By Sean M. Heuvel
It has been nearly a generation since Morton Frozen Foods products—a line intimately associated with Crozet—have graced the shelves of grocery store freezers. Morton began in 1938 as a small chicken processing firm in Louisville, Kentucky and quickly evolved into one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of frozen foods. As many longtime Crozet residents recall, the venerable brand was phased out in the late 1990s by ConAgra after a storied 60-plus year history. The final step was ConAgra’s closure of Morton’s legendary Crozet plant, which was once the centerpiece of the company’s manufacturing operations. The plant began operation on August 1, 1953 and for some time was Albemarle County’s largest employer. Morton’s elimination was done reportedly as part of a corporate streamlining effort to avoid redundancy with similar offerings within the ConAgra product line.
While the Morton brand is gone, fond memories of it remain. An Internet search for Morton reveals legions of consumers who are trying to find its famed pot pies, honey buns, mini donuts, and other products. In fact, some claim that Morton Frozen Foods is one of the most searched-for “dead brands” on the Internet.
A group of Morton Frozen Foods enthusiasts are attempting to bring some Morton products back. Comprised largely of former Morton employees, descendants of Morton employees, and fans of the brand—many of who are based around Crozet—the group is embarking on a campaign to put Morton back on the map.
The first phase involves an effort to re-introduce Morton and its fascinating story to the public through social media as well as print and online media articles. A website and perhaps even a book showcasing Morton’s history may also come into being. In Albemarle County, historical preservation efforts could include a temporary Morton exhibit, the installation of a historical marker or plaque, or other similar ventures.
In the second phase of its plan the fan group will launch a lobbying campaign to convince ConAgra to resume production of select Morton products on a trial basis–perhaps the honeybuns and/or mini donuts–in selected areas to gauge consumer interest. If ConAgra was not be interested in relaunching Morton itself, its executives could perhaps be persuaded to license or even sell the rights to another company.
Here are three ways to get involved: Join the 500 followers of the Morton Frozen Foods Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Morton-Frozen-Foods/167651973266093). Next, sign the petition to request that ConAgra resume production of selected Morton products. It can found at www.ipetitions.com/petition/bring-back-morton-frozen-foods. Once the petition passes 1,000 signatures, the group’s leaders will begin a dialogue with ConAgra executives about reviving the Morton brand.
Write the group at [email protected] if you have questions, would like to offer assistance, or can share Morton-related photos and memorabilia, etc.