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David Bulgarelli, Vice President of Sales, General Manager of Rantoul Foods, discusses how the customer’s needs and the market has shaped the growth of their business.

Andy Hanacek: Talk about how the customers have supported you and really allowed you to grow in the way you have.

David Bulgarelli: The customer for us has always been number one. They push us into having more needs for the product. So they actually encouraged us through their orders and demand for us to grow vertically. We took this plant and we grew it to be what they wanted. We didn’t look at it through our eyes. We always looked at it through their eyes. What would make the product better? What would make it taste better? What makes it visually better? How does the customer see our product and the packaging? The freshness, the delivery, all those things are important. We realized from day one that the customer pays for everything, so if he pays for everything, why don’t we make it the way he wants it, and that’s what we do. It’s very important to us that the customer is happy with what they get.

Hanacek: And that’s reflected in your product mix and some of the things that you’ve done out on the plant floor. We toured the plant, and thank you for that tour. It was very cool to go through. There were some cool areas where I know you were telling me “we did this based on a customer’s need” or “we did this based on what the market is dictating” not because we thought it was the thing to do. Are there any examples you can share of that in action?

Bulgarelli: We had a wonderful customer that had a bunch of products that were getting sourced from another vendor, and we couldn’t get into that. Their supplier then told them that they didn’t want to make them anymore and gave them almost no notice. They came to us and asked can you make this order. Can you make this for us? And we said, “Well, let me see!” So we went about figuring out that yes, we can do it. We always want to be the place that people can go to to get the yes. We took these products, and we said yes we can do it. We can run the electricity over there. We can get the vacuum machine over there. We can do this. We can do that. They said, “How long is it going to take you?” They were expecting six months. We said maybe two or three weeks. It took us three weeks to do it, and we made the product that they wanted and rewarded us with products that we wanted to sell too, so it is kind of a give and take. We help them, and they help us. That’s a partnership. We want our customers to be our partners.

Hanacek: Perfect. One of the biggest things you’ve got going on right now, and hopefully I will come back in the fall to see it done.

Bulgarelli: You are welcome any time!

Hanacek: I appreciate that, and I definitely got reasons to come out here, but one of the biggest ones right now is the rendering facility. That is also something that is customer-driven on its foundational level, right?

Bulgarelli: Absolutely, we’re excited to be starting our own rendering facility. We have the right amount of materials. It all porcine. We are in it two feet, but it’s really to help the total value of that animal so that each animal can be worth as much as they can. If we can vertically integrate and it makes sense for us and our customers who will buy the product, we might be able to pay the farmers more for their animals. Our break evens help the bottom line. It’s a good thing, and we embrace those opportunities. They keep coming faster than we can build them.