Organic meat has enjoyed strong sales in the past couple of years, with category-leading sales growth.
“Overall, the organic meat category is up,” said North Country Smokehouse CEO Aaron Corbett. “People value it enough to pay a premium.”
Claremont, N.H.-based North Country Smokehouse entered the organic category 16 years ago, he said, with that business escalating in the past five years.
Corbett said there has been a dramatic shift by consumers toward seeking out humanely raised and organic meat products. He said that consumers interested in healthy lifestyles help power demand for organic meat products, adding that the trend is not going away and also spurs demand for other more healthful options such as sugar-free meat products.
“We have a lot of sugar-free,” he said.
All North Country Smokehouse products are handcrafted, smoked low and slow in small batches without artificial flavors, fillers or dyes, and they are the only marketer of a 6-ounce maple-cured organic ham steak.
“It has our signature smoke all over it,” Corbett said.
Corbett credits North Country Smokehouse’s vertical integration for the company’s success in the face of challenging economic conditions due to rising prices from production all the way to the grocery store.
North Country Smokehouse exclusively sources Certified Humane and organic meat from duBreton, whose network of 400 family farms in Ontario and Quebec supply humanely raised, sustainable meat. The farms are routinely audited by third-party certifiers such as USDA Organic and Certified Humane to ensure animal welfare standards.
“We’re able to have regenerative ag,” Corbett said, which for North Country Smokehouse means taking sustainability beyond production considerations to also include employing a cost-plus formula to ensure their farmers are paid what they deserve. The company’s commitment to sustainability also extends to packaging, marketing products in smaller packs to help reduce food waste.
“Everything we do has sustainability in mind,” he said.
North Country Smokehouse products (including deli meat, bacon, sausage and chicken sausage) are available nationwide, Corbett said, and in the past 18 months North Country Smokehouse has pushed into California. Their meat products are now available at Gelson’s in California and retailers elsewhere in the United States such as Whole Foods, Big Y, Hannaford and Stop N Shop.
“We’re fully national,” Corbett said, adding that their products are sold at around 4,000 locations across the country.
He said that as recently as seven or eight years ago the majority of North Country Smokehouse’s business came from foodservice customers but now sits at around a 50-50 split between foodservice and retail.
North Country Smokehouse started selling meat in 1912, Corbett said, supplying foodservice customers in the hotel and restaurant industries, focusing on products such as bacon, ham and sausage. The company has been in its present form since 1979, when the operation transitioned from producing fresh meat products to being exclusively a smokehouse.