Success and Safe Water

Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wendell Christoff (BBA '68, Food Marketing) is owner and vice chairman of Litehouse Foods, a successful dressing company in the Grand Rapids area that boasts no preservatives, no MSG, nothing artificial, and made with 100% Canola oil. Successful, and healthy.

Due to consolidation of the Industry, there are currently only 48 companies in the Association of Dressings and Sauces. Litehouse is one of the 15 largest in that group and one of only four major producers of ‘fresh’ (on non-refrigerated) salad dressing, coming in behind Marie’s at no.1 and Marzetti at no.2. (More information on Litehouse Foods is posted below).

But Christoff's business success should not overshadow his humanitarian efforts. He is a recipient of the Rotary International award, a very rare and prestigious award that honors non-profit service. Christoff and his wife Helen were recently named by the Board of Trustees of the Rotary Foundation to membership in the Arch C. Klumph Society. Only 300 Rotarians worldwide are invited to membership in the Rotary Foundation's Arch C. Klumph Society, and it is offered to only those who have made a significant contribution to the Rotary Foundation endowment.

Christoff started a non-profit organization called Safewater Team, which makes Hydraid BioSand water filters. The filters do not require electricity, are portable, and can fit inside a home—making them the perfect solution for those who do not have access to clean drinking water (which is about half of the world's population). 10,000 of these filters were donated by safewater team and sent to Haiti and the Dominican Republic after the earthquake.

Additionally, Litehouse Foods donated $40,000 of salad dressing product with 100% of the proceeds from the sale of product being used to implement Hydraid BioSand Water Filters in Honduras, Ghana, and the Dominican Republic. The promotion and distribution initiative was lead by Rotary District 6290's ‘Thirsting to Serve’.

Wendell Christoff started his lifelong career in the salad dressing business capping French dressing bottles in his family’s business. Following school, he flew in Vietnam as a U.S. Air Force pilot. Christoff has been very active in many community organizations aside from the Lowell Rotary Club and Rotary International, including: Junior Achievement, YMCA, United Way, and Ada Bible Church. He currently is Vice Chairman of the Association of Dressings and Sauces and Chairman of the Horseradish Information Council.

To learn more, please follow the links below:





The Story of Litehouse Foods

Litehouse Foods grew from a small mom-and-pop operation that made French Dressing, established in 1932. Christoff’s father was the first employee, and Wendell was the second—responsible for filling the bottles. The company, then known as Shurich, was purchased by the Christoff’s in 1951. The company later began producing horseradish under the name Chadalee Farms, and became well known for it.

The company had only five employees when Christoff returned from Vietnam in 1974. As he grew through the ranks, the entire operation became known as Chadalee Farms. Christoff was responsible for six acquisitions in the 70’s, and the company expanded into other states. In 1986, a year after Christoff was named CEO, he and his brother purchased the business from their parents.

In 1997, the company merged with another family-owned business known as Litehouse Foods in Idaho, and began operating under that name.  Since that time, Christoff has further expanded in Asia, where the company produces seafood sauces. Christoff now makes 2-3 extended business trips to Asia each year.

Today, Litehouse Foods produces dressings, dips and sauces, cider, and sells imported freeze-dried spices—totaling more than 800 or more separate items. They posted revenue of $175 million last year.