The new facility has yet to even come close to reaching its production capacity. With around 40 different unique products, North Country offers 300 to 400 SKUs. Currently, bacon sales make up 60 percent of North Country’s business, followed by 12 percent in sausage, another 12 percent in ham and the remainder a mixture of beef, poultry and cheese. However, those numbers don’t tell the complete story today.
“It’s important to note that that was when the plant was at capacity,” Satzow says. “So, we couldn’t sell anymore because we were working six days a week, five 10-hour days and then half days on Saturdays, and the equipment was running as hard as it could.”
The previous plant operated at less than 25 percent of the capacity at the new plant. “So, now we’ll be growing a lot faster and taking on a lot more new business,” Satzow adds. Depending on new customers and their purchases, the business mix could change.
Often growth brings with it certain innate challenges that a company must face and overcome. North Country understands this and is up to the task. The company currently employees about 70 people and continues to hire. Eventually, Corbett says, 80 employees is the target along with sales continuing to increase long-term, and the addition of a second shift in the future.
The 10 new jobs will come mainly in the form of North Country’s new deli line that has yet to launch. It will have a dedicated processing room and employees will be added to run machines and packaging operations. “We need additional labor to bring into that room,” Corbett says.
All the new and technically advanced equipment poses its own set of challenges too.
“We’ve got a lot of fancy equipment that has all the bells and whistles and things that we weren’t really accustomed to,” Corbett says. “We have vision systems on our two new packaging machines that will look at the label and make sure it’s on straight, that it’s the correct UPC code, that there’s nothing in the seal.
“We have a lot of things that we put in for food safety and quality, but those things are also more complex, so we’re trying to learn how to operate with those. So, we’re adjusting and with every day kind of learning a little bit more. We’re bringing technicians in, getting training for our employees and making sure we don’t make the same mistake twice.”