Slideshow: The meat industry's Sweet 15

by Kimberlie Clyma
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Click image for slideshow of the top 15 meat and poultry companies.

KANSAS CITY — Annual sales for the top-100 processors in the meat and poultry industry total more than $229.4 billion, according to MEAT+POULTRY magazine.

Sixty-six percent of the sales come from the top-10 companies (the combined sales figures equal $152.8 billion). The Top 25 companies’ sales total $190.6 billion (that’s 83 percent of the total sales of the top 100); and the top 50 companies make up 93 percent of the top-100 sales numbers (totaling $214.4 billion).

Companies featured in this year’s top-100 ranking range from just more than $37.6 billion in annual sales at the top of the list (Tyson Foods Inc.) down to $185 million in sales. The Top 10 spots in the 2015 ranking were occupied by nine of the same 10 companies as 2014, with most staying in the same ranking positions regardless of sales increases during the year.

Big companies keep growing larger. This was illustrated in 2014 with Tyson Foods’ acquisition in June of Hillshire Brands Co., which held the No. 12 spot in last year’s ranking. The $8.55 billion purchase of Hillshire moves Tyson from being primarily a processor of fresh meat and poultry products to becoming a diverse food company with a strong portfolio of iconic processed, value-added brands, now including Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and Aidells. The acquisition also will help lift Tyson’s margins in the prepared-foods segment. Prepared foods currently accounts for 9 percent of Tyson’s revenue and 5 percent of operating income. Including Hillshire’s operations, it will account for 19 percent of revenue and 20 percent of operating income.

“We have a unique opportunity to transform an important segment of our business and position Tyson to meet American consumers’ growing demand for protein at breakfast and throughout the day,” said Donnie Smith, president and chief executive officer of Tyson, on July 2, 2014.

At Barclays Back-to-School Consumer Conference last September, Tyson Foods’ executive vice-president and chief financial officer Dennis Leatherby said, “We’re staying focused on our strategy. We’re going to leverage our iconic brands and No.-1 market share positions to grow the Prepared Foods segment, and we’ve hit the ground running to capture synergies. If we do all these things well, the result will be reduced volatility and expanded operating margins.”

Despite the peaks, valleys and unknowns of each year’s business and commodities cycles, the top 100 meat and poultry companies managed not only to stay on the rails but surge forward, thanks to proven business strategies, talented managing executives, top-notch team members throughout the ranks and, of course, extraordinary product offerings. 

Read the full list of the leading companies in the animal protein segment.

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