FAYETTEVILLE, Ill. – Laughter and light-hearted teasing fill the conference room at the Deli Star Inc. facility in Fayetteville, Illinois, and the family and friends that make up the executive team like it that way. It’s ingrained in the company culture. The members of the Siegel family and friends of the family form a tight-knit group. Everyone at Deli Star whether related or not — one plant employee had been with the company since its beginning 30 years ago — operates as a family.
The unique strategy of how this family owned business was founded and has grown by striking a balance between food science, quality and culture are the focus of a feature in the July issue of MEAT+POULTRY.
Many in the business world believe that hiring friends and family can cause problems, but Justin Siegel, president of the company and son of Dan Siegel, Ph.D., chairman of the board and founder of Deli Star, and Mike Weber, director of operations and Siegel family friend disagree. Deli Star embraces the qualities that come from knowing a person on a deeper level.
“I see way too many soft skills and advantages that come out of that [hiring friends and family],” Justin Siegel says. “Friends will go to bat for you, and we can train them on the hard skills.”
Dan Siegel founded Deli Star in 1987, primarily as a research and development business, and today the company still makes R&D a priority of its growth strategy. Supplying further processors, pre-made sandwich making and production of protein-based salads make up a little more than half (55 percent) of Deli Star’s business. Foodservice or national chains/quick-service restaurants (QSRs) constitute 40 percent of its sales, with the remaining 5 percent being retail based. At one time, the company’s business consisted of 80 percent further processing and 20 percent retail.
Deli Star executives wanted to use its scientific and technical expertise to capitalize on the national chain and QSR segment. Over the years the company has significantly grown its national chain business and cut the retail down to only the St. Louis-based Zia’s Italian Entrees while continuing to maintain strong relationships with its further processors.
The company now offers 85 total SKUs. Fifty-five of them consist of industrially packed slicing logs, protein salads, fillings, and toppings. The 25 foodservice SKUs consist of packed turkey breast, ham and slow-cooked/pulled meats with the remaining five including retail packed Zia’s Italian Entrees and AmVac fresh beef and pork cuts.
Piece size-reducing dicers, slicers, slitters, grinders, vacuum mixers and stuffers are used to achieve perfect muscle structure when processing turkey, pork, chicken and beef. Other key pieces of equipment and machines in the Deli Star line up include horizontal and vertical form-fill machines and an AmVac case-ready skin packing machine. Deli Star’s chicken processing has seen the strongest growth recently due to its advances in protein salads and chicken’s lower cost.
Read more about Deli Star Inc. in MEAT+POULTRY’s July issue.