The low-key ribbon cutting and “official” opening of the new Daily’s Premium Meats bacon plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, on Sept. 9, 2016, was an understated commemoration. The modest ceremony was somewhat symbolic of the company, which has quietly thrived since its founder, John R. Daily, opened a retail butcher shop in Missoula, Montana, where Daily’s still operates one of three bacon plants.
Since October 2014, the company has been a part of a 50/50 ownership arrangement with Merriam, Kansas-based Seaboard Foods and its St. Joseph-based neighbor, Triumph Foods. Now that Daily’s new plant is up and running under the watchful eye of Plant Manager Wesley Cowins, the company is looking toward the future, which includes growing its established foodservice business but also increasing its products in retail segments. The new plant allows for expansion into the Southeast and the Northeast regions. At $54 million and 114,000 sq. ft., the St. Joseph plant currently employs approximately 140 workers as it ramps up to as many as 220 workers at full capacity. Slicing will eventually be a significant part of the new plant’s operation, but for now the focus is supplying the company’s other plants, with a capacity of up to 270,000 lbs. of smoked and pressed bellies per day.
Since 2007, Daily’s President, Kelly Hattan, has helped lead the bacon company’s growth. Hattan sat down with MEAT+POULTRY editors recently at the new plant to answer a few questions about his background and how the new bacon plant in Missouri will allow the Daily’s brand to become a higher-profile bacon brand nationally while maintaining its signature quality and consistency.
MEAT+POULTRY: What is your background and what brought you to Daily’s (which at that time was solely owned by Seaboard):
Hattan: I started as a Seaboard employee in 2007. I was hired away from Tyson and started initially in sales. When Rod Brenneman (former CEO of Seaboard Foods) stepped away from his CEO role to lead Butterball, Terry Holton was brought in to replace him and at that time I was appointed vice president of Daily’s. I was responsible for all aspects of the business.
MEAT+POULTRY: When Seaboard sold a 50 percent ownership stake in Daily’s to Triumph Foods in 2014, Daily’s became a separate LLC and you were named president. Discuss the growth have you seen and how Daily’s has responded?
Hattan: If we compare the business now to what it was 10 years ago, literally our business is up by over 100 percent. The initial five years was about building the infrastructure from a sales network. We realigned our regional sales managers and we upgraded a vast majority of the sales agencies.
We had to switch the mindset to align a broker or a sales agency from somebody who was much smaller, as few as two or three people, so that Daily’s could maintain control of their activities. Having come from Tyson, I wanted to be more collaborative and I wanted to have more resources on the street with enhanced customer relationships.
MEAT+POULTRY: During that time, Daily’s only operated a bacon plant in Missoula and another in Salt Lake City, Utah. How have the new strategy and now the new plant, impacted Daily’s business regionally and nationally?
Hattan: Within the past two years, both plants are now at capacity, which obviously allowed us to build this facility (in St. Joseph). From here, we’ll be feeding Salt Lake approximately 23 million lbs. annually. Now, we have flexibility where each plant can assist and support one another to handle customer needs and expectations.
We’re also looking at an expansion in our Salt Lake plant by expanding the smokehouse capacity there. It will allow us to keep all of that manufacturing within the facility. This will also free up some smoking capacity for the St. Joseph plant as the Northeast and Southeast business further develops.
MEAT+POULTRY: Among the goals to opening the new plant, was not only to grow the retail markets while also opening new markets, including the recently opened Southeast territory and later the Northeast. Has that gone according to plan?
Hattan: We are aligned with Acosta Foodservice, which is the broker for Daily’s (and Seaboard Foods) products. Once our pieces of the puzzle were in place to take the products throughout the Southeast, Acosta confirmed there was no reason to not extend the company’s reach to the Northeast and become national, which is a work in progress that is well ahead of schedule.
MEAT+POULTRY: To add to the challenge of building and starting up a new plant, St. Joseph is also the proving ground for implementing a new ERP system that will ultimately be adopted throughout Daily’s system and then at Seaboard and Triumph. What made this a good time to add that wrinkle?
Hattan: Previously, the ERP system we used was known as an AS/400. We are one of the few companies of our size to still be utilizing that as our platform. What we’re trying to do is iron out the bugs here and then roll out the new platform at the Missoula plant in February and in about 60 more days implement it at the Salt Lake City facility, around April or May. Our dedicated team members from all three plants have done a phenomenal job in taking on the numerous challenges of opening a new plant as well as implementing the new ERP system at the same time.
A feature story, including details of the first-ever media tour of the St. Joseph, Missouri plant will be the subject of MEAT+POULTRY’s cover story in the February issue. Look for it to be posted digitally on www.meatpoultry.com in early February.