Jensen Meat Co begins new era

by Bryan Salvage
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – I first toured Jensen Meat Co.’s impressive grinding plant in Vista, Calif., in the early 1990s. The always-affable CEO Bob Jensen, son of company founder Reggie Jensen, provided me with a personal tour of his first-rate facility. Bob was very proud of that operation, its cutting-edge technology, all of his employees and the industry, in general.

We were practically neighbors for one year (1991-1992) before my first visit as I lived in nearby Oceanside, Calif., and was a freelance writer at the time. I had the pleasure of visiting Jensen’s Vista facility again in the-1990s to write another story on his evolving production plant. I first met Bob Jensen years earlier as he often attended the North American Meat Processors Association Management Meeting at the Drake Hotel in Chicago each March — and I regularly covered this meeting. As a result, I ran into Bob over the years at these and other industry meetings as he was active in serving on industry committees.

Much has changed in the more than 20 years since I first visited Jensen’s Vista production facility. In line with his secession plan, Bob sold his successful, growing business in September 2011 to a private-investor group headed by brothers Jeff and Gregg Hamann of El Cajon, Calif.- based Hamann Companies. In October 2013, Bob retired — and as one former co-worker recently told me, “He happily sailed into the sunset.”

The new Jensen Meat Co. is building on past successes under new ownership, new executive management, a new business philosophy and new brand revitalization program — plus its portfolio of high-quality products are now being manufactured in a new processing plant in San Diego near the US-Mexico border.

Jensen Meat Co.’s ongoing success is being driven by members of its new executive management team, many of whom are seasoned Jensen veterans and some of whom were hired and mentored by Bob Jensen himself. Although the last eight years have been turbulent for many businesses in this industry, Jensen Meat Co. was in a building mode and did well — it has seen steady growth during the last eight years. Since 2008, the company has grown anywhere from 11 percent to 15 percent per year.

Few meat-company executives and employees have ever experienced the satisfaction of helping to design a new corporate/production complex from the ground up. But Jensen Meat Co.’s executive management team and some of their employees are among the fortunate few who helped design their new facility that began operating on July 11, 2013 within 81,000 sq. ft. of its new 150,000-sq.-ft. facility in the Otay Mesa Industrial Business Park of San Diego. I had the opportunity to tour this new plant plus interview Jensen’s current executive management team in early March.

This new plant manufactures 250 SKUs of retail and foodservice products. It processes individually quick-frozen (IQF) and fresh patties in different shapes, lean/fat ratios and value-added varieties under both Jensen and private-label brands. Fifty percent of its retail products are under the Jensen label. The company plans to increase its Jensen branded business during the next year. The plant also processes a small percentage of turkey and pork sausage under the Jensen label. Currently, 80 percent of its products are frozen, while 20 percent are fresh/refrigerated. All products are distributed west of the Mississippi and consist of 65 percent retail products, 20 percent food distribution products and 15 percent restaurant products.

Newer, further value-added Jensen brand products include Bacon and Cheddar patties, Jalapeño patties, Swiss and Mushroom patties, Chipotle and Monterey patties. The company now manufactures a lot of different seasoned patties that it didn’t make in the past.

Jensen Meat Co. was successful in the past, and its future looks equally as bright. For more information on the “new” Jensen Meat Co., its new production plant, plans for the future and more, don’t miss the April cover story in Meat&Poultry.

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