Gehl family gives $3 million in gifts to employees

After they sold their company in Germantown in March, members of the Gehl family gave generous cash gifts of gratitude to the employees at Gehl Foods Inc.

Each full-time employee received a gift of $10,000, including a $5,000 donation to their 401(k) plan and $5,000 in their next paycheck. Each part-time employee received a gift of $5,000, including a $2,500 donation to their 401(k) plan and $2,500 in their next paycheck.

All told, the company’s 370 employees received more than $3 million.

“It was just a great act of appreciation and generosity on the family’s part and meant so much to everyone here,” said John Slawny, vice president of business development at Gehl Foods.

The Gehl family sold the company to Wind Point Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm, for an undisclosed sum.

Gehl Foods has three Germantown facilities and a West Bend bottle-making operation. Gehl Foods, which manufactures aseptic dairy products including nacho cheese, pudding and smoothies, reported $250 million in sales in 2014. It was founded in 1896 by J.P. Gehl as a three-room creamery that made “renovated” butter. In the 1960s, it shifted to non-refrigerated, sterile dairy products.

Katherine Gehl rejoined the family company in 2007 and led it as president and chief executive officer since 2011, succeeding her father, John, and her brother, Andy. Gehl has been succeeded by Eric Beringause, a food industry veteran who most recently served as CEO of Sturm Foods in Manawa. Gehl continues as a member of the company’s board of directors.

Gehl Foods has increased sales by 80 percent and added more than 100 jobs since 2007. During that time, the company has invested more than $100 million in new technologies and has increased product innovation and new business. More than 1 million people nationally consume Gehl cheese sauces each day in more than 200,000 movie theaters, concession stands, convenience stores and restaurants.

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