Stouffer's is a Nestlé brand of frozen prepared foods available in the United States and Canada. Stouffer's is known for such popular fare as lasagna, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, ravioli, and salisbury steak. It also produces a line of reduced-fat products under the banner Lean Cuisine.
The Stouffer family business traces its roots to 1898 when James B. Stouffer and his son Abraham E. Stouffer started the Cottage Creamery Co. at the Sheriff Street Market in Cleveland. In 1901, James’s son Abraham E. Stouffer, at the age of 26, became Vice president of the company.
In 1905, the Stouffer family established and incorporated the Medina County Creamery Company in Medina, Ohio, with $20,000 Capital stock.
James B. Stouffer died November 23, 1908 (62) in Orlando, Orange County, Florida, and Abraham took over the running of the company.
On January 11, 1912, The Medina County Creamery Company filed a change of address to Cleveland. In 1914, the company had expanded and opened The Medina County Creamery Company Detroit, Michigan branch. By this period the creamery was the largest manufacturer and wholesaler of creamery products in the city of Cleveland with over 1,500 farmers supplying Stouffer’s Medina County Creamery Co.
In early 1920, Stouffer's lucrative creamery drew the attention of The Fairmont Creamery, now Fairmont Foods, the largest creamery company in the United States. In December 1920, Abraham Stouffer announced his company, The Medina County Creamery Co. of 2171 East 4th Street, Cleveland Ohio would merge with Fairmont Creamery Co. of Omaha Nebraska through stock ownership. Abraham E. Stouffer would continue as part of the merger and oversee the Cleveland plant until 1922.
In 1922, Abraham E Stouffer took over one of the milk stands owned by his dairy company. The milk, buttermilk and sandwich store was in the southwest of the Cleveland Arcade (lower level) and turned it into a restaurant with his wife Lena Mahala Bigelow. The Stouffer Lunch System was an idea Abraham had in the years prior to selling the Media County Creamery Co. in 1920. The Stouffers converted the operation into a restaurant which served buttermilk, sandwiches, and Lena Stouffer's homemade dutch apple pie (credited by some as the reason for the almost instant success of the restaurant). They opened the first restaurant, called the Stouffer Lunch, in 1924. As time went on, the couple continued the program of expansion with the assistance of their sons Vernon, a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance, and Gordon, who together led the reorganization of the business, taking it public as the Stouffer Corporation in 1929 with Abraham as chairman of the board.
The year 1929 also marked the beginning of the company's effort to establish locations outside of Ohio with the opening of a restaurant in Detroit, Michigan, and one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After Abraham's death in 1936 the company continued its program of expansion by opening its first restaurant in New York City and eventually began a program of diversification, entering the frozen food business in 1946. In 1960 the company, formally renamed Stouffer Foods Corporation in 1956, purchased its first hotel, the Anacapri Inn of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and, by the end of that year, the company was composed of three divisions: Stouffer Foods Corporation, Stouffer Hotels Corporation, and Stouffer Restaurants Corporation. In 1961, Stouffer’s opened two short-lived automated vending restaurants. Stouffer's took over this complex of restaurants with the shared kitchen (Plaza Pavilion). In 1962 Stouffer's Disneyland hosted Plaza Pavilion, Tahitian Terrace, and French Market Restaurant. In 1967, Stouffer Corporation was purchased by Litton Industries for vertical integration purposes, when that company had a large share of the microwave oven market, but in 1973, Litton sold Stouffer to Nestlé. In 1993, Nestlé announced its intention to sell Stouffer Hotels to New World Development Co Ltd whom at that time owned Renaissance & Ramada Hotel brands (The Stouffer Hotel brand was retired at the end of 1996) as part of a refocusing of the company on food products. The transaction was complete by 1996. Some Stouffer's Restaurants are now Select Restaurants.
In 1991, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint that Stouffer Foods had misrepresented sodium content in their Lean Cuisine entrees by stating that they were low in sodium. Stouffer's argued that the campaign had focused on good taste and controlled sodium, fat, and calories. They also argued that the sodium claim was relative, reflecting a lower amount of sodium, not necessarily that the entrees were low sodium. However, the Administrative Law Judge ruled in favor of the Federal Trade Commission.
In 2003, Applebee's sued Stouffer's for trademark infringement of their marketing term "Skillet Sensations" back in 1997. Applebee's had a line of "Skillet Sensations" of their own and claimed that it caused confusion for customers that believed the Stouffer's line was linked to theirs. The U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in favor of Applebee's.
On March 14, 2011, a recall was placed on Lean Cuisine spaghetti and meatballs. Consumers reported finding pieces of plastic in their meals, and subsequently over 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of the product were recalled.
On March 10, 2016, a limited number of Stouffer’s products were voluntarily recalled on the suspicion that they contained small pieces of glass.
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