Chun King Culture

Some months after RJR bought Chun King, I visited the Duluth plant with an Archer packaging salesman.  Our objective was to supply packaging to Chun King.  I was surprised to see that Jeno had started a new company, Jeno’s Pizza Rolls, and was making them in the Chun King plant.

On a visit to the Foods headquarters in New York, I caught a glimpse of Jeno in his office, where he was the company Chairman.  I inquired about the wisdom of not having a non-compete agreement with Jeno – allowing him to open a new company and contract-pack its product in our plants, even while he was the Foods Chairman.  The answer was that his expertise was so valuable to RJR that we would overlook  the situation, and Pizza Rolls didn’t really compete with Chinese Egg Rolls –  justifications that I found hard to swallow.

And Winston-Salem  engineering and manufacturing people were beginning to work with their counterparts at Foods locations.  Al Dickens had been an engineer at Reynolds Tobacco for seven years, where he had been very happy. He transferred to food development in the new Development Center where he sometimes worked with Chun King manufacturing in Duluth.

The people in Duluth, often the case with acquisitions, resented their new parent company. Al would help start  a new product in Duluth, get their production line going, and then return to Winston-Salem. The next day Chun King plant people would call and say that the production line didn’t work. Al Dickens believed it was sabotage.  This left a bitter taste, and he resigned.