Gerald B. Shreiber, 74, founded and leads a company that sells nearly $1 billion worth of snack foods a year - soft pretzels, water ice, slushy drinks, and churros.

Just down the hall from his office at the Pennsauken headquarters of J&J Snack Foods Corp., tens of thousands of soft pretzels move from dough to twisted on an aromatic assembly line.

So what's on his desk? A small container of almonds - less than half a cup - carefully doled out by his assistant.

We just interviewed Campbell Soup's CEO last week, and she stressed the growing importance of healthy options in her business. How does that play out in snacks?

We're constantly monitoring what's out there, and keeping an eye on healthy and nutritious, because it appears we're going to have to put more than just a toe in the water, perhaps a foot. However, it has to taste good.

You read a lot about nutritional snacks and we want to play in that. But we don't want to be so pushed into it that we're forgetting what sells.

Those almonds suggest you are watching your health. Any succession plans? You started this company and now you're 74.

A young 74. I'm in good health. I don't want the company just to survive after I'm gone, whenever that would be. I want it to thrive. I have various trusts and successor plans - somebody that's been groomed over the years that would be a qualified and capable candidate for my job.

Is it weird to think about it?

It's less weird than it used to be. I'm older.

You work down the hall from the pretzel factory. Do you love the smell of dough?

No. Not particularly. I like the smell of business, particularly when it's running good and efficiently. I like the sounds of the clicking of machines. I love, love building a business. I love creating jobs. I love making a difference in people's lives.

J&J is sitting on a lot of cash. Any plans for it?

The best use of our cash would be for acquisitions. But we're not going to let it burn a hole in our pockets. By that I mean we're not going to do anything that's going to be transformational.

Explain.

I will never go into the meat slaughtering business. I will never go into making office furniture. It has to be somewhat related.

The U.S. Labor Department has been monitoring companies that use temp agencies and J&J Snacks ended up having to pay back wages to workers brought in by a temp agency. What happened?

We had an agency that suddenly disappeared and we had to fill the holes in a hurry. We thought we did it properly. It turned out something happened and it began an investigation by the Labor Department. We settled it. We've taken steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Why do you love to ride horses so much?

It gives me unbelievable emotional refreshment. I'm on a 1,300-, 1,400-pound animal. Gentle. You could move him with a finger. He trusts me, he really does. I trust him. And it's almost incomparable. I ride with four or five dogs trailing alongside me.

You recently rescued a new horse.

I don't mean this the way it sounds. She was female, a little bit plump, so I haven't ridden her yet.

So what if she's plump? I don't understand.

When I rescued her, I thought she was in foal, pregnant. But she's not.

So, she's just fat.

She's just fat. Don't write that, OK?

Gerry, she's a horse. She's not reading the paper.

I love horses [the way] people love people.

Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

GERALD B. SHREIBER

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Titles: Founder, chief executive, president.

Home: 113-acre farm in Mullica Hill

Family: Significant other: Nina Sciacca; son, Lindsay; daughters, Robyn Shreiber, Marjorie Roshkoff, both J&J execs.

Diplomas: Atlantic City High School, Drexel classes.

At home: Seven dogs, two horses, two burros, all rescue.

Favorite J&J Snack: Soft pretzel, hot off the line.

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J&J SNACK FOODS

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Where: Pennsauken; local factories in Pennsauken, Bellmawr, Bridgeport, N.J., Hatfield; plants, warehouses in U.S., Mexico, Canada.

Products: SuperPretzel, ICEE frozen drinks, Luigi's Real Italian Ice, Tio Pepe and California Churros, Mary B's Biscuit Melts, Funnel Cake Factory Funnel Cakes, Philly Swirl, Daddy Ray's fruit bars, Patio, Minute Maid frozen juice bars.

2015 results: $71.2 million, profits; $976.3 million, sales.

Workers: 5,056 including 1,456 temps. 1,522 local including 499 temps.EndText

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When opportunity bounced on a waterbed, he took it. www.philly.com/jobbing

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