The Tinned Food Factory of Zygmunt Rucker: a History of Polish Business Successful Formation
The history of the Tinned Food Factory of Zygmunt Rucker (pol. Fabryka konserw Zygmunta Ruckera) is an example of successful strategies used by a Polish entrepreneur in competition with the "central" Austrian industry in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as in conditions of the centralized national Polish state in the interwar period.
Jan Jerzy Rucker, a well-known Lviv industrialist, belonged to the Lviv Polish establishment from birth. His father, Zygmunt Rucker, the treasurer of the Lviv representation of the National Government and a co-founder of Sports Society "Sokol," died in 1887, leaving his son a pharmacy "Under the Silver Eagle" and a factory of soup concentrates. At that time Jan Ruckery just finished his university studies and was eager to continue the activities of his father in an appropriate way. The young entrepreneur's ambitions, in his own words (Rucker, 1965, 10), encountered the need to overcome the competition with quality products from Austrian and Hungarian producers. In the area of foods and concentrates, as Rucker claims, there was only one way to get ahead of Austrian colleagues: to become a supplier of the imperial army. This, in turn, required a complete modernization of production. A low-interest credit from the Industrial Fund of the Galician Provincial Department helped to perform these tasks. In 1891 a new modern factory, built in the area of the Zhovkivska checkpoint, received the first major order for soup and coffee concentrates from the army. Due to proper product quality Rucker's company obtained the right to use the Austrian state emblem on their products, which was a huge achievement for any contemporary Galician producer. The words of encouragement from the Emperor Franz Joseph, expressed to the company of Rucker at the National Exhibition in 1894, were another sign of success.
In subsequent years, Rucker did everything to get contracts that would enable him to work exclusively on the needs of the army, which was a guarantee of a steady demand at good prices. However, he was outstripped in this case by a Viennese firm. Apart from his factory affairs, the industrialist also conducted an intense activity as a city councilor, a member of various financial and investment alliances that eventually became the basis for the Austrian government to grant him an important title of the Emperor's advisor. Undoubtedly, this contributed to the development of Rucker's business career.
The process of the factory reequipment and modernization continued. In 1912 a new company was opened on the outskirts of Znesinnia (Bohdana Khmelnytskoho street 221-223), and Rucker managed to sign a contract with the army for 30 years. The factory produced meat, vegetable, and fruit preserves. The cultivation of their own primary products was introduced at Zboyishcha, making it possible to control their quality. Among the significant achievements in these years, Rucker mentions a successful contract with Turkey when he was lucky enough to leave behind a respected rival, the German firm "Knorr."
After the war, the company successfully continued its activities. In 1924 Rucker was able to become a participant of the program for supplying the Polish army as nearly 100 percent of orders were given to his factory. Hoping for further orders, the Lviv businessman continued the expansion and modernization of production, bought new machines, built warehouses, introduced the production of his own containers. However, later the company encountered serious problems. The government order was canceled because of lack of funds. Meanwhile, the world market started to face more and more troubles. Rucker's production of canned meat depended on local primary products, and in Eastern Malopolska (Lesser Poland) pigs were fattened in primitive conditions, which affected the quality of meat. Apart from that, in the 1930s the company was endangered by the state. The State Agricultural Bank, which had credited Rucker's factory, was going to create, due to some secret machination, a situation which would allow the nationalization of the company. Only after an appeal to the court and a long trial, Jan Rucker was able to keep the company in his hands in 1938.
In Soviet Lviv the factory lost its importance (perhaps because of the destruction suffered during the war) and became part of the Meat Processing Plant (the former City slaughterhouse) located in the neighborhood.