History of The Espoma Company


The Espoma Company began production in 1929 with one fertilizer called Espoma Organic. The product was a proprietary blend of natural materials available near the company’s location in Millville, NJ. These ingredients were blended and bagged using shovels, wheelbarrows, scales and the sweat of employees’ backs.

In March of 1946 the company’s production and office building was completely destroyed by fire. Founder Herbert G. Sanders took his wife to New York to clear his mind and decide his path forward. When he returned to Millville, employees and friends had already started the process of clearing rubble to rebuild the business. Inspired by the outpouring of support, Mr. Sanders decided to rebuild and continue the company.


It wasn’t until the late ‘40’s that Mr. Sanders would create the company’s number one selling product – Holly Tone. At the time, The Espoma Company held close ties with the Holly Society of America’s founding fathers Clarence Wolf and Daniel Fenton. With great insight, Mr. Sanders foresaw the need for a new type of fertilizer specifically designed for hollies and other acid loving plants including azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons and evergreens . After testing several formulations with local nurseries, he pioneered the development of the first organically balanced fertilizer formulated to fulfill the requirements for these types of plants. He called it “Holly-tone”. It quickly became and still remains the leading choice by professional and amateur gardeners for feeding acid loving plants.


In 1953, Herbert’s son Dean joined the company and eventually took operational control in 1960.  Dean expanded the product line by creating what’s been termed the ‘Tone Family’.  This family has grown to include premium organic fertilizers such as Plant-tone, Garden-tone, Rose-tone, Bulb-tone, and Bio-tone Starter Plus.  Not only did the product line expand, but the customer base grew as well.  Originally serving the New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. areas, Espoma expanded its distribution throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic area. The manufacturing facility was expanded five times and production began early phases of automation to meet the growing demand.


In 1977, Serge Brunner (Dean’s nephew) joined the company and operational management gradually shifted to him.  Serge continued to expand the company’s product line by offering specialty plant foods and supplements.  Serge was also responsible for computerizing the company, expanding the manufacturing facility 5 more times, and for further automating its production processes.  He expanded distribution of the product line down to the Carolinas and westward to Ohio and Michigan.


In 1997, Jeremy Brunner (Serge’s son) joined the company as General Manager and since that time much of the day to day management has shifted to him.  Jeremy was responsible for redesigning the packaging of Espoma’s products, and expanding the product lines into potting soils, liquid plant foods, and control products.  He has also expanded the distribution of Espoma’s products so that they are now available nationwide.

Today, Espoma is the leading provider of organic fertilizers for the retail lawn and garden industry.  Espoma offers over 70 organic products and manufactures over 50 million pounds of organic fertilizer per year.  This combination of hands on family ownership, quality products, and a dedicated workforce has allowed The Espoma Company to grow for over 90 years.  With this combination the company looks forward to continued growth in the 21st century.