Rocke family reacquires RMH foods

by Bryan Salvage
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MORTON, ILL. – A group of investors led by the Rocke family, founders of RMH Foods LLC, Morton, Ill., have reacquired the business from Smithfield, Va.-based Smithfield Foods.

A processor of co-packed, private-label and branded fully-cooked entrées for retailers, RMH (Rocke’s Meat Haus) Foods now plans “to bring the same focus of innovation and excellence to the fully-cooked foodservice and deli segments of the industry” under its new operational structure, according to a news release.

“Most of the investor group is comprised of local businessmen in the Morton area, but Michael Strauss is one of the key members of the group from our industry,” Jon Rocke, president of the new RMH Foods, told MEATPOULTRY.com. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

From an operational standpoint, there will not be any major changes, Mr. Rocke said of his reacquired company. “We will be expanding our sales efforts to the deli and foodservice segments, which are areas we were working through Smithfield on,” he added. “We also look to expand our co-pack relationships.”

In 2001, Smithfield Foods acquired refrigerated heat-and-eat entrée pioneer RMH Foods while RMH was in the process of building a new processing plant on the west side of town. The following year, the new 55,000 sq. ft. facility opened for business.

“This plant focuses only on refrigerated, fully-cooked entrées primarily for retail (which includes private-label),” said Mr. Rocke, grandson of RMF Foods’ founder J.S. Rocke, at the time the plant opened. When RMH Foods was purchased by Smithfield, other Smithfield-owned businesses were processing entrées at their own plants. Processing for all Smithfield company refrigerated heat-and-eat entrées then shifted to the Morton, Ill. plant after Smithfield acquired RMH Foods.

“We will continue to make all the products we are currently making,” Mr. Rocke told MEATPOULTRY.com. “We are co-packing the Smithfield by Paula Deen entrées and hope to partner with Smithfield to grow those offerings and distribution. Our Milano’s Italian Grille line of Italian entrées continues to grow and bring new consumers to the refrigerated entrée category.”

When asked how his family felt about having the company back in family hands again, Mr. Rocke said: “We are certainly grateful that a good group of investors have come along side the Rocke family to enable us to reacquire the business. I don’t want to diminish the value of our eight-year relationship with Smithfield in any way. They were good people and we learned a great deal from the relationship. In the end, both companies determined it would be best to separate from an ownership perspective. We hope to continue a strong relationship as vendor and customer partners.

“We are excited about the future of being independent,” he continued. “It certainly comes with challenges and risks, but we believe in our products and people and trust we can find our niche in the industry. It’s always difficult to predict the future. We realize that as an independent, we must approach the business differently and we look to build even stronger relationships with our customers and vendors going forward.”

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