In 2012, a group of investors including NFL great Roger Staubach, Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim and founder of Fuddruckers and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Phil Romano, among others, acquired the Hofmann Sausage Co. with plans to grow the regional brand into a national player. Reginald Bailey, CEO of Hofmann Brands, is focused on taking the company to new markets beyond Syracuse and the East Coast.
“As we continue to move across the country – we went into Texas and we’re in HEB – we have foodservice operations in Las Vegas and Arizona; we’re really starting to dig in and expand in a manner that will allow us to become a national and international brand,” he says. While expansion and the movement of Hofmann Brands into a broader market has been the goal of the business since the acquisition in 2012, important aspects of the company have remained the same. The tradition, the company’s roots, headquarters and manufacturing plant in Syracuse, and its recipes, the things that originally brought about long-term success, are all the same.
“The recipes have not changed at all,” Bailey says. “Only the attorney and two other people know the Hofmann recipes.” He likens the situation at Hofmann to legendary companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, where recipes are notoriously kept a secret. One recipe that has seen recent success for Hofmann is a jalapeño and cheese sausage. Walter (Rusty) Flook, the only remaining founding family member of Hofmann Sausage Co., remembers making the recipe for family and friends, but now Hofmann has worked the recipe into a winner for the company. “That product is actually starting to take off for the company in a very big way,” Bailey says. “But that in itself is the real pride of the brand – being able to take these locally grown recipes and grow them to something and share them with the community.”
After 133 years in business, Flook and the investment group that became Hofmann Brands struck a deal and Hofmann Sausage Co. officially became Hofmann Brands. Flook continues to consult for the company and is an investor in Hofmann Brands.
Bailey describes Hofmann before the acquisition as a “local caregiver of the people.” Hofmann had, and continues to have, a devout and loyal customer base in the Syracuse and central New York area. It’s been headquartered there since it began, and according to Bailey, will always be headquartered there. The ability to maintain the local favorite and caregiver to the community quality while taking the company national has played a major role in Hofmann Brands’ success, Bailey says.
“The interesting part is that Rusty and his family built a phenomenal business for 133 years,” Bailey says. “We’re very privileged to come in and have the opportunity to grow that business nationally.”
Since the acquisition, many changes have been made. Hofmann’s has launched new products, expanded its foodservice business and restaurant concept, a Phil Romano creation called Hofmann Hots. “The restaurant was in place in Dallas for two years and we knew that we had to make room for some residential, so we tore it down,” Bailey says. “Now we’re looking to redistribute that into a franchise model through either our food trucks or brick and mortar locations.”
In addition to its own restaurant brand, Hofmann’s has considerably ramped up other foodservice accounts and its retail customer base as well. With new offices in the Baltimore/Washington, DC, area to facilitate its new growth, the company has secured a number of foodservice customers in that area.
Since the current investment team acquired the company, it’s increased the amount of product in retail outlets by seven times, according to Bailey. “We’re in thousands of grocery stores now, which is not a testament to me, but to the entire team that has worked so tirelessly to ensure that we continue to put out quality product.” Bailey stresses the importance of quality as the company’s No.1 goal and attributes Hofmann’s success in both retail and foodservice to that goal.
Hofmann now provides foodservice products to The Verizon Center in Washington, DC, the Univ. of Maryland and Under Armour’s corporate cafeteria as well as venues farther west. The company has partnered with Pizza Forte, the Hard Rock Casino and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “So Hofmann, unlike before we acquired the company, is starting to gain a lot of traction in the foodservice world,” Bailey says.
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Growing up and out
Although the new investment group, with Bailey as CEO and Flook as consultant and remaining family member, plan to take Hofmann to the next level, the acquisition hasn’t changed the infrastructure of the company, but merely put some new supports in place to shore it up.
“There had been people working there for 40-plus years, so some of the attrition that we’ve had has been in retirement, which is a positive growth sign,” Bailey says. “We have added some people that have a greater depth of growing a national brand, but for the most part, the bulk of the team members remain in Syracuse.”
Bailey says many of the new hires came with an understanding of the brand and the mentality it takes to grow it nationally. The goal of going national does require the company to fill positions in other places around the country. “We do have other managers and team members that are not in Syracuse,” he says, “but that is simply just an effect of growing the brand in different areas.”
Bailey and Hofmann Brands not only recognize and embrace the significance of the company’s roots in Syracuse, but believe in it, leverage it and present it to employees outside the headquarters as a reminder of how the Hofmann executive team wants business conducted. “We have a special sign in our offices, ‘Rooted in Syracuse, Growing in Baltimore.’ We’re really proud of our heritage, and everything we do and say speaks to that heritage,” Bailey says.
Currently, Hofmann Brands produces about 73 SKUs, Bailey says. But the company is in the process of creating new products and expanding its line of offerings continually. What started as a hot dog and sausage company has grown to include breakfast links, breakfast patties – and coming in future Hofmann Hots restaurants – hamburgers and fish, as well as various flavors of the Handwich.
“The Handwich product is a different brand that was born out of us sitting around a table asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to further enhance our brand?’” Bailey says. It started as an idea to wrap hot dogs in dough and research and development took over with the main objective of creating something microwavable without the bread becoming chewy after heating. From there the R&D led to a sausage product, and the idea continued to grow over time. Currently the Handwich is available in a pepperoni, cheese and marinara, and a chicken pesto as foodservice SKUs with a cheesesteak in the works.
Hofmann’s two best-selling products are two of the company’s oldest. “Absolutely, without a doubt, the natural casing German Frank is the No. 1 SKU…the Snappy is the No. 2 SKU in our arsenal,” Bailey says.
Hofmann continues to make the natural casing German Brand Frank the same way it has since the beginning. Natural lamb casings filled with a veal, beef, pork blend and no fillers, MSG or gluten. The Snappy first appeared in 1932. “It’s a white hot dog, looks like a bratwurst or a brockwurst, but it’s a hot dog with veal and pork that’s steam cooked,” Bailey says. “That is the one product we have with no nitrates or nitrites.”
The National Football Foundation
In October of last year, Hofmann Brands took another step in pushing the brand to nationwide status by partnering with the National Football Foundation (NFF) and becoming the official hot dog, sausage and Handwich of the NFF. As a result of the partnership, Hofmann Brands was the presenting sponsor of the NFF John L. Toner award given to United States Naval Academy Athletics Director Chet Gladchuk for excellence in athletics administration.
The partnership started with an introduction of Bailey and NFF CEO Steve Hatchell by a mutual friend. Bailey then spoke with Hofmann Brands investor and NFF board member Roger Staubach. Throughout the conversations with NFF executives, Bailey noticed a lack of food sponsorship and came to the conclusion that both organizations had a lot to offer one another. “I felt like it was a great opportunity for Hofmann and the NFF to work together to create value for each other.
“You always want to align yourself with like-minded people or organizations,” Bailey says. “The NFF and football itself is a deep tradition in America, as is the 137 years of Hofmann. From that basis alone, we felt like, how could we possibly go wrong?”