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Running Between the Giants’ Legs: Wixon Turns 100

Posted: March 20, 2007

Strategies for small-to-mid-sized organizations

“I like to think that we can run between the giants’ legs,” says Wixon Inc. president and co-owner Peter Gottsacker. Survival for a privately held company in a landscape increasingly defined by consolidation means working smarter and cultivating personnel. But while this Midwest company’s scale is comparatively modest, it’s leagues beyond its humble origins.

Around the turn of the last century, Charles Franklin Wixon operated a spice cart in Chicago. This operation was the seed of what would become, in 1907, the Wixon Spice Co. Over the next 100 years, Wixon changed hands; moved north to St. Francis, WI, home to a multi-building campus including more than 300,000-square-feet of manufacturing, R&D, packaging, warehousing and administrative facilities; grew its flavor capabilities to address the increasing health demands of consumers; expanded its staff to over 200; and achieved sales of over $50 million. In 1996, after a decade in the pharmaceutical industry, Gottsacker joined Wixon. In 2004, along with partners Chuck Ehemann and Peter Caputa, Gottsacker acquired the company.

The “R&D Engine”

If Wixon has a motto, says Gottsacker, it’s, “Get a mile deep instead of a mile wide. If we’ve got one good customer, let’s make sure we understand them and who their customers are and put people into their facilities and understand what their projects are and what their keys to success are.” Being everything to everybody is distinctly not a priority.