The Heath Company

Typed by Rita Millis from a history originally done about 1955 - 14 August 2000

The Heath Company was founded by L. S. Heath on April 9, 1915 when the business was opened in a small one-story brick building on the present location on South Jackson Street. The only product manufactured at that time was ice cream. The original building still stands, but it is now well surrounded by several additions that have been erected in the last 40 years and house the other departments of the business. The company started in business with four employees. At the present time more than 250 employees are on the payroll.

In 1919 a creamery was added to the original factory for the production of butter. In 1920 the company purchased the Model Ice Cream Co., which was located at that time on South Jefferson Street across from the First Baptist Church. With this purchase, the company also acquired the Robinson Bottling Works which launched the firm in the soft drink field.

During 1927 equipment for the pasteurization and bottling of milk was installed and in 1944 the production of cheddar and process cheese was started.

The candy was originally developed in bulk form at Heath Bros. Confectionery on the west side of the square in Robinson where the Rexall Store is now located. In 1932 the confectionery was sold, the candy making facilities were moved to the present location and the candy was placed on the market in bar form for the first time.

The candy department in the early days was located in a small partitioned room in the rear of the present bottling plant and the equipment consisted of a marble slab, one copper kettle and a "hand-operated" wooden paddle for stirring. The candy bar was introduced on the market during the depression of 1930 at a time when most candy makers were bidding for business with bulky oversize bars which made the Heath Bar seem like a midget in the industry.

In spite of its size, the candy bar has carried on and solely on merit of quality has become nation-wide confection, now ranking about sixth in the nation in volume of sales. The demand for the candy bar has resulted each year in more and better production machinery and enlarging of the facilities for its manufacture.

Originally the bar was dipped in chocolate and wrapped by hand until 1940 when automatic machinery was installed.

The candy kitchen now has 33 gas-fired furnaces or kettles, which cook about 69.000 candy bar centers at one time. The automatic wrapping machines turn out 1600 candy bars per minute. The company has 35 candy salesmen who call on approximately 7200 wholesale distributors in the United States along with several thousand other types of outlets, including theaters, vending machine operators, super-markets and chain stores.

Two million pounds of butter, two million pounds of sugar, five hundred thousand pounds of shelled almonds and three and one-half million pounds of chocolate coating are used each year in the manufacture of the candy bar. Wrappers are purchased in quantities of 25 million and boxes are purchased in quantities of 1 million.

The midwest territory is supplied by direct shipments from the local plant and other sections of the nation are supplied by 12 warehouses which are maintained in principal cities throughout the country. The Hawaiian Islands and Guam are supplied by the San Francisco warehouse.

In the dairy department, the company provides a market for milk from approximately 400 farms within a radius of 25 miles of Robinson, part of which is used for bottling purposes and the balance in the manufacture of cheese. About 14,000,000 pounds of milk are processed annually for which farmers receive $650,000 dollars yearly.

Many innovations have occurred in the business since the company was founded 40 years ago. In the early days only confectioneries and drug stores sold ice cream. Ice cream was packed in ice in large wooden tubs. The company had one small pickup truck for delivery in Robinson and out-of-town shipments were made by rail. Today the company operates a fleet of 72 trucks which are maintained in the company's own garage by company mechanics and which pick up the raw materials and distribute the finished products in a six county area.

In the early days as much as 100 gallons of ice cream would be trucked on Sunday to Newlin's beach across the river from Hutsonville where hundreds of Crawford County citizens would gather each Sunday to eat ice cream and swim in the Wabash River. In those days townspeople of Robinson frequently brought their tin pails to the ice cream factory to purchase 5 or 10 cents worth of ice cream which usually was enough for an entire family. Before the advent of the modern dairy in Robinson, milk distribution was a neighborhood affair with a family that owned a cow in the block or in the big pasture on Emmons Street assuming the responsibility of supplying the neighborhood with milk.

In 1920 soft drinks were known exclusively as "pop" because when the cap was pulled, the bottle really popped. The bottle cap was inserted by hand in a small foot-operated machine and clamped down on the bottle after the proper amount of syrup and carbonated water had been added. Bottles were washed in wooden tubs by hand and a daily production of 50 cases was considered good.

Today automatic machines and conveyors remove the empty bottles from the cases and feed them through a 22-foot bottle washer. The bottles are then filled and placed in the cartons automatically at the rate of 144 bottles per minute. The latest machine to be added to the bottling line is an RCA bottle inspector which was installed to inspect the soft drinks electronically for purity and quality, ejecting any bottle that fails to measure up to standard.

The glass milk bottle also has disappeared and now milk is cartoned automatically on quart and half gallon machines at the rate of 35 cartons per minute. Grade A milk producers have installed bulk refrigerated milk coolers on their farms which has eliminated the use of milk cans. The company has a 2,000 gallon stainless steel milk tank truck in operation which picks up the milk at the farm and hauls it to the plant under refrigeration at 38 degrees temperature.

L. S. Heath, who died on March 25, 1956, started the business in 1915 at the age of 46 after teaching Latin and mathematics in several Illinois high schools and colleges for more than 20 years. The business is managed by three sons, B. E. Heath, V. D. Heath, and V. L. Heath; three grandsons, Dick, Robert, and Bayard Heath Jr., and two sons-in-law, J. R. Morris and Bernard V. Dowling. A fourth son, E. E. Heath, who was associated in the business for 36 years died in 1951. As head of the company for 40 years, Mr. Heath always ascribed the company's group to strict adherence to quality, to hard work and perseverance, and to the fine support and patronage received during this time from the many hundreds of the company's dealers, customers, employees and friends.

The latter part of December 1955, L. S. Heath & Sons has been honored by a national consumer magazine by the awarding Parents' Commendation Seal, according to Golden Guernsey, Inc. only after the magazines consumer service bureau thoroughly investigated the national Gold Guernsey, Inc. and can be only used by licensed distributors on Guernsey milk that meets rigid national requirements. It is a milk marketing organization established by the American Guernsey Cattle Club, non-profit agricultural registration association serving some 40,000 purebred Guernsey breeders from coast to coast. Golden Guernsey Milk is a trade mark owned by Golden Guernsey, Inc. and can be only used by licensed distributors on Guernsey milk that meets rigid national requirements.


This page last updated on February 05, 2015.