Investor Spotlight: Callisons

Thurston EDC: Tell us a little about your company and what you make.

Callisons: Callisons is a family-owned business lead by a fourth-generation member of the Callison family, Jim Burgett.  We employ approximately 250 employees in Thurston and Lewis County.  Our primary focus is mint and flavors, and we explore flavor development and application for confectionary, oral care, and beverage products.  At our Lacey site, we have a 98,500 sq ft concrete warehouse with the capacity to store over 5 million kgs of mint.  In 2019, we opened our R&D Mint Cultivar Greenhouse with over 200 unique mint and flavor-producing plants. Callisons has deep roots in the Pacific Northwest and natural products.  From its start in 1903 as a horse and buggy operation trading in cascara bark, Callisons continues to innovate and thrive by embracing new business opportunities and natural product markets.  Today, Callisons is the leading supplier of mint oils and flavors globally.

We are a vertically integrated mint company and have been innovating and guiding the mint industry since the 1940s to ensure its long-term sustainability and success through grower partnerships, technology and more.  We work directly with the growers throughout harvest and distillation to maximize quality and quantity crop yields, and create more economically and environmentally friendly distillation processes.  In 2020, we purchased 300,000 pounds of mint from Washington growers.  That is approximately 225 Million tubes of toothpaste or approximately 388 Billion sticks of gum!

Thurston EDC: How long have you been headquartered in Thurston County?

Callisons: Chehalis, WA was the site for our original R&D and Production HQ, and today this location maintains a large portion of production capabilities.  In 2004 we moved our sales, R&D, administrative offices, and part of our production to Lacey, WA.

Our sister company, Sherwood Forest Farms, was started over sixty years ago in Centralia, WA.  The production facility is now located in Thurston County. The Callison family had a vision to help not-for-profit organizations attain their fundraising goals through the sale of high-quality Pacific Northwest holiday evergreens.  Although it was not called “sustainability’ in those early days, Sherwood Forest Farms was founded on the principle of doing no harm to the forest through harvesting practices, and this principle is one that is still embraced today by the Callisons family.

Thurston EDC: How did you choose/end up in Thurston County?

Callisons: Callisons purchased the Lacey property in the early 1990s as a long-term opportunity to consolidate our facilities in Seattle and Chehalis bringing our technical, executive, sales, procurement and production teams under one roof.

Thurston EDC: What do you enjoy/like about being located in Thurston County?

Callisons: Callisons has been an integral part of the local community since our founding in 1903. Today we partner and support many local organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters (one of our executives has sat on the board for many years), YMCA and United Way to name just a few. Thurston County is a great place to live and work with its diverse community that has much to offer.

Thurston EDC: What is missing from our region that could make your business more successful or your employees more content?

Callisons: Jackie Rose attended an EDC event last year and offered some feedback: “I feel that it would be beneficial to have access to information, to not only businesses but geared directly towards employees and the local community about the efforts of the EDC.  Prior to attending an EDC meeting and the annual Expo, as an employee, I did not have a clear understanding about what the EDC had to offer the local community.” Continued efforts to manage the traffic congestion, allowing our employee base to live within a reasonable distance from the headquarters and improved connections to colleges and universities to foster internship programs are just a few of the benefits.

Thurston EDC: Do you source anything within your supply chain locally?

Callisons: We source raw materials from within WA state, but not specifically from Thurston County.  We do source products we use in the offices and labs from local companies.  Batdorf and Bronson have been fueling our need for caffeine and keeping us in coffee for over a decade!

Thurston EDC: Are there other companies in our region that utilize your products in their supply chain production?

Callisons: We provide mint and flavors to numerous Washington-based companies in the food and beverage, personal care, and pet food categories.  Alaffia is local, Thurston County based company that utilizes some of our products in their production of personal care products.  With guidance from the Port of Olympia, we were able to create a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) at our Lacey facility to manage the flow of our import shipment.  As a result, the cost savings generated by the FTZ allowed Callisons to compete more efficiently with our foreign-based competitors and increase our export business.  In 2019 $4,016,666 worth of material passed through our FTZ and $3,330,200 in 2020.

Thurston EDC: What shipping conveyance/transportation model do you use to move products out of Thurston County?

Callisons: We use courier, LTL, FTL and Intermodal (truck+rail) to move shipments to our domestic customers out of Thurston County.  We also use Ocean and Air transport to reach our international customers.

Thurston EDC: You are an investor in the Thurston EDC (thank you!) What value do you see in the EDC that leads to your commitment to support our organization?

Callisons: As a business that is by nature inwardly focused, we are interested in continuing to support the EDC to strengthen our connection with the local community. We hire directly from a pool of candidates from Thurston and Pierce county and want to continue to be an organization that people want to come work for. We are interested in continuing to attend the events put on by the EDC and have a broader base of our employees exposed to the opportunities for learning and networking.

Learn more about Callisons here or learn more by watching their YouTube channel. Start with the video below.