You drink it, eat it, play it, deal it and post it—and it’s all made right here in Kentucky.
Manufactured in Erlanger by Perfetti Van Melle USA, Airheads are known for their unique chewy texture and awesome stretch-ability. You can shape them, pull them and roll them up. The candy comes as bars, belts and small bites in a variety of fruity, sweet and sour flavors. Each day, the factory produces 3 million Airheads. That’s about 50 tons—every day!
“If you took all the Airheads we make in a year, and put them end to end, they would reach to the moon and back 2 1/2 times,” says Communications Manager Stephanie Creech.
Big Red, Louisville
Legions of loyal fans keep Big Red among the top-selling soft drinks. The recipe was concocted in Texas, but the fizzy red soda has a connection to Kentucky that goes all the way back to 1937 when it was first invented.
Back then, a guy named R.H. Roark, who happened to own the R.C. Cola Bottling Company in Louisville, combined his know-how with a chemist, Grover C. Thomsen. The result? Big Red, which was sold in Louisville. In fact, Kentucky was the first state to ever sell the soda.
To mark the 80th anniversary of Big Red being sold in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer issued a proclamation declaring May 16, 2018, Big Red Day.
Bottled in Winchester since 1926, Ale-8-One is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence. Founder and inventor G.L. Wainscott hit upon the formula after experimenting with ginger-blended recipes acquired during travels in northern Europe.
Not only is Ale-8 one of the last soft drink bottlers left in the United States, it is also the only one in Kentucky continuing to receive and refill returnable long-neck, green glass bottles.
“Many fans say the best-tasting Ale-8 is contained in these bottles, full of memories,” says DeAnne Elmore, field marketing and public relations manager. “They are thicker and heavier than today’s bottles.”
The company gives 1 percent of sales from these returnable bottles to environmental non-profits in Kentucky through its partnership with 1% For The Planet.
Hot Pockets, Mount Sterling
More Hot Pockets are eaten every day than there are people in West Virginia.
True fact. On average, 1,851,510 Hot Pockets are eaten every single day in the U.S. The estimated population of West Virginia in 2017: 1,815,857.
That’s a whole lotta microwaves dinging across the country. Thirty years ago, Nestlé Prepared Foods created a frozen, hand-held sandwich for America’s on-the-go lifestyle. According to Sarah Factor, manager–corporate and brand affairs, Hot Pockets has evolved into an iconic American brand that is today firmly sandwiched in American pop culture.
Not just handy and affordable, Hot Pockets tout their tastiness, with buttery seasoned crusts enrobing hickory ham, 100 percent Angus beef, and a new and improved pepperoni pizza recipe.
Jif Peanut Butter, Lexington
Everyone knows what choosy moms choose: Jif. One of the most recognized taglines in history debuted over 50 years ago in 1966, eight years after the company was founded in 1958.
Owned by the J.M. Smucker Company, Jif has a manufacturing facility in Lexington—the largest peanut butter-producing facility in the world.
The plant has a lot of demand to keep up with, as approximately 270 million pounds of Jif Peanut Butter are consumed in the U.S. each year. That’s enough to make 2 billion peanut butter sandwiches or to spread a 55-foot-thick layer over a football field.
Dixie, Lexington, Bowling Green
They show up in droves at every picnic: Dixie paper products. Made by Georgia-Pacific, a variety of Dixie plates, bowls and platters are made at the Bowling Green plant (served by Warren RECC) and Dixie Everyday bath cups and To Go cups are manufactured at the plant in Lexington.
You know how packable and stackable, mobile and disposable they are. But did you know that the company cooks approximately 200 pounds of bacon and approximately 400 pounds of eggs annually to test the quality of their plates and bowls? They are the buffet’s best friend for a reason.
Gorilla Glass, Harrodsburg
It’s tough—like anything with “gorilla” in its name should be. It’s also scratch- and damage-resistant and provides outstanding optical clarity. Chances are, you come into contact with it dozens and dozens of times every day.
Corning Gorilla Glass makes glass covers or screens for smartphones and other electronic devices. Lots of devices. Enough to cover more than 30,000 football fields. Some 5 billion and counting.
Chemically strengthened through an ion-exchange process that, according to the explanation on the Corning website, “creates a deep compression layer on the surface of the glass substrate,” Gorilla Glass is to your smartphone what chain mail is to a knight—armor that deflects the slings and arrows of everyday life.
No need to cut the crusts off these PB&Js—Uncrustables has trimmed the work out of fixing one of America’s classic sandwiches. Made by the J.M. Smucker Company in Scottsville (served by Tri-County Electric), Uncrustables are a quick two-step operation from freezer to pleaser: 1) Thaw. 2) Unwrap.
Besides peanut butter and grape jelly, Uncrustables are filled with chocolate-flavored hazelnut, among other flavors, and are offered on whole wheat and with reduced sugar. They are fun to eat and even more fun to play with. Cut and arrange various fruits on and around an Uncrustable sandwich to create a bunny, fish, bear and more.
At the Scottsville manufacturing facility alone, approximately 1.2 million Uncrustables are made every day. That is enough sandwiches to feed every child in New York City.
The Laughing Cow, Leitchfield
The first cheese spread to be individually served in foil-sealed portions, The Laughing Cow is one of Bel Brands USA’s most popular brands. More than 350 million wedges are made each year in Leitchfield, with hundreds of employees working round the clock to produce nine varieties (with eight lip-smacking wedges per pack) of this savory snack.
Why “laughing cow?” you may ask. The origin of the name is found on the French front lines of World War I, where trucks conveyed meat that carried a logo of a cow. Following the war, Léon Bel used a version of this very cow to embellish boxes of cheese in a round box, naming it La Vache qui rit, or The Laughing Cow.
Ebonite Bowling Balls, Hopkinsville
The first company to embrace the three-fingered grip. Strike.
The company with the largest contract in sports history when it signed “Bowler of the Century” Don Carter in 1964. Strike.
Ebonite International, the company that introduces 35 to 40 new made-in-the-USA bowling balls into the marketplace each year has firsts to spare.
Originally located in New England, it has been based in Hopkinsville since 1967—the former tobacco warehouse site was selected, according to company lore, because Hopkinsville was where the site consultant’s girlfriend lived.
Last year, to celebrate Hopkinsville being the epicenter of the 2017 solar eclipse, Ebonite partnered with KR Strikeforce to produce a limited-run solar eclipse bowling ball. The ball also highlighted Ebonite’s 50th anniversary in Hopkinsville.
United States Playing Card Company, Erlanger
There always seems to be a deck of playing cards in the kitchen junk drawer or tucked away in a table in the family room. But where do they come from and why are they so ubiquitous? The answer is found in Erlanger at the United States Playing Card Company, which has churned out an estimated 4 billion to 5 billion decks of playing cards, the well-known Bicycle brand among them.
“Because of our long history, number of decks we have produced and the fact our product is used in more than 113 countries, there’s a good chance our product has reached more people than any other product made in Kentucky,” says Elaine Sheaks, product manager.
Include special decks among those that have reached a card-crazed populace. The company has made decks commemorating various presidents, Apollo 13, World War II and other auspicious reasons.
Duct Tape, Bowling Green, Franklin and Danville
It’s the do-it-yourselfer’s cure-all: Duct tape. It patches, seals, repairs, wraps—it’s pretty much up for any challenge. The quality is consistent and the product perfect for a wide range of jobs, including maintenance and general repair. There are even high-performance, code-approved duct tapes for heating and air conditioning duct sealing.
Berry Global makes enough tape each year to wrap around the equator of the Earth more than twice. For perspective, one lap around the equator is 24,900 miles.
Kingsford Original Charcoal, Summer Shade and Burnside
Owned by The Clorox Company, Kingsford Manufacturing converts more than 1 million tons of wood scraps into charcoal briquets every year at its plants—and one of those plants, served by Tri-County Electric, is located in Summer Shade in Metcalfe County.
Even more interesting is the name behind the briquets: Henry Ford. In the 1920s, Ford discovered the process for turning wood scraps into charcoal briquets during production of his Model Ts. It was because of this discovery that he built a charcoal plant and invented Kingsford charcoal.
The Kingsford Company was formed when E.G. Kingsford, a relative of Ford’s, brokered the site selection for the new plant. The company was originally called Ford Charcoal, but then renamed in E.G.’s honor.
Reynolds Wrap, Louisville
Since 1947, Reynolds Wrap has been the go-to kitchen tool for covering food, lining trays, customizing meals, storing leftovers—even making a soufflé pan. Invented after World War II, when aluminum was no longer needed for military use, Reynolds Wrap today is a staple of the American pantry.
With seven different foil products, including recycled and wrappers, one question always crops up: Why is one side of Reynolds Wrap shiny and the other side dull, and does it matter?
“The difference in appearance is simply a result of manufacturing and serves no real purpose,” says Brienne Neisewander, senior marketing director, “unless you’re using Non-Stick Reynolds Wrap. With Non-Stick, use the dull side facing toward the food for non-stick properties.”
Altec Industries, Elizabethtown
Elizabethtown is home to two side-by-side Altec plants, one being powered by Nolin RECC and both combined making this Altec’s highest-volume manufacturing plant. Altec Elizabethtown manufactures aerial devices, or bucket trucks as they are more commonly known, for the electric utility, telecommunications and lights and signs markets.
“Precise” and “efficient” are Altec watchwords. The equipment line is stability tested to industry standards and each piece of equipment is tested for quality and endurance through real-world simulations. The result? The safest, most reliable pieces of aerial equipment in the industry.
Oh, and Altec E’town uses 11,110 miles of weld wire in the process—each year.
(Yes, that is really its name.)
Got some immense space to cool? Headquartered in Lexington, the innovative company began by another name when founded in 1999: HVLS, meaning High Volume, Low Speed. But customers who learned about the ceiling fans insisted on inquiring about “those big, er, ‘backside’ fans.”
With industrial, commercial and residential models, these massive fans are designed to move colossal amounts of air. Several are available for home use—both indoors and out: Essence, Isis and Haiku, a smart fan that has been recognized as the “World’s Quietest Fan.” All are workhorses as well as pieces of art.
They’ve caught on in a big way, with more than 141 million people cooled by them every day.
Capitol Bicycles, London
Who wouldn’t love playing with bicycles every day? At Capitol Bicycle Company in London, served by Jackson Energy, the craftsmen behind the customization love bicycles with a capital “L.”
“It’s what gets us up and out of bed early every morning,” says partner Peter Mitchell.
Capitol Bicycles understands that every individual’s anatomy is unique and that bicycle frames should be customized to fit each cyclist perfectly. The shop’s specialty is steel and titanium bicycle frames. Three gifted local artisans provide the welding, coating and painting. All frame materials and products are sourced in the United States.
“We pride ourselves on having the ‘Made in the USA’ tag,” says Mitchell.
Champion Petfoods USA Inc., Auburn
Champion Petfoods USA makes ORIJEN and ACANA for pet lovers who insist on giving the biologically best for their dogs and cats. The company’s mission is to provide Biologically Appropriate foods—mirroring dogs and cats evolutionary diet—made from fresh regional ingredients supplied by nearby farmers, ranchers and fishermen. The food is never outsourced, but made in their custom-built kitchens.
Situated on 85 acres of Kentucky farmland in Auburn (Warren RECC), this facility is called DogStar Kitchens after the brightest star in the night sky. Considered the most advanced pet food kitchens on earth—with standards that rival the human food processing industry—the state-of-the-art DogStar Kitchens are the first pet food facility in the world to receive a prestigious Design-Build Institute of America Award.
Champion is committed to enriching and supporting the community where they live, serve, and work. In 2017, Champion’s DogStar Kitchens donated 11,580kg of pet foods to local rescue organizations. Champion also supported many other local events and initiatives.
Dippin’ Dots, Paducah
Guess who’s all grown up? Dippin’ Dots turns 30 in 2018 and is celebrating the auspicious occasion by inviting everyone to “taste the fun” with the launch of Frozeti Confetti.
Named after company mascot, Frozeti the Yeti, this delightfully festive birthday flavor features a blast of lemon and blue raspberry ices with confetti popping candy. Like all Dippin’ Dots’ delectable flash frozen tiny beads of ice cream, yogurt, sherbet and flavored ice products, Frozeti Confetti is made at the company’s production facility in Paducah.
From the beginning, Dippin’ Dots have been a hit and today, some 90 billion dots are consumed annually. (That’s enough to fill about four Olympic size pools.) Ever wonder how many dots you can dip from a small cup of Dippin’ Dots? Try 2,000.
Powers Paper Co., Brandenburg
Powers Paper Co., better known as PPC, provides a wide range of paper-based products to the automotive aftermarket, construction industry, and the retail, manufacturing, industrial, and food service industry. In a word, this company is diversified.
With a facility located in Brandenburg (Meade County RECC), products include masking paper, builders brown paper, point of sale (POS) paper, freezer paper and heavy weight kraft paper.
All paper used is converted with shear cut equipment that trims, removes dust and helps eliminate fibers during the cutting process. And it is a lot of paper: PPC converts enough paper in one year to wrap around the world six times.
Robinson Stave LLC-East Bernstadt Cooperage LLC, East Bernstadt
Sixty years ago, C.B. and Imogene Robinson started a family-owned business in southeastern Kentucky. Today the Robinson Stave-East Bernstadt Cooperage (Jackson Energy) makes oak bourbon barrels that are sold all over the region. Why oak? Because it is ONLY bourbon if it is in a new charred oak container.
Making the barrels is an intense, multistep process that begins with stave workers de-barking and quarter-sawing raw lumber that comes from the Appalachian Mountains and then cutting the logs into staves. Staves are seasoned for six months to two years, depending on customer specifications. After the staves are kiln-dried for about a month, they move onto getting planed, shaped, and jointed.
Not finished yet. Moisture is added to make the staves flexible for assembly; then the moisture is taken back out. A trip through a char flame-licks the barrels’ insides to give whiskey its distinctive color and flavor. See? Intense.
Tarter Farm & Ranch Equipment, Dunnville
Tiny Dunville, population 1,671, is home to the largest manufacturer of farm gates and animal management equipment in North America.
Tarter Gate began in 1945 building wooden gates. In 2008, this Casey County company (Taylor County RECC) changed its name to Tarter Farm & Ranch Equipment to show the breadth and scope of products they manufacture: cattle squeeze chutes, horse stalls, small animal transporters, galvanized tanks, rodeo and arena equipment, tractor implements including subsoilers, plows, and cultivators, and yes, farm gates, too.
Privately owned, the fourth generation of the Tarter family currently oversees operations.