4 generations in the past, Benjamin Lefkofsky began making bitter cream in his East Liberty storage.
Over the many years, the as soon as tiny enterprise turned a family title all through the tri-state space, and BL Bitter Cream is celebrating its 85th anniversary this yr.
The family-owned firm has expanded and diversified with every era. Within the 1950s, BL (quick for Benjamin Lefkofsky) turned its focus towards meals distribution, and the corporate was renamed Alber and Leff Meals Co. — Leff for Lefkofsky and Alber for Elliot Alber, a accomplice who’s not concerned.
Lee Hurwitz, great-grandson of Benjamin Lefkofsky, is the present president. His father, Melvin Hurwitz, preceded him as president. Melvin Hurwitz died in 2008, however his spouse, Roslyn, nonetheless works within the firm workplace when she’s on the town. Earlier than Melvin Hurwitz, the president was Lee Hurwitz’s grandfather, Saul Leff.
Bitter cream and French onion dip have been the most well-liked BL merchandise, however the BL line additionally has branched out into horseradish, ricotta, mustards, tartar sauce, cheese cups and cornmeal mush. The bitter cream continues to be made with the identical components Benjamin Lefkofsky used 85 years in the past: cultured cream and kosher gelatin.
Lee Hurwitz joined the corporate in 1994. He studied communications at Ohio College and labored for KDKA and WLTJ radio stations in promoting and advertising from 1990-93, following sage recommendation to work for another person earlier than coming into the household enterprise.
He now employs 70 folks at a Bridgeville facility, the place the corporate relocated from the North Facet in 2010 in an effort to increase. The corporate routinely provides new manufacturers for distribution. A few of the hottest embody Sabra Hummus, Bare Juice, Glowing Ice, Fage Yogurt and, quickly, Polar Seltzer Water.
“We really feel like Alber and Leff is on the slicing fringe of the meals developments within the grocery shops. For instance, kombucha was not very well-known 5 years in the past, however we now distribute 4 manufacturers of kombucha, and it’s a very quick rising class. We additionally search for up and coming manufacturers to market and develop,” Mr. Hurwitz mentioned.
About 70 p.c of the merchandise Alber and Leff distributes are refrigerated; the opposite 30 p.c are shelf-stable merchandise comparable to IBC Root Beer.
Alber and Leff is a kosher distributor and companions solely with grocery shops. Pittsburgh is the corporate’s most important hub, however it stretches so far as Altoona, Erie, Columbus and Youngstown, each in Ohio, and Morgantown, W.Va. Alber and Leff merchandise are carried in about 300 grocery shops.
Mr. Hurwitz believes BL stays aggressive with nationwide manufacturers comparable to Daisy and Breakstone largely due to Pittsburgh’s robust Japanese European heritage. Gross sales of BL Bitter Cream peak at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter due to conventional vacation recipes that rely closely on bitter cream.
“We promote properly over one million kilos of bitter cream a yr,” he mentioned.
Will there be a fifth-generation president within the household? Mr. Hurwitz has triplet daughters who’re in highschool and have but to determine their profession paths, so that continues to be to be seen.
Rebecca Sodergren: email@example.com; @pgfoodevents.