David Wilhoit, 53, Vice President of Sales
If you catch the scent of fresh-baked cookies while rolling off the US 85 Exit 220, you have not detected a nearby bakery.
You’re inhaling the scent of vanilla – one of the most popular flavors created by one Greensboro’s most under-the-radar but far-reaching manufacturing facilities, Mother Murphy’s Laboratories.
“A lot of people in Greensboro don’t even know who we are,” said David Wilhoit, vice president of sales for the 77-year-old, family-run business that ships its food flavorings to over 30 countries worldwide.
David is effusive about their products, the company and the family behind it. “I feel so proud to be a part of this organization,” he says.
David grew up in Greensboro, in a big, Baptist family. David put himself through college, completing his BS degree in business management and economics at UNC-Greensboro.
His junior year he took a job at a Buy Rite Grocery store. When he graduated, decided to go into the food business full-time, like his older brother. He went to work for Hunt Wesson Foods.
“I have been a foodie my whole life,” David says. “It was a great seven-year apprenticeship for me.”
Based in South Carolina, he sold national brand goods like VanCamp’s Beanie Weenies to grocery stores. He found that he loved being around people, making sales a good fit.
He eventually moved back to the Triad and worked for Alamance Foods, which makes the frozen Fun Pops in the red mesh bag and Classic Cream aerosol whipped cream, among other items. If you’ve bought Fun Pops from grocery stores across the U.S., you can thank David for it.
“If you go to a Cracker Barrel today, and you get whipped cream on your pancakes, it’s their Classic Cream…My legacy still lives on. When my kids were small we would go through the grocery store and say, ‘Look, Daddy sold that to Harris Teeter.’”
He first met David Murphy, former president of Mother Murphy’s, while working this job. The company supplied Alamance Foods with flavors, and the two developed a friendship.
When management changed at Alamance Foods and David decided to leave, the first call he made was to Mr. Murphy. But Murphy was firm: he didn’t hire staff away from his customers.
“That one decision gave me the complete respect of his ethics of a family-run business,” David said.
He ended up at Golding Farms Food. A few years later, in 2008, David randomly ran into Mr. Murphy at Olive Garden. Murphy asked him to call him the next day. Mother Murphy’s was in the 11th hour of a hiring process, and David was immediately thrown into the mix.
David became the company’s first sales manager, employee #72. “Here I am today. It’s been a wonderful ride,” David says. “I think I have found my true home in my professional career because I love what I do.”
Mother Murphy’s uses more than 6,000 ingredients from around the world to make all types of flavorings for a variety of industries. Under a highly-regulated process, their five trained senior flavor chemists create emulsions, extracts, liquid, powder and spray dried flavors in the Greensboro facility, located just off the highway.
“Think about all the culinary trends and/or the beverage trends of every culture around the world,” David says. “We create new flavors every day to meet up with the trends and demands of our consumers.” There is a research and development component, as well as experts who evaluate each flavor for sensory components and staff who ensure proper quality controls. Mother Murphy’s offers to their customers on-site availability to work with our chemists in the development of their products.
David learned the hard way that sampling must be done in moderation – something he can laugh about now. You have probably consumed food & beverage products that contain Mother Murphy’s flavors.
“Every flavor house has its own unique characteristics and strengths. We are well known in the baking industry. We are notorious for vanillas, butters, & maples,” David says. “We probably have 1,500 liquid vanillas and hundreds of powder or spray dried vanillas.”
You will also find their flavors in smoothies, coffees, protein shakes, lollipops, doughnuts, nutrition bars, distilled spirits, seltzers, jelly beans, and even deer feed. Once, they even developed some unique flavors for a confectionary item marketed by the Harry Potter movie.
Fifteen years into his post, David now has a sales and customer service team working along with him. He has a hand in many parts of the business, from marketing to procurement to representing the business in its community, Rotary Club and charity work.
David misses working with Mr. Murphy, who passed away a year ago. But he is proud to be a part of the legacy and culture created by the Murphy family at this business. Mother Murphy’s is going through some strategic decisions by recently hiring a CEO from outside the organization. “We are proud to bring on board Mr. Scott Nadison with over 30 years of experience in the flavor industry. The future looks flavorful” as we are poised to continue the growth at MML.”
“This company has striven to treat its customers as friends and its employees as family, and when you have affirmation of that it makes you smile. It makes you think you are doing something right,” he says.