Bill then decided to enlist in the Army, and when he got out of the military service in 1972 he could have done a lot of things with his life. What he decided to do was return to Manteca, and keep his family’s meat business going by buying the business from his parents.
At the time, a lot of big grocery stores were moving into town, as well as into the surrounding area. Bill thought there was great potential to manufacture meat products and sell them to these stores, as well as to the public himself. This was largely since the small city of Manteca is close to the Bay Area. And because of the great expense involved in living in San Francisco and its surrounding communities — probably one of the costliest areas to live in the United States — many people commute from the Central Valley to the Bay Area. So, he bought the meat business. He started making and selling bacon and ham to these large stores. Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats was established in 1990.
Ten years later, he decided to build a modern 41,000-sq.-ft. plant. And because of great growth, 6,000 sq. ft. were added to it in 2010 and 2014. Today, he and his wife Treva co-own and operate Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats — Bill is the president and Treva is vice president. While the plant is a 50,000-sq.-ft. facility now, the size of the company is expanding by another 38,000 sq. ft., into a state-of-the-art smoking and processing plant for its bacon, ham and turkey. The expansion should help to bring more of the processing in-house while using the company’s own space for cold storage, rather than outsourcing that storage to an outside third party.
“This will allow us to employ even more local people in the company,” says Steven Peters, sales and marketing manager for the company. The company currently employs about 200 people. The floor expansion required exploring many options and testing equipment. So, Bill and Treva traveled to Germany to solidify their decision to buy their next smoke houses. The new smoke houses and chillers are being custom-built there and when they are installed, they will be automated equipment. Today, Sunnyvalley sells to many large grocery stores on the West Coast, Washington State, Mexico and Alaska, and as far east as Texas.
While Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats makes an array of smoked and fresh meat products, including cooked and ready-to-eat-smoked ham, and smoked turkeys and parts, it is the home of Bill’s top-of-the-line bacon production facility. Sunnyvalley makes bacon both for foodservice and for retail.
The company produces a number of distinctive types of bacon that can be found in many large grocery stores throughout the US and Canada, as well as in restaurants. Sunnyvalley’s bacons include hickory-smoked bacon, uncured all-natural apple wood bacon, hickory-smoked peppered bacon, hickory-smoked pork jowl bacon, sunrise bacon and bacon ends and pieces.
Additional products include hickory-smoked, hickory-smoked peppered, apple wood smoked, and hickory-smoked slab bacon. Sunnyvalley’s uncured bacon is sourced from antibiotic-free (ABF) pork and carries a “Never-Ever” antibiotics claim. The company also offers other kinds of specialty bacons, including maple bacon, sweet and spicy bacon, double cherry wood smoked bacon, Applewood Smoked, and honey-cured bacon.
Sunnyvalley has also gotten into the bacon promotion market, like a lot of bacon-makers across the US. Last summer on Father’s Day weekend, the company also was the sponsor of the first bacon festival to be held in San Joaquin County, which drew more than 50,000 people. “We’re going to do it again this September,” he says.
“There’s no doubt that bacon is the biggest part of our business, it’s our bread and butter,” Peters says. And the privately-held company continues to grow with meat production totaling 35 million lbs. annually. While the company’s peak production in bacon is during the summer, Peters notes that “…the kids are out of school, there’s a lot of camping going on in this area … we actually smoke bacon 52 weeks a year. We buy from local producers, and for our bacon, we buy bellies from Iowa and from Canada.”
While bacon sales have taken off astronomically over the past few years, Peters doesn’t think it’s a fad that will disappear at some point. “It’s a great source of protein, and it’s a meat that can be used in a lot of different dishes, not just breakfast, and can be mixed with a lot of other foods,” he says. “I think bacon has a footprint that’s definitely here to stay.”