Business Done Sunny Side Up
Deb El Foods
While the rest of the world is still deciding whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first, this impressively large family business has scrambled its way to the top of the U.S. food industry with its superb range of quality assured, Liquid, Frozen, Dried, Hard Cooked & Pre-Cooked egg products used by small food service kitchens and institutions to some of the biggest international food manufacturers and distributors.
The innovative and astute Gibber family has expanded the business beyond its wildest expectations and continues to increase the company’s foothold in food markets, around the world. At Deb El Foods, family values, customer care, quality, competitive prices, and speedy delivery undoubtedly rule the roost.
To help put a smile on their customers’ faces, busy kitchens, manufacturers, restaurant chains and retailers of all sizes are increasingly reaching for Deb El’s convenient, top-quality products from pasta and cookies to ready-to-eat scrambled eggs. “Your customers are our customers. At Deb El Foods, our customers’ needs always come first. We go out of our way to ensure that our clients get stellar, personal service,” says Michael Gibber, vice president of business development.
And this is not just talk. These hands-on folks understand only too well that to make an omelet, one needs to crack a few eggs, and there are a great many examples that stand testimony to the fact. Like the time when a prospective client was not getting service from their regular supplier and was in a huge predicament. Deb El Foods rallied to help, and in no time, delivered a massive stock of product to the facility that very same afternoon. Needless to say that, after much time, this relationship is still going strong.
From its headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, the business has a massive global reach. Its close attention to detail and valued international relationships mean that customers also benefit from precision planning.
There is a strong focus on seamless operations, and Deb El Foods’ three plants each have a unique function. Its drying plant is in Elizabeth New Jersey, the main egg-breaking facility is based in Thompsonville, New York; and the third plant in Sherburne, New York, prepares hard boiled eggs and ready-to-eat scrambled eggs. This tasty convenience product is favored by hospitality establishments and select service kitchens.
The company’s distribution and diverse egg-laying facilities stretch from Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, to up and down the eastern seaboard, bringing improved prosperity to all its producers. One of its farmers started with 50,000 birds, and at one stage, a staggering 1,000,000 fowl were in his care. It also has numerous co-packing agreements to ease distribution.
The idea for the business was hatched in 1984 when founder, president, and CEO Elliot Gibber set his mind to modernizing egg processing plants and founded a company with a name that was a fusion of his name and that of his wife Debbie. After college, he worked with his father in his egg business, learning all there was to know about the industry.
“Today, we’re a fully vertically-integrated egg products company, just like my dad’s was fifty years ago. Only today, we have added the final processed product to the production chain,” says Elliot.
For him, the most important thing in business is to honor one’s commitments. “Your name is the most valuable thing you have. It is important to respect that and also to respect other people,” he adds. He finds it very refreshing and exciting to work alongside his sons. “Quality and service are a top priority for us, but honoring our word is most important. We also have to remain innovative in changing times.”
It has been this innovation and commitment to quality and service that has established its reputation in the market. After opening its doors, Deb El Foods quickly grew from a very small industry player to a multi-faceted and versatile source of great quality egg products. Grandfather Gibber knew all there was to know about egg farming and made sure to pass his knowledge on to his heir, and there are now four generations of Gibbers in the industry. Built on both his experience and Elliot’s, the business was the first modern egg drying plant in the United States and still sports some of the best technology and processing systems anywhere to be found on the globe.
When it was established, it solely produced and distributed dried egg products. Ten years later, in 1994, it diversified through the acquisition of a dehydrated, liquid, and frozen egg products trader. The company continued to grow and added to its ranges by acquiring a mayonnaise and powdered drinks producer. By the late nineties, the decision was taken to turn the family’s original egg facility into an egg-breaking plant, and once again, the company was kitting out its operation with the latest technology. After much hard work, good fortune smiled upon Deb El Foods, and the business grew in leaps and bounds, becoming a big East Coast ingredients supplier to food manufacturers like industrial bakeries, pasta producers, and the like.
In early 2000, Deb El Foods entered the food service space where it started supplying its solutions to some of the largest restaurant chains and hospitality establishments in the country and abroad, as well as big catering and institutional kitchens throughout the U.S. Its clientele now includes establishments which prepare meals that have eggs as a component.
“The combination of being family owned, national and international in distribution reach as well as offering such a wide array of product offerings make us uniquely positioned in the foodservice sector and enables us to provide the finest in high quality egg product solutions to the foodservice industry,” says Daniel Gibber, vice president of sales. Foodservice has been an explosive growth category for Deb El as it now constitutes the largest segment of Deb El’s growing sales.
The brand has become so trusted the world over that the company also serves big food retailers that sell its egg products, such as liquid egg whites, under their own private labels. As a result, its specialty food division has grown incredibly rapidly in the past five years and is helping to spur its movement towards completely cage-free eggs.
“We’re a significant leader in cage-free and specialty egg products, and we would love to see it grow as much as possible,” says Daniel. Thanks to consumer demand in this market, the company’s sales of cage-free eggs currently sits at around thirty percent of the eggs it uses which is a huge leap from the average five percent in earlier years.
Deb El Foods’ specialty egg products are not only Organic Certified but also Humane Farm Animal Care Certified (HFAC) as well as American Humane Certified™. This means that producers consistently comply with a host of animal rights standards during the chicken rearing or egg production process. It also means that the birds are well fed and watered, are comfortable in roomy cages, do not suffer, and live in a safe environment. “We believe that sustainable egg production and product manufacturing practices in an effective manner serve the world as a whole,” says Michael.
When it comes to food products, quality and safety are always a big deal, and Deb El Foods goes the extra mile to ensure that it exceeds expectations on this front also. All eggs that arrive at its facilities are first pasteurized to rid them of any possible unfavorable contaminants such as salmonella or E.coli. To this end, it goes to great lengths to conform to relevant industry specifications. Deb El Foods is Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF) Level 3 Certified, assuring consumers of its commitment to upholding consistent global standards in food quality and safety. It is also certified and trained by the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), which sets the standard for international food safety management systems. And these are just a few of its healthy list of certifications.
Thanks to these high standards, and thanks to Elliot’s vision and belief that strong export markets are important to the overall health and success of the U.S. egg industry, the company’s exports have risen to over 10 percent of the total business, with Deb El Foods’ products reaching shores as far afield as Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. The company typically reacts to global need, shipping heavily to South Korea and the EU last year.
“We continue to grow our business every day. When we have customers looking to develop specific products, our research and development team works with them to achieve their goals. We’re constantly looking at how we can add value to our eggs through such innovation,” says Michael.
And his brother supports this. “We like staying ahead of trends. We also invest in forward-thinking to solve our clients’ problems, like saving labor costs on easy-to-use convenience items that ultimately save both time and money,” says Daniel.
Needless to say, such a mammoth operation takes a large number of people to keep its cogs turning. At Deb El Foods, that means dedication, and its team of 250 employees certainly delivers on that. “We are very proud of our people. Combined, we have hundreds of years of experience in the egg industry. Our team treats this as their own family business and takes great pride in our success. We genuinely appreciate that. I attribute our success to our hardworking people. Without them, Deb El Foods wouldn’t be here today,” says Elliot. He also takes great pride in the fact that the work of the company’s employees is not only providing for their own families, but also for thousands of other families.
Living generously is something that is very important at Deb El Foods. Elliot taught his boys that contributing time, effort and resources back to the industry and the community at large is very important. Elliot is actively involved in numerous industry wide organizations, as well as charitable organizations. “Through our successful company, there are a lot of people we can help get through life,” he says. As such, the company donates thousands to charitable organizations like The Cancer Foundation and others. It also donates a lot of products to food banks throughout its local area and abroad, like when Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016.
“We send a lot of food relief to disaster-struck areas. Charity is very much a part of our business ethos,” says Michael. The same happened when Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island in 2012, and Michael and his team went out into the disaster-struck area handing out dried eggs to workers and rescue personnel.
When it comes to making the big time and sticking it out in business, Michael cautions the brave. “It is not all about brawn. You have to put in the hard work. If you keep knocking on the door, eventually someone will open it and opportunity will present itself. But you have to keep doing what is right,” he says. He also advises that growth and reinvestment in infrastructure must be one’s top priority. “You won’t always have great times, but if you stay the course, there is always reward at the end of the day,” he adds.
And this team excels at staying the course. Its vision for the future is focused on overall growth in all its divisions, be that through innovation, organic growth, or acquisition. “We continue and strive to be the best manufacturer of egg products in the U.S. and in the world,” says Michael, who is grateful for his father’s legacy. “My father as an entrepreneur, in the true sense of the word. He worked extremely hard in life to build this company and he’s very well-respected in the industry. We have him to thank for his unwavering vision and drive.”
The Gibber sons are appreciative and honored to have the opportunity to build a future on the heritage that their father established. With this sense of generosity and kindness in mind, animal welfare is also high on its priority list as it enters increasingly more sophisticated and socially responsible, conscious markets. However, even with egg processing acquisitions based as far away as Israel, this domestic and worldwide leader will always pride itself on its values that welcome customers as extensions of the family first, because at Deb El Foods, business is done sunny side up, daily.