Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Hot Pockets, a cool Colorado invention, is moving out of state

Denver has long proclaimed itself the home of the cheeseburger, and even has a monument to that invention on Speer Boulevard -- though several other cities have tried to claim the burger-king crown.

But we were also the undisputed home of the Hot Pocket, which brothers David and Paul Merage invented in the late '70s, creating a frozen-food empire, Chef America, out of the red-hot Hot Pockets product they started selling in 1983. Now, however, comes news that Nestle, which bought the company in 2002 for a reported $2.6 billion, is moving Hot Pockets headquarters out of Colorado.

Here's yesterday's release from Nestle:

Nestle Prepared Foods Company, a division of Nestle USA, is relocating its HOT POCKETS® and LEAN POCKETS® brand frozen sandwich and snacks business team from Englewood, Colorado to its headquarters location in Solon, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. Frank Higgins, President and CEO of Nestle Prepared Foods, made the announcement this morning from Colorado. "We believe the opportunities for shared learning and continued progress -- both for our employees and our business -- are greater with all our teams working together," noted Higgins.

Acquired by Nestle from Chef America in 2002, the HOT POCKETS and LEAN POCKETS brands helped define convenient, delicious and affordable American fare in what is now a $2 billion category of frozen sandwiches and snacks. With Nestle's product development and marketing expertise, the well-known brands have been extended to breakfast, lunch, dinner and anytime snacking. Over 80 varieties are available nationwide in U.S. grocer's freezers. The products are also sold in Canada, Mexico and Brazil and in France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom under the Nestle-owned MAGGI® brand name.

In Solon, the HOT POCKETS and LEAN POCKETS business will join a family of well-known food brands including STOUFFER'S® and LEAN CUISINE® frozen meals; BUITONI® refrigerated pastas and sauces; NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® baking ingredients and refrigerated cookie dough; LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin and the NESTLE® CARNATION® Milks....

But it's not all yummy cookie-dough news. Nestle acknowledges that some Hot Pockets positions will be eliminated, while others will move from Colorado to Ohio.

"We've encouraged the Englewood team to travel to Cleveland and explore the housing and recreational opportunities in the region before making their decisions. I moved my family here about a year ago, and we are pleased to have found great quality of life -- a wonderful home, great schools and an easy commute," Higgins says in the Nestle statement.

While Colorado is losing jobs, a corporate headquarters and its Hot Pockets claim to fame, at least the invention has left a warm legacy in Denver. David Merage's wife, Laura, is the founder of RedLine, a hot pocket of culture downtown.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun