Cory Schlegel is one of the founding members of Keystone Potato Products, LLC and led the construction of the original building in 2004. Cory has been the General Manager since operations began in 2005. Cory graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering in 1988.
He has worked in manufacturing for the past 20 years having worked for both small private companies and a large global company. Cory resides in Hegins, Pennsylvania with his wife Nancy, to whom he has been married for 19 years. In his spare time he enjoys exercising, riding motorcycles, and building and flying high power rockets.
What is happening at Keystone at the moment?
Exciting things are taking place at Keystone Potato.
We most recently expanded our operations to produce fresh cut (refrigerated) potato products. This will include (but not be limited to) dices, slices, French fry cuts, whole potatoes, halves, and quarters; all with peel on or off. In addition to our new fresh cut line we have been producing dehydrated potato flake and flour since 2005.
A new 36,000 SF warehouse addition has recently been completed to supplement the current 50,000 SF production area and office building. Keystone Potato Products is proud to have introduced an operation of this scale to the East Coast.
Issues such as trans fat and, of course, a general trend towards healthier eating, have caused problems for potato processors throughout the world. How has Keystone reacted to changing consumer trends?
Keystone Potato Products respects and understands the importance of healthy eating and that is why we are extremely excited about introducing our new fresh cut potato products. The potato is a high source of vitamins including potassium and calcium. Our fresh cut potato products will allow the health conscious consumer to be in the ‘driver's' seat when preparing their fresh cut potatoes. One of our main goals is to provide the consumer with an alternative to snack foods while minimising the preparation time to prepare fresh cut potatoes.
In terms of marketing its products to an increasingly health-conscious consumer, how is Keystone tackling the issue?
Initially, Keystone will be marketing our fresh cut product as an ingredient to other food producers (i.e. potato salad makers) and to the food service industry (i.e. restaurants and institutions). Later, we plan to expand our marketing efforts to the fast growing retail markets. One reason for the dramatic growth in fresh cut products is the increasing number of women in the workplace.
Everyone is looking for more choices and more ways to save time in the kitchen. The demand for convenient and healthy food items from these busy consumers is clearly reflected in projection numbers for the fresh-cut industry.
Increased costs for wastewater disposal and transport have impacted processors recently, what do you see as impacting the industry in coming years?
We are very fortunate to have our own state of the art waste water treatment system on site as well as
a boiler that is fuelled by 100 per cent methane gas from a neighbouring landfill, which minimises operating costs. I think the greatest impact will be reflected in freight costs.
As fuel prices continue to climb, we need to remain cost effective in order to remain competitive with other producers farther from the large east coast market. Keystone can offer remarkably quick and efficient East Coast delivery. Our prime location offers the benefits of increased freshness and low-cost shipping. Despite the increase in fuel we will continue to remain competitive in the industry.
What is the best thing about working for Keystone?
Being one of the founding members and a part of Keystone from the ground up, has given me a great deal of job satisfaction. I've learned
a lot about what it takes to start a new company. Keystone President Keith Masser has provided the industry knowledge and the vision for our future. The tremendous staff and workforce that I have here at Keystone Potato have done the rest.
If you had not been working in the potato industry, what would you be doing?
That is very good question - one that I've tried to answer many times. I would likely try something totally different. You only live once.
What is your opinion of faddy diets, health consciousness and the acrylamide and trans fat issues which are currently very hot potatoes globally?
My opinion is that the producer needs to offer a product that will stand up against the test of times. Faddy diets will continue to come and go.
Consumers want a product they can rely on to be nutritious, tasty, and convenient to make.
In order to stay competitive in a market of health conscious consumers, you have to provide a product people can depend on. I can confidently say ‘we are proudly getting that job done here at Keystone Potato Products, LLC'.