Editor-in-chief Andy Hanacek sat down with Tom Day of Hormel Foods to discuss the company’s plans for its 125th anniversary. This is the first of a series of video Q&As throughout 2016 with Hormel employees, executives and stakeholders on the milestone and celebration.
Andy Hanacek: So Tom, thanks for joining me in this video Q&A here. We’ve got Hormel’s 125th Anniversary coming up in 2016. That’s a big deal, obviously for any company but especially for the meat industry in particular with consolidation over the many decades, so congratulations on that accomplishment. I’m sitting with you because you are a particularly important person when it comes to this year. [You are] the Chairman of the Events Committee for the 125th Anniversary. Obviously, Hormel has got some things in the works. Can you shed some light on what Hormel is going to be doing in 2016 and leading up to 2016 to celebrate this?
Tom Day: Thank you very much. First of all, it’s a privilege to be here. We have a number of things going on, and clearly our CEO Mr. [Jeffrey] Ettinger knew the historical importance of this type of milestone for our company, so we assembled a group of employees approximately five or six months ago to say what do we want to do for this particular activity that is coming up. So we are going to have a full week that is planned at the end of July 2016, and it really has to do with the idea ‘how do we honor the past, but more importantly, [how do we] talk about the bright future that we within the company going forward.’ So there’ll be community events. We’re actually going to be opening up our new Spam Museum that will be here in Austin, Minn. We’ll have other community events. We’re going to have things at the local plant that will show appreciation for our workers and the people that do their job over there that will include their families. We will also be having a national sales meeting where we will be bringing a lot of our sales people that will be coming into town. Then, on Friday, we’re going to have a community event where we will literally shut down downtown Austin and have people in town to celebrate and really recognize the historical significance of what Mr. Hormel started back in 1891 and the important responsibility that we all have as employees as we move into the next decade.
Hanacek: That’s great. I would be remiss to not mention you’ve been with the company for 35 years coming up in January, so you’ve got a unique perspective. Although at Hormel, I guess it isn’t really unique, because there are a lot of long term employees, but from your position having been with the company for so long, what does the 125th anniversary mean to you? What has you most excited about being able to celebrate this having been with the company as long as you have?
Day: It’s been an honor for me to basically be here for 100th anniversary as well as now the 125th [anniversary], so as I look back, I’ll say the company that I started with in 1981, it’s a better company today than it was in 1981 and I think that part of it is great. But I look at the cultural beliefs of our company in regards to the idea that results matter and how important it is for each employee across the company to take ownership. I look at the idea in regards to building bridges. I look at the idea of how we have established a network where we literally work together, we are obviously involved in regards to evenings together as to different activities here in the community, and then many times we find ourselves in church together on Sundays. So it really is a unique culture that has helped to build it, and as I look back and reflect on the 125 years the company has been around, the importance of passing that baton on to the next generation of employees that are coming forward to hallmark not only where we’ve been but really the future of this company that is brighter today than it’s ever been. Recent acquisitions like Applegate are clearly speaking to the future. Skippy, Muscle Milk and some of the other activities we’ve been involved in [are other examples]. It’s an exciting time to be at Hormel Foods, and I look forward to seeing what the next few years will bring.
Hanacek: That innovative culture has always been what Hormel has been about. The acquisitions get to that, because you are acquiring companies that are going to further the brand. What do you think has been among the best steps you’ve seen in 35 years that this company has taken? I’m sure this puts you a bit on the spot since there are a lot of things have changed in 35 years, but what do you think has really propelled the company forward in that short time?
Day: I do think it’s the idea of the support the company has given not only to our R&D facilities in regards to innovation but also the spirit of letting our employees be entrepreneurs, [the idea] that it’s OK to take strategic risks from a standpoint and bring those forward. It’s OK to speak up and when you see things that you may not agree on, we have a forum that allows people to do that, and I think it’s that type of spirit that we need to have even more of as we go forward. Certainly the young employees that are building our company and joining us today, that’s what they are looking for in a long-term employer, and I hope that what will happen in the future is that we will see those employees engage and be a part of this, so that they are sitting here at 150 [years] from a standpoint being able to talk about how rich the future of the company is.