In 1968, Ed and Mary Lorentz took over the Bremer Brothers Locker and started Lorentz Processing & Locker Plant in Cannon Falls, Minn. In the ensuing 50 years, the company has changed business models, added a facility in another state and been passed onto the next generation. The company has become a major success story in the local and niche meat industry.
“Overall it’s a good time to be in the processing business,” says Mike Lorentz, who owns the business along with his brother, Rob. “I feel there are many small processors that are thriving. People are interested in the story behind their food, and we as small processors can facilitate these stories.”
For the first three decades, Ed and Mary with their sons served the Cannon Falls community as a local processor and locker. The locker business grew through the 70’s, hitting its peak by the end of that decade. It was a good peak for the small locker at about one million pounds of product per year; however, farming fell out during the early 80’s and Lorentz Meats had to adapt to that. They added a hot and cold deli and became one of the most loved destinations in Cannon Falls. They gave folks traditional blue collar recipes, large portions and a deck out front to enjoy their lunch. They also added catering to their list of services, serving area celebrations.
The sons Rob and Mike purchased the business from Ed and Mary in 1998. Having recently developed a program and guide to help farmers brand their product, the brothers have recognized an opportunity to change the direction of Lorentz. They shifted the focus back to making meat and sought niche meat producers and farmers as customers. They built a facility just outside of Cannon Falls in 2000 for processing only, and the company eventually sold its deli and phased out its branded products to just small, limited-run products. More than 99 percent of the company’s products today are private label, Lorentz says.
“The best opportunity for small food companies are linked to being authentic to the people involved in them,” he explains. “Rob and I like working with people and helping them build their business. For us co-packing is our best opportunity.”
Since opening, the Cannon Falls facility has expanded to 30,000 square feet, and Lorentz Meats partnered to open a sister facility in Vermont. Today Lorentz Meats, with its second facility Vermont Packinghouse, employs over 200 people and produces close to 20 million pounds of product per year. Despite its size, the company still favors its small, niche meat producers.
Lorentz says that the company will continue to look for partners to grow its business, both in Minnesota and in Vermont. “We also have an eye out for the next region we can build a processing plant,” he adds. “Our mission is to support farmers and leaders in the niche meat industry with knowledge and experience in a transparent environment focused on industry growth and sustainability.”