There have been several associations over the years starting in the Mid 1970’s when Pepperidge Farm changed the contract from Yellow to Green for incoming distributors. The new color contract included several contractual changes. Many distributors were upset about these changes and started forming associations to combat this, but logistical and financial constraints lead to their demise.
In 1988, the contracts were changed from Green to Blue with more contractual changes for incoming distributors. In addition, purchasing handheld computers and Club store deliveries were other hot issues. Again several associations started to change Pepperidge Farm policy.
In 1987, three associations from NY, NJ, and California amalgamated to form the current Pepperidge Farm Owners Association (POA) and held the first national meeting at Maxim in Las Vegas, NV. in May 1988. Walter Mack was elected president. The association fought for commissions on Price Club stores along with other distributor concerns, including franchise rights.
Shortly after the first meeting, the association president, Walter Mack, was disenfranchised by Pepperidge Farm for alleged service issues. Mr. Mack took personal legal action against the company because he felt that this was Pepperidge’s Farm attempt to break the Association and to make an example of him. Mr. Mack won his termination suit and was awarded $1,200,000. Shortly after, Pepperidge Farm Distributors were allowed to service club store accounts.
Annual meetings were held in Las Vegas in 1989 and 1990 and in 1991 the annual meeting was moved to Orlando, Florida.
The 1992 annual meeting was back in Las Vegas and this time to stay. The 1992 & 1993 meetings were held at the Sam Remo and were visited by Dominic Sidari– Pepp. Farm Vice President of Sales.
In 1997 Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut hosted the 2nd attempt for an East Coast Meeting. Due to cost restraints and the lack of volunteers, East Coast meetings at larger venues were eliminated.
During the 1990’s President Bill Kovaly ran the association with little support and announced his resignation as president at the 2000 annual meeting. During 2000-2002 the association reorganized and in 2003 POA had a new look. Officers, Board of Directors, and committees were established. Steve Prager was elected president for a two year term.
Pepperidge Farm also changed during this time frame as well. Gone were the employees who had positive dealings with the association. They were replaced with new employees who viewed the association negatively.
In 2003, current legal counsel, J. Michael Dady attended the Annual meeting and spent one year researching and establishing POA positions. In 2004, Mr. Dady contacted Pepperidge Farm with the Associations positions on certain Pepperidge Farm policy. After one year of conversations and exchanging written complaints, Pepperidge Farm stated POA’s positions were invalid and ended any further talks. Pepperidge Farm’s response led to a unanimous vote at the 2005 annual meeting to file legal action against the company. Knowing that this was going to take several years and a large bankroll to support, the association decided to take the annual meeting on the road. In a period of 6 months the association held 10 ‘road show meetings’ for recruitment purposes. These shows have been very successful in growing the association.
2006 and 2007 were years that the association was in court (Illinois) litigating our claims. Pepperidge Farm was successful in a procedural ruling that denies the Pepperidge Farm Owners Association of litigating on behalf of its members. The judge ruled that while our claims are valid, the association does not have the ability to bring forth the suit. It has to be done by individual distributors.
So in late 2007, seven POA members starting their own lawsuit with the financial backing of the association. This is a federal case that was filed in the state of Minnesota. This lawsuit addresses all the allegations made in the previous court filing by the association
In March 2008, a Federal Judge set the timeline for the court case to be heard. A settlement was reached with the seven defendants and the case was closed.
In 2012 the association was asked to help finance a legal issue concerning the convenience availability issue. We supported the distributors and the case was settled with distributors getting back the ability to service the accounts that were taken away by the company.
In 2015 we are now facing an attempt by the company to reduce commissions paid to distributors for deliveries to accounts under what the company is calling a test. We will face this as we have in other attempts to decrease the value of our businesses.
Current POA membership includes approximately 700 routes doing $5,000,000 per week