Few companies can claim to have a 59-year-old profit-sharing plan - and fewer can claim to have descendants of the company's original 12 founders among today's shareholders.
Mt. Olive Pickle Co., located at the corner of Cucumber and Vine in Mount Olive, N.C., started its profit-sharing plan in 1943 when there were fewer than 200 such plans in the United States. The company wanted to tie its employees closely to the company, and ownership has "given people a real interest in the welfare of the company," said Bill Bryan, president.
The plan has $22 million in assets and has become a 401(k) plan with a profit-sharing feature, Mr. Bryan said. It offers 10 mutual fund options through a supermarket offered by First Union Capital Markets, Raleigh, N.C. The company has a 100% cash match on employee contributions up to 4% of salary.
During profitable years employees also receive shares of stock (the company is privately held) worth up to 6% of salary.
While employees have direction over investments in the 401(k) plan, a management committee invests the profit-sharing trust. The company stock portion of the trust is limited to between 10% and 15% of the total pool in order to diversify the assets, Mr. Bryan said. The remainder is invested in mutual funds from First Union. Stock occasionally is repurchased to keep the plan's asset allocation in balance, Mr. Bryan said.
Part of the 75-year-old company's longevity is due to its fairly recession-proof products: People need to eat, even during a recession, and "pickles add zest and flavor to meals," Mr. Bryan said.
With 500 regular and 300 seasonal employees, the company has a strong presence in town. It co-hosts an annual pickle festival every April and a New Year's Eve Pickle Drop, in which a 4-foot plastic pickle is dropped into a vintage redwood pickle tank and food (not all jars of pickles) is collected for charity.