Every Christmas Eve, my family gathers for a big feast. We exchange gifts and hugs, talk about the year—the usual. And at the center of the dinner table, amidst steaming dishes of scalloped potatoes and green been casserole, is always a Dearborn Sausage Company spiral-sliced ham.
It’s a common memory for anyone who grew up in the Dearborn area—and increasingly, it’s becoming a holiday tradition for families across the country.
The company that began in 1946 in Dearborn these days sees $60 million in profit annually, employs around 200 people (more during the holidays and near Easter), runs a store in Roseville in addition to its south Dearborn market, and sees a third of its business coming from outside the state of Michigan.
Still, Executive Vice President Michael Kosch said the family-run company stays true to its roots.
“We still think of ourselves as a local business,” he said of the company started by his grandfather. “And a majority of our business is still in the Midwest.”
And the company still has strong local ties, too.
CEO Donald Kosch—Michael’s father—lives with his wife, Mary, in Dearborn. The pair are mostly hands-off with the business these days, but also run the Kosch Foundation, which gives to a number of local causes—including the Dearborn Animal Shelter, The Henry Ford, the Dearborn Garden Club and Oakwood Healthcare.
And, Michael adds, the company likes to carry many Michigan products in their stores. Alongside Dearborn Brand sausages, lunchmeats, hams and jerky, customers can find Germack pistachios, Better Made chips, Saunders products and pierogi from Hamtramck.
“We try to do things with Michigan manufacturers whenever it’s feasible,” Kosch said.
The company, he added, listens to consumer demands and responds by slightly changing the taste and makeup of their products. For example, some products might have less salt or no MSG now. Others might have their flavoring tweaked to be spicier or sweeter. Ever break out in a sweat while biting into a Dearborn-brand Red Hot? It was Kosch's idea to amp up the heat.
“We like to say that we make the product as good as it always was,” he said, “but we hope we make it better.”
Still, consistency is key for the company, especially as customer tastes for Dearborn Sausage’s signature products have not wavered.
Hams are still the bedrock of the company. During the holidays, Kosch said, they’ll sell 5,000 or more—all trimmed, glazed and sliced in their Michigan factories.
The company continues to grow, and they’ve made advances in their factory practices, as well as marketing developments—like having a presence on Facebook and Twitter, which are run by Michael’s daughter, Katherine. As for any big plans to branch out nationally? There really aren't any.
“We’re not huge risk-takers,” Kosch said. “We like to have nice, consistent, steady growth and we want to keep having quality products.”
It’s good news for families with long-standing holiday traditions involving Dearborn-brand products, and the Kosch family understands first-hand: Their holidays, Michael said, are filled with Dearborn-brand products at the dinner table. But there’s no dissecting of new recipes or discussion of products.
“We’re just like everybody else,” Kosch said. “We just enjoy it.”