Folgers in the East
When it comes to success stories, it doesn’t get any more classically American than Folgers. The company’s founder and namesake, James Folger, moved to San Francisco in the 1850s at the age of 14. He and his brothers, like so many others, arrived in search of gold.
And he found it, too—though not in the place he expected.
While his brothers dug and panned for flecks of gold hoping to get rich quick, James got a job working at the Pioneer Coffee and Spice Mills. There, he learned about producing roasted and ground coffee that was ready to be brewed. At the time, coffee beans had to be roasted by the consumer before they could be ground and used to brew coffee.
Folger took that idea and ran with it. He started the Folger Coffee Company and became one of the early pioneers of the concept of “cup-testing.” It’s almost exactly what it sounds like: coffee buyers and producers tasting imported beans to judge qualities such as taste and aroma. Before that, beans were assessed based solely on their appearance.
Folger personally cup-tested his beans and developed a standard of superior quality that still stands to this day. Through hard work, determination and a little bit of ingenuity—the three ingredients of success—Folgers became one of the world’s largest producers of coffee. James Folger came in search of gold and found it inside a coffee bean.
The company moved to Eastern New Orleans in the 1960s, largely in part because shipping routes from Central America had shifted to New Orleans. The city suddenly became one of the largest green-coffee markets, so Folgers packed up their San Francisco operation and set up shop in the Big Easy. And they’ve been here ever since.
Today, Folgers is part of The J.M. Smucker Co., and between their two production sites in the East, those facilities produce over 300 products for the Company’s leading coffee brands – in addition to Folgers, this also includes Dunkin’, 1850, Café Bustelo and Café Pilon.
The reason for their successful large-scale distribution is simple. It’s the same reason the company relocated to the East: access and transportation.
“Being in the industrial park has the advantage of being directly in the I-10 interstate system,” says Helene Jackson, Associate HR Manager for the Eastern New Orleans facilities. “The plants in the East are centrally located to best support our supply chain from our inbound green coffee operations at the Port of New Orleans to our outbound distribution center.”
But Folgers isn’t just a company that operates in Eastern New Orleans. They’re a community staple, providing jobs and benefits to the local economy. The company currently operates five locations, two production plants and two warehouses, resulting in hundreds of direct and indirect jobs.
“In the New Orleans area, we have over 700 full-time employees,” says Jackson. “If you include our construction and contract jobs, we’re looking at over 1,000 jobs in the metropolitan area annually.”
Jackson says many Folgers employees are also residents of the East, which is not only good for the local economy, but also results in high rates of employee happiness.
“Being a resident of the East, working at Folgers has allowed me to have a great work-life balance,” says Jackson, who has been with the company for over 32 years.
After 60 years of business, Folgers has long served as a beacon of progress and opportunity in Eastern New Orleans, and that potential is finally being realized with the opening of Faubourg and other beverage manufacturers creating and distributing products right here, and with the help of the local workforce.
The future is bright. Some might even say “golden.”