Minnesota-based, family-owned Gold'n Plump Poultry has gone public with new GNP Company name and values framework.

In 2008, Gold'n Plump Poultry began its transformation from a company selling a single brand with the same name as its company (Gold'n Plump the company, Gold'n Plump the brand) to a multi-brand company with the launch of a new, more sustainably minded premium brand of chicken called Just BARE. Then, in 2010, the company added a value brand to its portfolio called Sunny Roost.

"Our purpose in doing so was to serve the needs of a more diverse base of customers and consumers by offering three brands of chicken with distinct attributes," said Michael Helgeson, the company's CEO. "However, consumers will see no change to the logo on the packages of Gold'n Plump-branded products."

All the while, the company was advancing its understanding of socially responsible and sustainable practices — holding true to its past position as a forward-thinking innovator in the poultry industry. And, though the company had always been about being operationally excellent, the social and sustainable insight brought a new perspective and revealed the need for a new way to demonstrate and communicate its value.

"Our value has gone from being about one brand promise to three — which made a new company name a necessity. It also changed from being efficient to survive to being efficient to thrive," explained Helgeson. "And that means balancing the needs of economic progress with those of our people, poultry and planet. Having a dedication to these key areas ensures that we can focus on improvements for the journey beyond now."

Three recent milestones for the company are forging a path for a more sustainable future, including: offering the first U.S. poultry brand to be Carbon Trust certified; completion of a multiyear, $110 million expansion of its fully integrated operation in Arcadia, Wis.; and achievement of Safe Quality Foods 2000 Level 2 certification at all three of its processing plants. 

Consumers shopping for Just BARE® chicken will now see a new carbon footprint reduction logo on every package they purchase.

"This new label indicates our commitment toward reducing our carbon footprint," says Paul Helgeson, the CEO's son and sustainability manager. "Just BARE is the only poultry brand in the U.S. — and one of the first food brands in the U.S. — to achieve this certification and place it on every package label."

In 2010, Paul Helgeson spearheaded a product life cycle assessment (LCA for short) of greenhouse gas inventory in partnership with the World Resources Institute on the company's Just BARE chicken breasts. Greenhouse gas emissions — from production of raw material inputs like feed and bedding straight through to the disposal of packaging and leftovers by consumers — were evaluated to help provide an understanding of the products' environmental impacts and identify environmental improvement goals.

Following that assessment, Helgeson worked with the Carbon Trust to measure each element of Just BARE's carbon footprint, and to certify the brand's commitment to getting better.

According Julie Berling, director of brand advocacy, this accomplishment helps meet the expectations of Just BARE consumers who continue to make sustainability a greater priority in their purchase decisions.

"Just BARE is built on the belief that 'less is more,' and minimizing our impact on the environment and making our chicken and the planet better one step at a time validate that belief," she explained. "Now we're working to establish tangible ways to measure our progress and keep ourselves accountable."

On Tuesday, April 19, the company held an open house at its processing plant in Arcadia, Wis., for area business leaders, legislators and local media. The event was to announce the completion of construction there, which brought to a close a multiyear, nearly $110 million expansion — more than $70 million of which was invested by the company, the remaining $40 million made by its local family farm partners.

The current expansion had followed years of steady improvements that began in 1993, when the company purchased the complex from Arcadia Fryers. Improvements made since then have tripled the plant's production capacity from 320,000 birds per week to 960,000, with a capacity of up to 1,000,000 birds per week during periods of peak demand.

This has made the Arcadia operation a critical force in improving the company's cost structure, competitiveness and ability to serve its growing deli and foodservice businesses.

"This expansion was a tremendous team effort — touching nearly everyone at some point," said Mandy Korpal, Arcadia plant manager. Bill Petz, director of Arcadia operations, agreed, adding that the team member and community support over the years made all the difference.

The company's Arcadia successes and local impact were acknowledged with two distinct honors from Wisconsin public officials on April 19: A proclamation from Governor Scott Walker's office naming Tuesday, April 19, 2011, "Gold'n Plump Poultry Day" and a citation from members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, on behalf of Representative Chris Danou and Senator Kathleen Vinehout.

GNP Company has a long-standing commitment to providing consumers with safe, healthy and wholesome food. As a part of that commitment, the company worked with the Food Marketing Institute to achieve Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 Level 2 certification in 2010. Certification was received late 2010 and announced just last month when the official certificates were received.

To become SQF 2000 Level 2 certified, a company must prove to a third-party examiner that it consistently and successfully implements its Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, including the appointment of an on-site SQF "practitioner" at each production facility, the implementation of comprehensive training programs, and regular and ongoing audits.

The set of standards required for certification is not limited to poultry, but is based on the best food manufacturing practices worldwide. These standards are recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative, an organization that represents over 70% of food retail revenue worldwide.

"This achievement took tremendous effort and emphasis company-wide," said Ann Voigt, food safety systems manager, CQA. "By working collaboratively, we were able to determine how all of our facilities can work together better, to define the best ways of doing things and create consistency from plant to plant — all critical to producing safe quality food."

GNP Company is releasing its 2010 Farm to Fork Report, recapping these and other achievements and learning from the past year. It also provides a look at what the company is focusing on in 2011 around its four key value areas of people, planet, poultry and progress.

"We're striving to provide a transparent view of what we've done and plan to do as a company. It's also a look forward at what issues we see that will challenge us as a company and a nation," said CEO Helgeson. One issue in particular that concerns him: the food for fuel situation.

"We believe the use of food for fuel is a significant, underlying factor to skyrocketing production costs and food inflation — which negatively impacts our industry and, ultimately, consumers," he explained. "As a food company, we do not support the use of food for fuel. Instead, we are proponents of using other non-food sources for fuel." Over the course of 2011, the company will be actively sharing its stance on the food for fuel issue and seeking a workable solution.

Yet, despite the challenge that lies ahead, the CEO sees a bright future.

"I am anticipating great things as we, as a company, become more aware of our social responsibility and how, individually and collectively, we can create lasting positive change," he concluded.

A full version of GNP Company Farm to Fork Report 2010 will be available at gnpcompany.com — the company's new website — beginning April 22, 2011, at noon, Central time.

Source: GNP Co.