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Safe Quality Food Certification Expands Markets

Woman checking quality of food in a manufacturing facility
Credit: iStock/LiudmylaSupynska

Valley Popcorn produces bags of popcorn, popcorn seeds and oil, toppings, supplies and poppers. The company has about 30 full-time equivalent employees at its 25,000 square foot facility, which includes an office area as well as a store that features a variety of popcorn products for sale to the public. Owner and Chief Executive Officer Carl Freundl and his wife Carol founded Valley Popcorn in 1992 with six poppers in their small home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The business moved to its current plant in Neenah, Wisconsin in 1996. Customers include retailers and grocery store chains in Wisconsin and a large swath of the country.

The WMEP has the historical knowledge and understood that the commitment was a critical component for us. We had never dealt with SQF before.

— Steve Klegon, Director of Administration, Human Resources and Quality Assurance

As part of its ongoing plan to retain and expand its market opportunities, Valley Popcorn opted to pursue certification under the Safe Quality Food (SQF) program after inquiries regarding their food safety certification status were received from existing and potential customers. Valley Popcorn engaged the services of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP), part of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP) and the MEP National Network™, to lead it through SQF certification. The certification is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative, retailers and food service providers that demand a stringent, credible food safety management system.

During the certification process, a WMEP consultant with an extensive background in food safety worked side by side with Valley Popcorn management and production personnel to lead the SQF certification process, which took about nine months to complete.


  • $4 million increase in sales as a direct result of SQF certification
  • Focus on expanding distribution from about 25 to all 50 states
  • Established a food safety program that involved all employees of the company

Could your company benefit from assistance with certifications? Connect with your local MEP Center for more information.


The Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP) is the official representative of the MEP National Network in Wisconsin. The MEP National Network is a unique public-private partnership that helps small and medium-sized manufacturers generate business results and thrive in today’s technology-driven economy. The MEP National Network comprises the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the 51 MEP Centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

About the author

Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP)

The Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP) collaborates with the UW Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center (MOC) and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) to help Wisconsin manufacturers grow their businesses and become more profitable. The experienced specialists at the WMEP and MOC offer a broad range of services and programs customized to fit the individual needs and goals of manufacturers. 

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