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ELWOOD, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Indiana tomato processor Red Gold Inc. says the pandemic has resulted in an increased demand for ketchup packets, but that there is no shortage of the condiment.

The family-owned company issued a news release in response to a report in the Wall Street Journal that ketchup could be the “next toilet paper.”

“Red Gold wants to make it clear; there is no shortage of ketchup,” declared the company in a statement.

During the early days of the pandemic, grocery stores found themselves with shelves bare of essential products, like toilet paper, as consumers stocked up.

The Journal article focuses on Kraft Heinz Co. (Nasdaq: KHC), the nation’s largest ketchup maker. The publication says some of the largest fast-food chains are struggling to source enough Heinz ketchup packets.

“Over the last ten months, the increased demand for ketchup packets exceeded inventory capacity for some suppliers,” said Red Gold.

The Indiana company, which has three processing facilities in the states, says in May 2020 it created a production plan that doubled capacity.

“The company developed two new pre-portioned ketchup items on other manufacturing lines while continuing to keep the ketchup packet lines running at maximum efficiency,” said the company.

Red Gold says it and other foodservice companies have stepped in to help offset shortages by national brands.

Click here for the Wall Street Journal article.

ELWOOD, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) Indiana tomato processor Red Gold Inc. says consumer demand for its canned tomato products in grocery stores has seen “incredible” growth during the nine months of the pandemic as people sheltered in place. But the company says a generational change about home cooking is also a factor.

As the healthcare crisis set in, grocery stores were overwhelmed by consumers who stocked up, putting pressure on food manufacturers to increase production.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Vice President of Marketing Colt Reichart said Red Gold’s response took a page from the company’s history book.

“We were also founded during chaos. Red Gold was founded by my great grandfather during World War II,” said Reichart, who represents the 4th generation of tomato processors. “We’ve always been used to reacting fast and rising to those challenges. I would say that has formed our culture, our employees are dedicated, and they’re passionate. They’re problem solvers.”

While its foodservice and institutional business slowed as dine-in restaurants and schools temporarily closed, Red Gold said production of ketchup packets and dunking cups increased as fast-food restaurants kept operating.

“You can’t make a meal out of a ketchup packet, but people still want it,” said Reichart.

But the biggest demand was felt as consumers stocked up on canned goods.

“With COVID-19, we saw a dramatic shift between channels and consumption. Consumers were buying retail canned sizes and clearing store shelves faster than the retailers themselves could stock them,” said Reichart.

He says it became more challenging to acquire cans as the supply chain felt increasing demand from other canning companies.

“The 14.5-ounce can is the most popular retail size. Those were out nationwide, the empty ones. So, we pivoted and started packing 28-ounce sizes,” said Reichart. “Retailers were willing to take whatever and so were consumers.”

The company added shifts for its production output, the distribution center, and its trucking company.

“And all three of our manufacturing plants were producing products 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Reichart.

Reichart says retailers have continued to push for more inventory to fill their store shelves.

“Everyone has ordered way more than you would ever imagine,” said Reichart. “Heavy consumption is going to continue, and I imagine inventory will be low for everyone.”

Earlier in November, Red Gold announced it is hiring about three dozen more workers for its newly installed, high-speed labeling line to keep up with demand not only for Red Gold products but private label brands.

“We were already going down that route before COVID, in terms of installing the new line,” said Reichart. “But it was going to be 12 months, we got it done in six.”

Fortunately, as consumer demand increased, so did tomato production. Reichart says after a tough planting season, the growing season was nearly perfect in terms of weather. He said the harvest season even went a week longer than normal due to ideal fall weather.

“Mother Nature really came through and blessed this harvest,” said Reichart.

But for a company that faces the uncertainty of weather each growing season, they must hedge their acreage forecast.

“We always plant more than we need because you never know what weather challenge you’ll face,” said Reichart. “If we get too many tomatoes, we can always make more ketchup, you don’t want to be short.”

Reichart says demand has increased not only due to the pandemic, but due to changes to consumer behavior. He says the number of cooking shows on TV and sharing of recipes on social media.

“Cooking at home, regardless of the demographics, is always been making a comeback,” said Reichart. “If anything good can come from this, it’s that more people got to spend more time with their families at home. Hopefully, they shared a meal together.”

Red Gold contracts with 40 tomato growers from Indiana, southern Michigan and northwest Ohio. Reichart says none of the tomatoes travel more than 200 miles to reach a processing plant.

ELWOOD, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Two Indiana farms have received awards for their conservation efforts from Red Gold and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. First place in the Red Gold Stewardship award was presented to Myers Sod Farm of Seymour and second place went to Rice Farms of LaPorte.

“Red Gold and it’s growers are committed to stewardship practices that enhance soil health and improve water quality,” said Red Gold’s Director of Agriculture, Steve Smith. “I am honored to recognize these exceptional growers and stewards of the land.”

Adam Myers of Myers Sod Farm says he started eight years ago with a variety of crops, including row crops, sod and tomatoes.

“Practicing conservation is important on our farm,” said Myers. “We feel that if we take care of the land, it will take care of us.”

Myers says they have implemented several conservation efforts, including grassed waterways, vegetative field borders and control basins on their farm.

Third-generation farmer Scott Rice of Rice Farms has shifted their operation over the past 100 years from livestock to specialty crops, including tomatoes, seed corn and wheat. They use a variety of conservation measures, including grass filter strips and constructed wetlands.

“We want to do the right thing,” said Scott Rice. “We want to be good stewards of the land we have been blessed with so that we can pass it on in as good, or better, shape to the next generation.”

Myers Sod Farm won a $1,000 scholarship and the option to ship an extra truckload of tomatoes per day during harvest. Rice Farms received a $500 scholarship and the chance to ship an extra half truckload of tomatoes per day during harvest. 

ELWOOD, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — As the nation prepares to celebrate its independence on July 4, Elwood-based tomato processor Red Gold Inc. hopes people will honor military veterans through its “Ketchup with a Cause” program.

The company announced in January its partnership with the nonprofit Folds of Honor Foundation to help raise money to provide scholarships to family members of those who died or became disabled while on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces

A percentage of ketchup sales go towards the program.

“When we saw what Folds of Honor was doing with education, it took us not even a day and we were in,” said Colt Reichart, Red Gold director of marketing and fourth-generation canner.

Reichart says for the first time in company history, it unveiled a new ketchup bottle label to showcase its partnership with Folds of Honor.

Since the launch of the program, sales of the Folds of Honor ketchup have seen incremental growth.

“It was only supposed to on one bottle size. We’re already at five different bottle sizes and two portion control packages. It’s really taken off,” said Reichart.

Folds of Honor says in addition to the economic and emotional burdens families of fallen or disabled service members already face, the current COVID-19 pandemic is placing additional financial stress on many living on a one-household income.

“We are proud to partner with a company like Red Gold that shares our same passion and drive for supporting American military families and communities,” said Ben Leslie, executive vice president at Folds of Honor.

Reichart says Red Gold heritage is deeply rooted in patriotic and military tradition. It was founded in March 1942, early on during WWII, when the federal government asked citizens to step up and help the war effort by supplying food for the troops.

“My great grandfather was retired when all that happened,” explained Reichart. “He purchased a burned-out cannery and started supplying tomatoes to troops overseas.”

Now as the U.S. marks 75 years since the end of WWII, the company shows no let-up in its support of service personnel and their families.

“Giving back to those in need is a foundational element of our family history at Red Gold,” said Reichart. “The Folds of Honor mission is a natural fit for us.”

Red Gold sources its tomatoes from 40 farmers in Indiana, southern Michigan and northwest Ohio, growing more than 11,000 acres of tomatoes and employing approximately 1,300 workers.

Click here to learn more about the Folds of Honor program.

Red Gold Marketing Director Colt Reichart tells Inside INdiana Business the decision to embrace the Folds of Honor campaign was easy.

ELWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — A man wearing a skull mask and a black, hooded coat displayed a pistol during the robbery of a check-cashing store on Monday afternoon, police said. 

Elwood Police Department on Tuesday posted photos of the suspect on its Facebook page

The robbery happened just after 5 p.m. Monday at Check Into Cash, 1509 S. State Road 37. It’s part of strip mall with a Kmart at the intersection of Madison County Road 1100 North.

Police described the white male as 5-feet-6 or 5-feet-7 and about 180 pounds. In addition to the mask and coat, he wore blue jeans, tan shoes and black gloves. He displayed the pistol to a clerk and demanded money. The clerk cooperated, and the man left with an undisclosed amount of cash. 

The man then fled the store eastbound initially on foot. Police said an effort to track the man was unsuccessful. 

Elwood police said anyone with information about the robbery should call the department at (765) 642-0221.

Pipe Creek Township volunteer firefighters Kyle Hibst and David Wittkamper were honored Wednesday with a fireman’s funeral ceremony and a procession with more than 110 vehicles in Elwood. 

The two 31-year-old men took off in a private plane April 2 and shortly thereafter crashed into the tail of another small plane attempting to land at the Marion Municipal Airport. Hibst was the pilot, and both were killed in the accident. 

Around 500 family, friends and public servants gathered Wednesday inside the Elwood Junior-Senior High School gymnasium to pay their respects to their fallen friends. 

“David was in many ways the man we aspire to be. He was athletic, he was brave, he was daring, but on the other hand he was generous, he was kind and he was caring,” said the Rev. Josh Crockett from Grace Baptist Church. David’s father “says, ‘I couldn’t ask for a better son. He was the man every dad wants his son to grow up to be.'”

Kyle “got his pilot’s license before he got his driver’s license,” the Rev. Kal Rissman from St. John Lutheran Church said and laughed. “So, I wonder if you went on a date with Kyle and you said, ‘What are you going to pick you up in?’ and he would say, ‘A Cessna,’ how would that go? But he was able to do that because Kyle was a worker.”

Their fire chief remembered the two friends as great leaders and essential assets in the department. 

“The loss that the township has suffered with the loss of these two individuals is the greatest loss in township history,” Chief Richard Shepherd said. “We lost two of the greatest firefighters and individuals I’ve ever had the privilege to lead.”

Fire and emergency response departments from at least seven area counties attended the funeral, along with dozens of area law enforcement agencies from across Indiana. Shepherd noted he’d been contacted by departments outside of the state as well.

“I received a call the other day from California and actually I thought it was a telemarketer,” he said, “but actually it was a fire department offering their condolences.” 

Both men were married, and Kyle Hibst left behind a young son. As part of the funeral, their widows were presented with American flags and Indiana state flags. The Fireman’s Bell also rang out nine times each for the two fallen fireman. The fire department also during the funeral broadcasted a final radio dispatch call that stated the two firemen had answered their last call and were resting at quarters. 

“Firefighters Hibst and Wittkamper, you may rest now. Your brothers and sisters will carry on from here,” said the radio dispatcher.

Directly after the funeral, caskets were carefully loaded onto two fire engines and passed rows of Elwood Junior-Senior high schoolers who lined the street in front of the school in support. 

“When something like this happens, you have an entire high school of kids standing out on the side of the road to honor two amazing people who really deserve the credit they’re receiving today,” said Morgan Johns, who attended the funeral. 

“I think as a community, it gives us a sense of pride of who we are that isn’t always apparent to some of the kids who grew up in a small town,” said Karen Tunis while observing the high school students. “They can realize there’s something really special about this little town.” 

Tunis said she did not know either firefighter personally, but felt a need to attend their funeral. 

“I’m just here to support our fire department,” she said. “We live in the Pipe Creek area. This department is our first responders.” 

She and Johns agreed the silver lining in the tragedy of the loss of two public servants is the community show of support that powerfully follows. 

“There’s something pretty special about the little town and the camaraderie, the community, the family feeling we have,” Tunis said.

Johns added, “Things like today really show people that we are this really, really great community to come together, and we honor the people that we love, and we take care of all of our citizens.” 

The funeral procession traced a path through Elwood, pausing for a moment of silence outside the Pipe Creek Township Fire Department. Community members lined the procession route with hands on hearts or at attention as the emergency vehicles passed. 

Madison County officials said Wittkamper will be laid to rest at Sunset Memorial Park.

Hibst’s casket was taken to Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home pending cremation.

Two firefighters killed last week in a collision between two planes in northeastern Indiana will be remembered Wednesday during a joint funeral service.

Kyle Hibst and David Wittkamper died April 2 when the plane Hibst was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff at Marion Municipal Airport after it clipped a Cessna jet that was landing.

The men were both 31, lived in Elwood and were members of the Pipe Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department. Both were married in 2013 and Hibst and his wife had a young son.

The Herald Bulletin reports that Hibst’s visitation will be held Monday at the Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home in Elwood, followed on Tuesday by visitation there for Wittkamper.

A joint funeral service for the men will be held Wednesday morning at Elwood Junior/Senior High School.

Fellow firefighters and the Elwood community are remembering two men who were killed in a plane crash on Monday in Marion.

Kyle Hibst and David Wittkamper were firefighters with the Pipe Creek Township Fire Department in Madison County.

“Obviously we are still in shock. This was an unexpected major, major loss,” said Chief Richard Shephard. “To be honest with you I really don’t have… no words to describe what (those) two boys meant to me, this fire department, their families and obviously this community.”

Chief Shephard said both men volunteered outside of the department and spent their lives helping others. They were especially active with organizations that worked to help children.

Hibst was a pilot and people in Madison County say he loved to fly.

“It was not uncommon for the pilot to call his buddies up here and say, ‘hey lets go for a fly today’… so it was nothing uncommon for that and then tragedy struck,” said Todd Harmeson, the public information officer for the Madison County Emergency Management Agency.

On Tuesday dozens of first responders from surrounding communities escorted the bodies of Hibst and Wittkamper from Fort Wayne to a funeral home in Elwood.

“Public safety officers, members put themselves on the forefront every day whether it is a firefighter or law enforcement and then for something like this to happen when they’re not even, you know, actually serving in their role is just tragic,” said Harmeson.

First responders from nearby departments stepped up to help respond to 911 calls on Tuesday so those in the small Pipe Creek Township Fire Department of about 30 people can comfort and support each other.

“From grieving to remembering the good days and remembering the funny things about Kyle and David to the anger, you know, why did this happen?” said Harmeson.

According to Harmeson, both men were in their early 30s and both were married. He says Hibst’s wife is also a member of the fire department and they have a young son.

Wittkamper’s father was also a member of the fire department and his grandfather was one of the founding members, so officials say he grew up in the firehouse.

Some say both Hibst and Wittkamper will be remembered most for their contributions to others.

“That is what Kyle and David did. They gave back to their family, they gave back to their community, and they gave back to the fire department,” said Harmeson.

Chief Shephard said he was working to set up an account for those who would like to donate to the families of these firefighters.

That account was set up by Wednesday afternoon at

Also, on Wednesday night, funeral arrangements were announced.

Shephard said the viewing for Hibst will be from 1 to 9 p.m. Monday. Viewing for Wittkamper will be 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Both were be at Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home, 415 S. Anderson St., Elwood. 

Full firefighter joint funeral services for both will be 11 a.a. April 11. at Elwood Junior-Senior High School, 1137 N. 19th St.

Shephard said any departments that wish to attend are encouraged to do so. For apparatus placement at the funeral, call (765) 810-3979.

ELWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — A Silver Alert has been cancelled after an Elwood man went missing.

37-year-old Clint Davidson was last seen on November 16 and was believed to be in extreme danger and may require medical assistance.

The alert was cancelled around noon.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — 24-Hour News 8’s Ken Brewer brings you the latest updates on severe weather in central Indiana.

Warnings issued Friday:

A severe thunderstorm warning issued for Marion and Hendricks counties ended at 4:30 p.m.

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