Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, was recently dubbed 2018 Processor of the Year. This global protein provider has a rich, 80-year history that dates back to a single processing plant. What started with Smithfield acquiring its competition ended with a Chinese company buying Smithfield. Since then, Smithfield has gone global, employing over 54,000 people worldwide, including a new group of 250 to staff the new distribution center in Tar Heel, North Carolina. This new center is located just steps away from the 1992-built plant, which processes 32,000 pigs per day.
With an eight percent sales growth bumping Smithfield to 15 million in revenue, winning Processor of the year was icing on the cake for CEO Ken Sullivan. New efforts towards sustainability as a meat producing company seemed to play a role in the award also.
Smithfield Foods was founded in 1936 out of Smithfield, Virginia. Employees from Gwaltney, Joseph Luter Junior and Senior are responsible for starting Smithfield Foods. In 1981, Gwaltney became the Luters’ very first acquisition, and the growth hasn’t stopped since then. The company didn’t stop growing until 2005 when the price of corn increased times four due to the Renewable Fuels Standard.
After stock prices suffered, the Luters handed the company off to Larry Pope, the first non-family member to run Smithfield Foods. Pope made innovative and necessary changes to the face of Smithfield. He was responsible for the Sara Lee acquisition. Pope made pork Smithfield’s sole focus, cutting beef and poultry operations to streamline the business.
Just down the road from headquarters, the Innovation Center stays busy creating new products with one main ingredient, authenticity. Food scientists, nutritionists, and chefs put their heads together to come up with new and tasty products for Smithfield customers to enjoy. The products are then prepared in a test facility known as “Grandma’s Kitchen.”
A recent invention, Prime Fresh Deli Meat, is now available in Kroger. This new product has no doubt played a role in winning Processor of the Year. Even the package was purposely designed to be less bulky, thus increasing the number of units per truck and reducing fuel usage. This is another step in Smithfield’s journey to sustainability.
Another product recently hitting the shelves is all-natural bacon. With so many buyers demanding less-processed food, Smithfield obliged and delivered what their customers asked for. It’s their devotion to customer satisfaction, sustainability, and economic growth that makes Smithfield so deserving of this award.