McNess home products were created in 1908 when Frank E. Furst and Frederick W. McNess founded the Furst-McNess Company in Freeport, Illinois. Their line-up of home and health products were sold through the “McNess Man”, salesmen carrying wares across America by horse and buggy. The “store on wheels” approach later was replaced by automobiles and later saleswomen joined the McNess men to help sell the products.
In 1919, the company built the “Sunlight Laboratory” and took on a 60,000 square foot expansion in 1929.
By the early 1930s, Mrs. Edith Moore was touted for winning over a thousand prizes for her cake baking and taking on the label “The Champion Cake Baker”. She attributed her success to using the McNess vanilla, extracts and other baking products. Later the extracts took on the “Champion” name which still adorns the McNess Champion Madagascar Vanilla Compound to this day.
In the 1940s, Furst-McNess Company developed a new technique for tablet manufacturing for the US army and supplied food tablets for the war effort.
By the late 1950s, the company expanded its line-up to include agricultural vitamins and mineral premixes for the dairy, beef and swine industries. The agricultural division soon became the more prominent part of the company. In 1992 the company acquired Miracle Feeds and expanded internationally.
Breakthroughs in new technologies helped Furst-McNess Company grow exponentially in the first part of the 21st century. Due to this unprecedented growth, Furst-McNess Company ultimately decided to focus entirely on the agricultural product division.
In late 2015, Furst-McNess Company signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Sugar River Trading Company of Belleville, WI to take over the manufacturing and distribution of the McNess home products. The owners of Sugar River Trading had worked with Furst-McNess Company for years prior to this agreement.
“Our relationship with them is what made this business arrangement happen,” said Matt Heinrich, President and CEO of Furst-McNess Company. “Their marketing company has been involved in branding efforts for our company for a number of years, so we know they understand who we are and what our brand means. This trust was absolutely essential in creating this licensing agreement.”
Furst-McNess Company now concentrates on their agricultural products from their offices in Freeport, Illinois. Sugar River Trading Company is working to grow its network of resellers while operating McNessStore.com to reach individuals not serviced by local merchants.
In addition, Sugar River Trading is working to bring back some of the McNess products that have been discontinued over the years. They have already brought back the “Mentholated Ointment” (now called Mentholated Camphor Rub), are testing the Degreaser, and are currently working with various suppliers to bring back the Pudding and Pie Mixes. In addition, some of the more popular Seasonings and Spices are on the docket once the pie mixes are on the market.
In every case, the company is working with the original formulas with the goal of not making any changes to the way it is made. (If a change is made, it would be to make the product better or when the original formula can’t be followed exactly due to availability of ingredients. Changes to the formulas will not be made just to make the product cheaper to produce.)