducing Welch’s into theaters in the early 2000s.
“[The movie theater industry] is a great outlet for our products, something that we’ve worked really hard to cultivate and develop and grow over the years because it’s one of the greatest ways that I know of to introduce your product and get consumers to love your product,” Rosenberg said. “Everyone remembers as a kid what they love to eat at the movies, and for a whole generation of consumers, it’s our products.”
Visitors to the factory can expect another thing: to see Rosenberg himself walking the floor.
“I’m in the factory all the time,” he said. “I try to make it my business to know people’s names and see what’s going on down there.”
He’s on a first-name basis with many of the employees, some of whom have been there since the factory opened 14 years ago.
“So, absolutely, they’ll see me for sure,” he said. “And I don’t think there’s any question that it’ll be the type of place that people are drawn to. I think when they’re here, they’ll absolutely respond to it in the most positive way, and when they leave, they’ll have a lifelong memory of our products and having seen our products made, and they’ll tell people.”