Classic Culinary Collection
Photos by Marta Garcia
Powerful linageJohn Morrell brings heritage and history to its pork business.
Founded in England in 1827 with no operating interruptions even during its acquisition history, John Morrell & Co. is the senior citizen among U.S. operating meat manufacturers.
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, the company currently produces more than 3,000 products, operates eight USDA-approved facilities that each specialize in specific product categories, generates approximately $2 billion in annual sales, employs more than 6,700 people across the United States, and offers a wide variety of fresh pork and processed meats including hams, hot dogs, bacon, lunchmeats and smoked sausage.
Joseph Sebring, John Morrell president since 1994, is a proven industry leader with a track record of more than 30 years. The company’s growth is complemented by strategic acquisitions and new marketing initiatives, among other programs.
Smithfield Foods, John Morrell’s parent company, recently acquired the Armour Swift-Eckrich (ASE) division from ConAgra Foods. ASE products are now managed under the John Morrell family of brands.
John Morrell’s deli division, born in 2001, represents an offshoot that promises significant increases to the company’s bottom line (see “Classic culinary collection”).
John Morrell production facilities are fit and efficient, thanks to constant technological updates and plant-modernization programs. The largest facility in Sioux Falls, S.D., built in 1909 and the production site for fresh pork and a full line of processed meats, is being upgraded in a 232,000-square-foot expansion project with a $100 million price tag. Completion is set for October 2007.
The company, whose fresh pork products reach customers in the United States and the international arena, is among America’s largest producers of private-label processed-meat products. John Morrell supplies major U.S. retail chains and foodservice distributors with a broad array of fresh and processed private-label products.
John Morrell products began life under a new logo this year. New products include several precooked and pre-sliced ham cuts in resealable packaging. Premium hardwood smoked bacon now is packaged in a resealable tub.
Smithfield Foods acquired John Morrell & Co. from Chiquita Brands International for $58 million in 1995, a move that vaulted the Virginia-based company to No. 2 among the nation’s pork processors by nearly doubling its size and bringing its sales to more than $3 billion.
Today, Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer with revenues exceeding $11 billion in fiscal 2006. The company raises 14 million hogs domestically each year for a 13 percent U.S. market share, and annually processes 27 million hogs representing 26 percent of the U.S. market. Smithfield, which processes about 2 million cattle annually for a 6 percent market share, also is the fifth-largest U.S. beef processor and a 50-percent partner to Five Rivers Branch Cattle Feeding JV, the U.S. largest cattle feeder.
Independent operating companies such as John Morrell define Smithfield’s operating strategy. The corporation’s decentralized structure allows subsidiary companies to operate under self-government, which means they sometimes compete against each other in the marketplace. Such is the case for the John Morrell deli division, which is one among others operating in sister divisions.
The John Morrell acquisition — which followed Chiquita’s two-and-a-half year struggle to sell the venerable business after 25 years of ownership — also extended Smithfield’s presence in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast to include John Morrell’s longstanding business in the Midwest.
It came amid tough times for the pork industry, which faced high hog prices cutting into profits on processed pork products; but for Smithfield, known for expanding its grasp during down times in the industry, the timing was ideal and the target was ripe for the picking.
Slightly more than a decade later, Pashea’s sales success — especially concerning Kretschmar products — positioned him as the ideal candidate to run John Morrell’s deli division as defined by Joseph Sebring, company president. Sebring perceived the Kretschmar brand as the company’s key to deli category growth linked to national distribution.
Kretschmar primary production operationsGreat Bend, Kan.
Size: 159,000 square feet
Product line: Smoked meats
(ham and bacon)
76.5 million pounds
Employees: 300 production and other staff members
Sioux Falls, S.D.
Size: 2 million square feet
Product line: deli products
(smoked and processed meats)
Production capacity: 320 million pounds
Other operations: hog kill
(18,000 hogs per day) and fabrication
Employees: 3,200 production
and other staff members