Story by Sarah Naron
When perusing the selections of pickles and condiments in just about any grocery store in the state of Texas, consumers can be certain that Best Maid will be one of the brands they will see. Characterized by a logo featuring white script outlined in blue and a cartoon little girl wearing a red bow and licking her lips, this brand has been a staple in kitchens across the Lone Star State for nearly a century and is still going strong today.
“We were founded in 1926 in Mansfield by the Dalton family – Mildred and Jesse Dalton,” explained Best Maid Products Director of Marketing Emily Christy. “Mildred was baking meringue pies and would send her kids out to sell them. Obviously, with the meringue, she had a lot of extra egg yolks left over since she was just using the whites.”
Rather than simply disposing of the leftover yolks, Mildred began using them in the creation of homemade mayonnaise. Jesse began selling the product in the one-room grocery store he operated in Fort Worth, and it quickly proved to be a resounding success, prompting the store’s customers to place orders ahead of time via phone to ensure its availability.
“Then, Jesse decided that he wanted to create a sandwich spread, so they started a small pickle patch at their home,” Christy shared. “That grew, and they started canning – because they didn’t waste anything – the additional cucumbers that they got from there. The rest was kind of history.”
Since its modest beginnings as a way for a husband and wife to bring in extra money to provide for their three children, Best Maid Pickles has grown into a business with a wide variety of offerings.
“We have your traditional pickles,” Christy said. “And we offer Fresh Pack, which is a fresh cucumber that is processed and pasteurized in the jar, as well as a processed pickle, which is a preserved pickle that we then flavor in the jar.”
Other items available for purchase are barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, salad dressing, sandwich spread, and Worcestershire sauce.
“The majority of everything that we create is bottled here, on South Riverside Dr. in Ft. Worth,” Christy said. “We grow about 60-70 percent of the cucumbers that we use throughout the year in West Texas.”
While Best Maid products are sold primarily in Texas, portions of other states – such as the southern part of Oklahoma and the western area of Louisiana – offer them as well.
“Slowly, but surely, we’re trying to increase our distribution,” Christy said. “But we kind of always make the analogy that it’s easy for Lay’s in Plano to ship truckloads full of their products, because half of their products are basically full of air and are a lot lighter. But we can only get about half a truckload full of pickles before we reach the maximum weight allowed for freight, and that can kind of add to the cost of pickles.”
Throughout its 94-year existence, major changes to the day-to-day operations of Best Maid Products have been few and far between.
“We still use people to pack our products,” Christy said. “We do have filling machines, where it used to all be filled by hand. Now, we do a hand-topping station. So, in terms of changes, there really isn’t a whole lot.”
The company prides itself on having “maintained the high Dalton standard” even as many years have passed.
“Recipe changes haven’t really happened,” Christy said. “We kind of have always just stuck to a high-quality product. We’re one of the last remaining vertically-integrated pickle companies in the country.”
As for how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the company, Christy reported that all employees have remained healthy and operations have seen slight modifications.
“It’s definitely changed our business model a little bit, because where we were split almost down the middle in terms of retail and food service, we have kind of started to push out more retail items as opposed to our food service,” she explained. “It’s not coming back around now that restaurants and barbecue joints and whatnot are opening back up. It was just a momentary shift.”
The company saw a higher demand than usual for its products in the retail setting as a result of the pandemic, she said.
“I guess pickles are a comfort food to a lot of people,” she said. “We’re used to having big, busy seasons – kind of from the end of Spring Break through Labor Day. But it started, and it just hasn’t slowed down. We’ve definitely just been trying to keep up with the demand. It’s a good problem.”
Christy added that company officials have also been focused on taking extra care of their employees to thank them for their hard work throughout the pandemic.
“We send them home with family dinners once a week so they have a night they don’t have to worry about cooking,” she said.
For more information – including recipes and behind-the-scenes videos – or to purchase products, please visit www.bestmaidpickles.com.