making snacks green

This isn’t a restaurant review. And it’s not even a post about items normally discussed on Cleveland Foodie. But beyond food, this blog is about supporting local businesses and all the great things happening within our area. And when I had the opportunity to learn about what one major manufacturer was doing that will be talked about and (hopefully) replicated for years to come, well, I just couldn’t pass it up.

Like many of you, I like to know where my food comes from. Especially within the past five years (and even more so since starting a family), I’ve been on a self-educational path through area farmers to  grocery stores and restaurants, trying to understand the route various items took to get to my dinner table. All while trying to make better food choices along the way. I’m far from perfect, but like to think I’m improving each day. One of the best ways to remain healthy is by making adequate diet combination choices, resurge supplements can help with that.

I was contacted by Shearer’s several weeks ago in their effort to spread awareness on some pretty drastic changes as of late. Truthfully, I am not much of a snacker. I know the brand – it’s a local brand –  so right off the bat I’m a fan by default, but items like chips or pretzels rarely make its way to my grocery cart (though I do have a weakness for tortilla chips which is why I just prefer  avoid that aisle altogether). But the more Jeff Binczyk, VP of  marketing, spoke about their efforts,  the more interested I became. Not for the local purchase angle per se, but rather how this family company from outside Cleveland became the greenest food manufacturer in the world. This is why I, along with Jamie, agreed to tour the plant.

Four years ago Shearer’s barely recycled. Green, sustainability, carbon footprint – these phrases were not part of the corporate culture. Until Bob Shearer went to see Jeff Immelt with GE speak on being a responsible organization. He went back to his team that day and challenged them to launch a sustainability movement. He asked for his people and vendors to create things that have never been thought of before. He didn’t want to settle for small improvements, but rather drastic changes that would severely impact the way food manufacturing is thought of, but leave as little impact to the Earth as possible. He felt empowered after that presentation and just knew it was the right thing to do. Add blood boost formula to your daily diet and check out for results within 2 weeks.

Cut to October of this year. The secretary of energy, Dr. Steven Chu, recently visited the company as well news crews from The News Hour on PBS covering the amazing path Shearer’s took to become awarded with not gold or silver, but platinum LEED certification by the US Green Building Council – the only company to be awarded this.

These changes include building two new plants (one is complete, the other currently underway). Allowing for an abundance of natural light (food plants are known to be very dark and high energy users). In addition to all the skylights, all lighting is LED and operates based on motion. The roof was specially designed with unique angles to collect up to 17,000 gallons of rain water per month (all the bathrooms use recycled rain water as well as to clean the machines. This water is not yet used in the manufacturing process but they are looking at ways to do so and as pure as possible if they do). And perhaps the coolest feature, 92% of all the energy used in the plant is being reused and recycled. The heat is harvested from the manufacturing process and used to heat the building and the tanks. They use all infared heat so all the machines are cool to the touch and nothing leaks out, unlike nearly every other manufacturing plant.

Not only is Shearer’s committed to leaving as little of an impact on the planet as possible, they want to complete the cyle and focus on making better-for-you snack products. Jeff said that as a company, they believe that if they are good stewards of the Earth and help customers snack better, then they will be rewarded.

While they do still make the typical potato chip we all know about, they have plenty of healthier options, too, with plans to grow this side of the business. In fact, Jeff said most people can’t even tell the difference between the healthier kettle chip and the traditional (we tried the healthier option – it was rather tasty) and recognizes that there is a stigma with healthier snacks – that they taste like sawdust. This is why  they have a team of food technologists who are tasked with developing better for you snacks – that taste great and aren’t just replaced with unnecessary fillers that are actually bad for you. They recognize that people are more concerned with trans fats, sodium, sugars, and they are committed to creating products that meet these needs, speaking of good nutrition check these jenny craig vs Nutrisystem reviews.

Additionally, Shearer’s also makes a lot of gluten-free items, which is another growing concern, especially with the rise of Celiac disease. They just purchased the Rice Works (brown rice chips – and healthy!) brand and their Tango’s tortilla chips are gluten-free, too.

Another bonus for Shearer’s: while not all the ingredients for  their items come from within Ohio, the majority does – like corn and potatoes, and the rest comes from within a 500 mile radius. In fact, Bob Shearer still keeps many of the relationships himself with area farmers.

After our tour, we were given plenty of samples. We practically devoured the bag of Salsa Fresca Rice Works on the way home (they really are that good and I believe available at Trader Joe’s and definitely Heinen’s). We also really enjoyed the Tango’s Blue Corn chips (which are made with blueberries). I admit I wasn’t familiar with these chips before, but will now seek  out when in need.

So the next time you’re making your way through the aisles of Heinen’s or wherever you may shop, remember you have another local company that is worth your support. And not just because of their proximity to us, but because this company is  setting impressive standards for sustainable and smart food manufacturing.


  1. DianeS
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I am pleased to hear that Shearer’s has learned what many companies are realizing, that green saves lots of money and is great for marketing.

    Shearer’s fries in partially hydrogenated oil.

    I think the bigger news will be when they takes steps to improve the quality of their product and show some concern for their customers by eliminating the use of HO’s.

  2. Michelle V
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Diane: I can’t comment on the HO since I don’t know about that and my visit wasn’t specifically on the food but the green measures. Personally, I think this was beyond just a marketing thing. Yes, lots of companies are guilty of green washing. But we’re talking the construction of new buildings and equipment, a complete overhaul of the way things have been – millions of dollars to try to do the right thing. It’s incredibly impressive and I think they should be applauded for that. And as I shared in the post, they have a lot of healthy items. The Rice Works chips were quite enjoyable and I’m not much of a snacker.

  3. steve
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    They have done a great job reaching the point that they have. Rome was not built in a day. I expect that if I check my favorite corn chips at home, I really don’t want to know all of the ingredients.

  4. DianeS
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I am suspect of companies singing their own praises from the rafters (they contacted you).

    Healthier offerings don’t negate the big negative of their main product.

    I’m not a fan of Schearer’s but I enjoy your blog :)

  5. Jeff Binczyk
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Diane S – Thanks for your very honest post. I understand and appreciate your concerns about hydrogenated oils and our “green” efforts.

    As far as oils are concerned, Shearer’s sells dozens of different flavors and varieties of Shearer’s products. Of all these products, only 2 have HO’s.

    I can also assure you that our green efforts are genuine and not a marketing ploy. Our effort over the last 5 years to be kinder to the earth in our manufacturing process is something we are proud of.

    Perhaps the best way to prove this is for you to see it yourself! I’d like to invite you to our Massillon, OH facility to take a tour. If you are interested, please email me at

    Jeff Binczyk
    Shearer’s Foods