For Chad and Courtney Lottman, being the first in either of their families to work in the meat industry meant not having a lot of guidance from day one. Fortunately, the husband-and-wife team have parlayed common sense strategic planning to turn their homegrown Landmark Snacks into a new star on the meat snack horizon.

Chad, a computer science major, and Courtney, specializing in accounting, both attended the University of Nebraska for 1-1/2 years and later bought a small grocery store in Diller, Neb. and named it C & C Processing. Their idea was to expand the shop by adding space for deer processing and making sausage and other value-added products, including meat snack sticks, jerky and a meat-based protein bar. Their business was very successful in the community of 250 people, but an opportunity to go to the next level presented itself in the city of Beatrice, about 20 miles away, when an empty former lawnmower company building spanning 60,000 square feet came on the market. They jumped at the opportunity and bought and remodeled the building.

Chad, now 48, explained that he and Courtney saw great potential in making protein bars and other meat snack items for other companies. Operating as Landmark Snacks since 2015, they have pivoted to operate as a co-packer of those products for two of the country’s largest specialty meat giants.

"It meant a change in direction from making our own products to making it for others who had their own recipes, supplied their own raw materials, had their own distribution and marketing systems," he explained. "That meant we just had to focus on making the final products and leave the issues of supply, sales, shipping and the rest to our two main customers."

 Although they still live in Diller, the Lottmans sold the original shop nearly three years ago to Chad's sister and brother-in-law, so that they could focus their time and effort on growing the Landmark Snacks enterprise. And what growth it is, with the plant blooming from less than 40 employees at start-up to over 220 today. It also allowed them to add new production equipment, including 14 six-truck processing ovens.

"Being able to step back from those every-day, never-ending supervisory decisions allowed us to bring in a knowledgeable management team," he said. "We wanted to work smarter, not harder and only wish we had the money to bring in that level of supervisory quality and knowledge when we started Landmark in 2015 and 2016. They are the kind of people who understand and are used to dealing with bigger corporations.

Landmark Co-Owners smaller.jpgChad and Courtney Lottman, co-owners of Landmark Snacks (Source: Landmark Snacks)


"It was a learning experience for us to know that this type of customer we were co-packing for insisted on foreign material assurance programs, metal detection systems, third-party audits and more. To many smaller processors like us, the concept of foreign material detection revolved around watching for and developing protocols to look for materials that might be harmful,” Lottman said. “That's not good enough and a large part of our charge is to make sure there is 'nothing' in the product that isn't supposed to be there, harmful or not."

Growing a new business and seeing it expand by 40% per year seemed to be a huge challenge for the Lottmans in earlier years, but one they found they could overcome successfully. Part of that success came from thinking outside of the box and offering employees a non-traditional work schedule.

"Getting good employees was never an easy task," Chad said. "We know that everyone has struggles with family, transportation, schooling, special events and even sports activities. A five-day a week shift was not suitable for everyone. We came up with a four-day 10-hour-per-day shift and then added a three-day, 12-hour shift for Friday through Sunday, which included a weekend hourly differential. In other words, we went from a five-day work week to a seven-day work week.

"We also knew that many job applicants are not fully comfortable coming to the production plant to be interviewed. They think they are interrupting something. We opened a hiring center in downtown Beatrice so we could provide a quieter and more comfortable environment for our interviewing process. That seemed to work well for us."

The Lottman’s common-sense approach and adaptable business strategy has earned Landmark notable accolades and growth has continued. Beatrice has a population of 25,000 and the Chamber of Commerce named Landmark as its Business of the Year in 2021, a way of honoring this new company that has already brought over 200 jobs to the community and is eyeing more work opportunities to come. As demand for its products has grown, so has the company’s footprint, as Landmark Snacks added a 27,000-square-foot warehouse facility in 2021.

Once novices to the industry, the Lottman’s have learned plenty over the years and have earned leadership status among their industry peers. Chad was the 2004 president of the Nebraska Association of Meat Processors, 2018-19 president of the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) and he and Courtney were honored with AAMP's Accomplishment Award in 2001.