The story of Howard Foods
This is a story of ambition, imagination, adventure, and of course, success or there would be no story. Many years ago, an article in the Haverhill Evening Gazette reported: “J. F. Howard has assumed a position in the condiment manufacturing business rivaling that which Henry Ford occupies in the automobile industry.” As with many highly successful people John Howard was an intriguing man.
The Howard story begins with the birth of its founder, John F. Howard, in 1854 in Stowe, Maine. His parents moved to New Hampshire when he was a year old where he lived until 1868. At the age of 14 he left home to make his fortune in the west.
A few years later, minus the fortune, he returned to the East Coast, and settled in the thriving shoe town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. He tried various ventures in the next few years, and in the early 1890s became the proprietor of two hotels, one in Haverhill, and the other in the town of Bradford across the river. He married, and with his wife Margaret, working in the barn behind their house in Bradford, began what was to become Howard Foods. Inspired by the success of his hotel restaurants, and after much experimentation in their kitchen at home, he and his wife devised recipes which were so good that in a short time they were inundated with orders from all over the world. In 1900 the Howard products were awarded the Grand Prix at the International Exhibition in Paris for purity and quality.
John Howard was finally making the fortune he’d been seeking since leaving home and boyhood in 1868.
In December of 1924 John Howard sold the business to Arthur D. Dickson, and the firm incorporated. In May of 1926 Howard Foods was merged with the C.E. Chapin Company, founded in 1872, makers of the then equally famous Mrs. Chapin’s Pickles, Relish and Condiments. The combined corporations were reorganized in the new Howard Foods plant by the river in Haverhill, under the name of Howard Foods. The combined concerns are today probably the oldest in the relish business on the East Coast, and perhaps in the country.
John F. Howard’s most successful business, Howard Foods Inc., was eventually sold and moved successively to Methuen and Woburn, both in Massachusetts, and then to Manchester, New Hampshire. It has been owned variously by ERE Industries Inc., John Labatt Limited of Canada, and Campbell Soup Company (Canada).
In 1990 Howard Foods was purchased by its present owners, and the sales office moved to Danvers, Massachusetts, not far from Haverhill. The Administrative offices and manufacturing plant were moved to New Hampshire. The basic relish recipes have never been changed There are still a few old customers who were children when the Howard products were sold from a wheelbarrow by Mr. Howard himself, who claim that they taste as good now as they did then. Which is why Howard Food customers have been loyal for over 120 years.
Howard’s condiments include: Sweet Pepper relish, Hot Pepper relish, Green Tomato Piccalilli; Ham Glaze; and Garlic and Onion Juices used for seasoning. Lemon and Lime Juice were added to the product line in 2015 and have been an instant success.
All of the Howard products packaging has undergone a face-lift, but the products inside the new packaging haven’t changed. The Sweet Pepper Relish is #1 in America, and all the others have maintained their old-fashioned, homemade taste!