Executive Q&A: Oklahoma City executive savors career with family's food company

Executive Q&A: Robert Clements, executive vice president of Clements Foods Co., talks about his professional and personal life.
by Paula Burkes Modified: October 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: October 13, 2013

Pretty much every weekend, Robert Clements makes pancakes Saturdays and waffles Sundays. When he cooks either, he always uses the syrup made by his family-owned business, Clements Foods Co.

Based in Oklahoma City, the company — which makes preserves, peanut butter, condiments, vinegar and more — was founded by his late grandfather Richard J. Clements and father Richard H. “Dick” Clements in 1953 when they bought an existing enterprise in southwest Oklahoma City.

In 1957, they moved the plant and warehouse to its current location at 6601 N Harvey, where they've expanded to 150,000 square feet on 18 acres. The nearby railroad makes it convenient to receive corn sweeteners, soy bean oil and other raw materials.

Though Clements Foods products are sold under the label Garden Club at most local groceries, 95 percent of its inventory is trucked outside of the state, largely to Texas, said Robert Clements, executive vice president. Some orders are exported to Mexico; others ship out of the Port of Houston to the Middle East.

On the bulk of the products, the manufacturer places private labels for grocery store chains or food distributors. The company makes more than 1,000 different uniquely-labeled products.

Clements Foods is debt-free and has annual revenues of $75 million, Clements said.

The company employs 225, including some 35 who work at a nut roasting and peanut butter manufacturing facility in Lewisville, Texas, which the family bought out of bankruptcy court in 1989, he said.

From his grandfather's old desk, which is now his, Clements, 55, sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: Of course, my dad worked here and my mom was a homemaker to me and my two brothers. My younger brother, Ed, is company president. He manages sales and marketing, while my focus is finance and administration.

My older brother, Richard, is a partner in the local Krispy Kreme franchise and has an interest in a local plastics company. I attended Casady School, which was a great place to be. I was a pretty good student and a piano player. I took lessons from the second through 12th grades but, much to my mother's chagrin, gave up playing. We have a piano in our home that belonged to my wife's grandmother. But if I played it, it wouldn't sound nice.

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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PERSONALLY SPEAKING

Position: Clements Foods Co., executive vice president

Birth date: Sept. 26, 1958

Family: SodyMcCampbell Clements, Nichols Hills councilwoman and wife of 23 years; sons Robert, 22, a senior at Southern Methodist University, and William, 18, a sophomore at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Education: Dartmouth College, bachelor's in economics; Northwestern University, master of business administration

Church home: All Souls Episcopal Church

Civic contributions: President of the downtown Rotary, the Kirkpatrick Foundation Board of Trustees and the Library Endowment Trust; and board member for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and the Regional Food Bank

Dream dinner party guests: Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope. Coincidentally, his father and grandfather were caught in photographs with Hope on the golf courses of the Oklahoma City and Broadmoor country clubs

Just-watched movies: “Gravity” and “Enough Said.”

Favorite recent reads: “1776” by David McCullough and “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

Latest travels: Bangkok in May 2012 as president-elect for Rotary, and this past winter break, to Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Berlin with his family.

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