Niman Ranch’s good steward

by Bernard Shire
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Trip
Jeff Tripician brings a wealth of industry experience to his leadership role at Niman Ranch.
 
When Niman Ranch was started in the early 1970s, it was pretty much a regional operation. It was started by Bill Niman as an 11-acre family-owned cattle ranch in Bolinas, a small California coastal town just north of San Francisco. Back then, the cattle were raised using traditional methods, with all-natural feeds. The burgers and steaks from Niman’s became favorites in local grocery stores and popular restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area.

Twenty years later, in the mid-1990s, the operation expanded to raising hogs as well, when Niman met Paul Willis, a farmer from Thornton, Iowa. He was revitalizing sustainable hog-farming methods in the Midwest, moving away from traditional and common industrial practices. The two shared a dedication to animal welfare and stewardship of the land, so Niman Ranch began expanding to offer a variety of proteins.

Today, the company is led by Jeff Tripician, its general manager, and although operated independently, is owned by Perdue Farms. “I’m one of 11 general managers in companies owned by Perdue,” Tripician says. “I’m the head of the company. If we were a stand-alone, my title would be CEO and president,” he says.

Building of experience

 

Tripician has a diverse background in the industry. After he graduated from college, he began what’s turned out to be 29 years of consumer marketing and branding experience within the food industry. And he has 17 years of experience in the meat industry.

Like some others in the meat industry, he started his brand management career at Procter & Gamble, and then worked in the meat industry as a product manager at Sara Lee Meat Group. “I moved to the dairy industry to be a director of marketing for Borden Dairy in Ohio, and then went to a trade association. I became the vice president of marketing for the International Dairy Foods Association.”

Tripician then became famous for a marketing coup in the food industry. He led the development of the Milk Mustache Campaign, a public relations triumph that revolutionized the dairy industry for the positive, and is still used in the industry today.

He also served as chief marketing officer for Frontier Natural Products, and president and owner of the brand strategy consulting agency TM Branding. He also served as chief marketing officer for Coleman Natural Meats. And while he was at Coleman, he built the first natural multi-platform business program.

Tripician knows two things very well – how to sell and how to grow a business exponentially. Years ago, he also sensed the increasing interest by Americans concerning what’s in their foods, and their interest in organic and natural foods. In fact, right now he’s working to complete his Master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture.

All this seemed a natural partnership for Tripician and Niman Ranch, which was already doing business in the natural segment and moving further into it at a steady pace. So, 11 years ago, Tripician joined Niman Ranch, and has been the steward of growing the company from a regional marketing presence to a national industry-leading brand. He’s doing this by expanding distribution channels and expanding the geography of the company. Since 2006, the company has more than tripled in size, while also building profitability at an accelerating pace.

“In 2006, I was part of a management team working with a private equity group to buy the company from Bill Niman. I was CEO of the company. We sold the company two years ago to Perdue. Nothing in the company has been changed by Perdue. They add a sense of surety. They added HR, IT, things like that. The private equity group cashed out. But the management team, including me, is still here. The only thing that changed is my title. There are no people from Perdue here.”

While the company is headquartered in Alameda, California, Tripician lives in Boulder, Colorado, so he can be with his family. Niman Ranch works with more than 729 farmers growing the animals for the company.

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