Transforming from a company selling one brand with the same name as its company to a multi-brand company with the launch of a new, more sustainably minded premium brand of chicken called Just BARE in 2008, it added the Sunny Roost value brand to its portfolio two years later.
Meanwhile, the company was advancing its understanding of socially responsible and sustainable practices. Although it says it had always been about being operationally excellent, the social and sustainable insight brought a new perspective and revealed the need for a new way to demonstrate and communicate its value.
"Our value has gone from being about one brand promise to three – which made a new company name a necessity,” said Michael Helgeson, CEO. “It also changed from being efficient to survive to being efficient to thrive. And that means balancing the needs of economic progress with those of our people, poultry and planet. Having a dedication to these key areas ensures that we can focus on improvements for the journey beyond now."
Three recent company milestones are forging a path for a more sustainable future, including offering the first US poultry brand to be Carbon Trust certified; completion of a multiyear, $110 million expansion of its fully integrated operation in Arcadia, Wis.; and achievement of Safe Quality Foods 2000 Level 2 certification at all three of its processing plants.
Just BARE chicken now features a new carbon footprint reduction logo on every package. "This new label indicates our commitment toward reducing our carbon footprint," says Paul Helgeson, the CEO's son and sustainability manager. "Just BARE is the only poultry brand in the US – and one of the first food brands in the US – to achieve this certification and place it on every package label."
On April 19, an open house at the processing plant in Arcadia, Wis., celebrated the completion of a multiyear, nearly $110 million expansion – more than $70 million of which was invested by the company, the remaining $40 million made by its local family farm partners. This expansion had followed years of steady improvements beginning in 1993, when the company purchased the complex from Arcadia Fryers. Improvements made since then have tripled the plant's production capacity from 320,000 birds per week to 960,000, with a capacity of up to 1,000,000 birds per week during periods of peak demand. This has made the Arcadia operation a critical force in improving the company's cost structure, competitiveness and ability to serve its growing deli and foodservice businesses.
The company worked with the Food Marketing Institute to achieve Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 Level 2 certification in 2010. Certification was received late 2010 and announced in March when the official certificates were received.