Traditional capitalism teaches bigger is always better. Not so with Lane County-based Sweet Creek Foods.
“It isn’t sustainable to grow too large,” Sweet Creek owner and founder Paul Fuller tells EW. “You lose the flavor if you’re trucking everywhere.”
Located near Elmira, family-owned Sweet Creek Foods works with Eugene-area farms and food producers, co-packing and preserving food for consumers from Bellingham to San Francisco. “We believe in a static growth,” Fuller says. “To go national takes fighting the big boys. We like the idea of being a regional player.”
Fuller got his start in the refrigeration business, helping launch many well-known local food establishments. Fuller’s wife Judy designs Sweet Creek labels and helps with the bookkeeping. The couple’s sons have become involved in the family business as well. “We wanted to create a business to retire on,” Fuller recalls, “and then we hoped to be able to maintain that size.”
He explains, “We have about 30 different products,” including tuna, pickles, marinara sauce, enchilada sauce and jam, all sold in glass jars. The enchilada sauce is loaded with flavor, tastefully spicy and complementary to other enchilada ingredients.
“Sweet Creek packs product for small companies and farms for farm stands and farmers markets,” Fuller says, but also for local grocers like The Kiva, Sundance, Red Barn and many more.
“We’ve worked with a lot of the food businesses in town,” Fuller says. “We’ve worked with Gathering Together Farms up in Philomath,” he adds, as well as Junction City’s Groundwork Organics. “We work with the fisherman out in Newport to get our tuna.”
“We’re trying to be the third leg in a local food system,” Fuller says, explaining that some produce isn’t available year-round in Oregon, and by preserving foods, Sweet Creek is “trying to work with the bounty here and get it to the people in a different way.”
Sweet Creek prioritizes living-wage jobs for its employees. “Our goal is to keep the people that we have employed here,” he says.
Fuller says this all makes Sweet Creek unique in Lane County’s already thriving food industry — an industry he says is vibrant enough to make Eugene a “food hub.”
“There’s a lot of natural food stores,” Fuller continues. “There’s a lot of good organic produce available. People are very inclined to support local products and local production.” Nevertheless, he says the economic potential of Eugene’s food scene remains unrealized.
“We have the beer, we have the wine,” Fuller says, noting Lane County also has several food processing businesses with small to relatively large-scale operations.
“We’re a hub of food, [with] a lot of ideas about how to get local and regional food hubs going.”
For more information about Sweet Creek Foods and their products, go to sweetcreekfoods.com or find them at your local natural grocer.