Kenosha, Wis.-based Birchwood Foods operates four manufacturing facilities in three different states. The processor of made-to-order fresh and frozen ground beef products and fully cooked proteins for retail and foodservice employs more than 1,000 workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and Georgia. The Vignieri family farm houses one of the company’s processing facilities.

“Birchwood Foods is a family-owned meat processing company that was founded in 1936 with a $35 investment from Birchwood Foods president and chief executive officer Dennis Vignieri’s grandfather,” said Wayne Wehking, vice president of sales and marketing at Birchwood. “The tradition of building partnerships that built the foundation of the company continues today as the cornerstone of the business.”

Catering to customers

Birchwood serves retail and foodservice channels with the goal of providing its customers, and ultimately consumers, with products they can prepare and serve with ease.

“We have an excellent mix of retail and foodservice customers,” Wehking said. “Of course, each brings its own demand cycle throughout each year. We work with our partners in both retail and foodservice to supply fresh and frozen ground burger products to support customer sales and advertising promotions and seasonal activities. Our experience and the close partnerships we have developed help us plan accordingly for these fluctuations.”

In addition, the company offers customers an opportunity to take a step further and partner on research and development to create products that achieve the next level through its Culinary Café. The custom-built innovation and solutions center provides Birchwood customers the tools they need to develop exclusive products.

Customers of the Culinary Café have access to a top-of-the-line commercial kitchen and the equipment and culinary experts who understand the competitive challenges of the foodservice environment. The center will provide specialized equipment specific to a customer’s foodservice environment, as well as a conference center with video and teleconferencing capabilities to facilitate communication for any team members unable to visit the site in person.

Sticking to the strategy

When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit last year, Birchwood remained steadfast in its effort to continue serving retail and foodservice customers.

“I don’t know of an industry or individual who was not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wehking said. “In terms of the impact the pandemic had on our business, we really focused on making sure we were providing our partners what they needed, when they needed it.”

Birchwood’s retail sales spiked, as did many processors who were able to shift, when the pandemic hit, and the segment has remained strong. Foodservice sales dipped in March 2020 when much of the country was locked down, but by June the company’s sales bounced back to pre-COVID levels.

“Our foodservice partners shifted to drive-thru, takeout and delivery, and we were able to provide them the product they needed,” Wehking said. “We are seeing more dine-in options open up and our sales are reflective of that.”

Long-standing relationships in the industry with deep roots have ensured Birchwood’s ability to deliver high-quality products and service, regardless of circumstances.

“This hasn’t changed in the last year,” Wehking said. “We are focused on providing our partners innovative solutions to the ever-evolving challenges the industry faces.”

Recently, due to customer demand, the company no longer produces precooked burgers. Because customer demands have shifted, Birchwood reallocated the resources to run that part of the business to focus on meeting the needs of its customers, based on evolving consumer purchasing behaviors.

“Our strategy is always to be a partner and work with others to share success,” Wehking said. “That hasn’t changed, and we continue to have a steadfast focus on innovation and quality.”