CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — After three months under new ownership, Gibble’s snack products will disappear from store shelves, leaving millions of people without a household favorite that’s been around since the Eisenhower administration.
Gibble’s potato chips and snacks have been produced in Franklin County since the late 1950s, with most of the production done at facilities off U.S. 11 south of Chambersburg.
“Gibble Foods is discontinuing the manufacturing of Gibble’s snack products effective March 9, 2013. This will allow the company to focus on private label manufacturing of its snack food products,” Gibble Foods CEO/Owner Eldon Dieffenbach said Thursday in a statement obtained by The Herald-Mail.
Dieffenbach said in the statement that the company will not be delivering any more Gibble’s products after Saturday.
“Over the next several weeks we will have limited ... support to close out the Gibble’s products,” he said in the statement.
The future of the plant on Molly Pitcher Highway south of Chambersburg, including the status of about 30 employees, was unclear Thursday night.
Several calls to Dieffenbach by The Herald-Mail were not returned Thursday.
Scott Heintzelman, vice president of finance and administration for Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe Inc., Chambersburg, said officials at Martin’s were shocked by the news.
“It’s like a punch in the gut. We were blindsided, frustrated — hurt,” Heintzelman said.
On Dec. 1, Dieffenbach purchased the snack-food division of Gibble’s from Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe. Martin’s purchased the company in 1994 from the original owner, the Gibble family, which founded it in 1959.
“We bent over backwards and made a lot of concessions to try to get the thing rolling, and get it off the mat. To say that we were pretty disappointed (about the news) is an understatement,” Heintzelman said.
He said Martin’s sold the business at a loss.
“We were trying to keep the jobs, keep the brand and keep our distributors that sold Gibble’s and Martin’s,” Heintzelman said. “Our intentions were not to hurt people.”
Heintzelman couldn’t believe that the new owner threw in the towel so soon.
“We were working through this transition — 120-day transition — April 1 was a key date in this process,” he said.
It’s a tough business, Heintzelman said.
“But, we are just shocked that he wouldn’t even take it past the April 1 date. I thought he should give it a year or two to see if he could make it. We put all kinds of things in place to help him,” he said.
L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., said he was told by CareerLink on Wednesday that Gibble’s would be shutting down operations.
“It’s unfortunate, because Gibble’s was started and grew up in Franklin County,” Ross said. “Anytime you lose any operation like that there is disappointment.”
Heintzelman said many of Gibble Food employees are planning to apply for employment at Martin’s.
“We’ll do what we can. Martin’s traditionally has openings. We’re coming into our busy season, which is the summer,” he said.
Heintzelman said he has no choice but to watch the Gibble’s brand fade away.
“We have no recourse but to stand by like everybody else and be saddened,” he said. “I’m hurt, frustrated and disappointed.”
For many at Martin’s, Heintzelman said the news is personal.
“The president of our company is married to the daughter of the founder of Gibble’s — Gibble’s means more to us than simply a snack company. The news we learned today saddens us and the entire Martin family,” he said.
“This is not something we expected, intended or wanted. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that lost their job today and/or will lose the ability to distribute this popular brand,” Heintzelman said in a statement on behalf of Martin’s.
On Dieffenbach’s LinkedIn site, he lists himself as CEO and owner of Gibble Foods, Dieffenbach Farms Inc., dGroup IT and electrical contractor Blatt & Myers. He also is listed as the past co-owner at Dieffenbach’s Potato Chips Inc.
Dieffenbach’s Potato Chips released a statement on Thursday, which it also posted on its Facebook page:
“We are not and never have been affiliated with Gibble’s. Our relationship with Eldon Dieffenbach (owner of Gibble’s) ended over seven years ago. We apologize for any confusion and thank you for your support!”
Gibble’s products, which appeared under the Nibble With Gibble’s logo, include a half-dozen kinds of potato chips, pretzels, cheese puffys, popcorn and dips. Gibble’s also produced the Kay & Ray’s brand.