By Justin Jaworski
Lil Dutch Maid cookies, you know, those cookies you can buy in dollar stores and the ones that go great with ice cold milk, yea, those ones. Well did you know they are made right here in Abilene? If you’ve ever driven near the old Sam’s Club, then you now know where AbiMar Foods (formerly Fehr Foods, Inc.) is baking fresh cookies in Abilene, Texas.
AbiMar Foods was originally established as Fehr Foods, Inc. in Abilene, Texas on March of 1992. The manufacturing facility initially consisted of one shift, two ovens, three customers and approximately 40 different product items. Since then, the company has grown in every conceivable way.
AbiMar makes cookies under the brand names Lil’ Dutch Maid, Sun Valley and Tru-Blu. In October 2010, Fehr Foods was acquired by Grupo Nutresa, one of the largest food groups in South America. Their customers vary from local and regional distributors to the Fortune 500 retailers all over the U.S. and their brands continue to gain national recognition. With the acquisition came the change in name from Fehr Foods to AbiMar Foods.
Grupo Nutresa markets its products in 43 states and are currently exporting to Mexico, Central & South America and the Caribbean. Grupo Nutresa also produces 6 different segments: cold cuts, cookies and crackers, chocolates, coffee, ice cream and pasta.
Since that acquisition in 2010 the Abilene operation has seen a 14 percent increase in its employment and business has been steadily increasing.
In fact business has been so good, the cookie manufacturer needed to expand. It just so happens that when AbiMar Foods was looking to expand business, Sam’s Club was building a new facility near Abilene Regional Medical Center. Rumors circulated for months about who could use the building on South 1st Street, with most people speculating that it would be a firm connected to the oil and gas industry. Of course, the speculation was wrong.
With a major expansion on the way, AbiMar Foods of Abilene contracted to purchase the former Sam’s Club facility. According to Miguel Moreno, who at the time served as CEO for AbiMar Foods in Abilene, “There were different options like adding more building space here or looking for a new space where we could add the equipment. When the option of acquiring the former Sam’s Club came out it made total sense, and we analyzed it and started working with Wal-Mart and we got the building,” said Moreno.
In May of 2014, Miguel was promoted, leaving the new CEO position to Patricia Canal. Patricia's background with the company has positioned her to take the local operation to the next level. As the new CEO she will oversee the existing operations as well as the new cracker division expansion.
To seal the deal for the expansion, the board of the Development Corporation of Abilene inked an assistance package of $5.12 million dollars with AbiMar Foods for capital investment and job creation incentives.
According to DCOA documents, $4.5 million of that money will be paid over three years and account for 15 percent of AbiMar’s capital investment in the Sam’s Club purchase, facility improvements and equipment purchases. AbiMar Foods is poised to invest $30 million for the purchase of the building, capital improvements and equipment. They currently employ 320 people in Abilene and with the expansion will create 105 additional new jobs.
The new location was the perfect fit, just three minutes away from their current facility on North 1st Street which will stay in its current condition. AbiMar Foods manufactures approximately 1.6 million pounds of cookies every week. The expansion will add new production lines which will produce crackers of various types. The goal is to have the new facility up and running by early 2015.