C.F. Sauer: Spicing Richmond Up for Over 100 Years

Richmond residents have long been familiar with the animated neon sign of the C.F. Sauer Company at their headquarters on Broad Street. Begun in 1884, Sauers is one of Richmond’s oldest companies. Their offices have been located at 2000 W. Broad Street since 1911.
At the age of seventeen, Conrad Frederick Sauer was a drug clerk. In the late 1800s, customers would bring their own bottles to be filled with the products they needed at the drugstore. When he noticed that housewives would purchase their vanilla from the drugstores, because they knew they’d get better quality and strength, Sauer had an idea. So he launched his company, making spices and flavoring pre-packaged and available in grocery stores.
By the late 1920s, the C.F. Sauer Company had grown to be the nation’s largest producer of extracts and spices. Sauer said, “In regard to putting our goods on the market, I felt that by putting out higher quality goods than those being sold and putting them in a cartoned bottle, which had not been done up to that time in the small packages, that they would find a more ready sale, which proved to be the case.”
The company has stayed in the family. Great-grandson Mark Sauer, now the Executive Vice President, says that his grandfather recognized an opportunity and seized on it. And he says that the company has stayed true to his grandfather’s vision. Mark Sauer says, “We are the last company in America that makes vanilla the way they used to make it. We’ve never changed.”
Vanilla is just one of the many products produced at Sauer’s Broad Street plant. The complex covers about 14 acres. Not far away, the company owned Metrolina Plastics, Inc. produces plastic boxes, bottles and tops for the Sauer’s spice products. Now employing about 900 people nationwide, Sauer’s has annual sales of around $300 million.
When C.F. Sauer, Sr. passed away in 1927, his son C.F. Sauer, Jr. was elected president and treasurer of the company. His leadership lead to a new strategy employing market based trends and advertising. Through an emphasis on sales, the company expanded their line of household drugs and remedies and purchased the Interstate Commerce Company. In 1929, the Sauer Company purchased Duke’s Products of Company began by Mrs. Eugenia Duke in 1917. Mrs. Duke began by selling homemade sandwiches to soldiers in training at Fort Sevier. Now a best seller in the Sauer Company, the Duke’s products include mayonnaise, sandwich relish, salad dressing and tarter sauce. To date, Mrs. Duke’s recipe remains the only major mayonnaise brand made without sugar.
In the 1960s, the company purchased Dean Foods, a margarine manufacturer and Alford’s Barbecue Sauce was added to the line, but as Sauer’s Barbecue Sauce.
In recent years, the company has enlarged the Richmond plant and storage facilities to accommodate their production of gravy, sauce and seasoning mixes.
In 1993, C.F. Sauer IV was elected president of the company. Mark Sauer is Executive Vice President of Sales, Bradford B. Sauer is Vice President of Sauer Properties. The Richmond plant manager is R. Tyler Sauer.
While the nation’s largest spice maker, McCormick & Co. has multiple times the amount of sales as Sauers, the C.F. Sauer company remains a Richmond fixture. And that’s not just the sign.

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One Comment on “C.F. Sauer: Spicing Richmond Up for Over 100 Years

  1. Charline Hardin says:

    I am so happy that the Sauers Company is still going strong. It has been a part of alot of many Richmonders lives me included.
    As a young girl my bus stop was near Sauers. The fantastic aromas that use to come out of there were fantastic.
    The sign by night is mesmerizing for children & adults alike.
    No matter where I have lived in the US I have always looked for their quality spices.
    Long live Sauers!!
    Charline Hardin

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