Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc.

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Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc.

2505 S.W. Willmar Avenue
Willmar, Minnesota 56201
Telephone: (320) 235-2622
Toll Free: (800) 621-3505
Fax: (320) 231-7100
Web site:

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation
Employees: 7,000
Sales: $1 billion (2005)
NAIC: 112330 Turkey Production; 311615 Poultry Processing; 422440 Poultry and Poultry Product Wholesalers

Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc. is the largest turkey processor in the world, processing more than one billion pounds of turkey each year for sale in more than two dozen countries. Formed by the 2001 merger of Jennie-O Foods, Inc. and The Turkey Store Company, both owned by Hormel Foods Corporation, Jennie-O Turkey Store offers an unrivaled selection of traditional and value-added turkey products. Its product line spans 1,300 different items, including whole birds, ground turkey, sliced meat, and hot dogs. In addition to its nine processing plants, the company has 140 farms, eight feed mills, and four hatcheries.


Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc.'s history begins with Minnesotan Earl B. Olsen. After running a creamery, he branched out into turkey production and bought his first processing plant, the Farmer's Produce Company, in February 1949. The availability of cheap grain made it a good time to start the business, he later said. In the fall season, the operation processed 1.5 million pounds of turkey, although it was only New York dressed; that is, only the feathers were removed.

Other poultry and dairy products were discontinued as the company focused on turkey. In 1951, it came out with a nine-pound raw turkey log for military kitchens called Tur-King. This was followed by further-processed products for the home consumer. In 1953, the company switched to eviscerated turkey rather than New York dressed.

Olsen's business grew quickly in the 1960s. Olsen successfully lobbied to sell birds in Europe. The company had introduced the Jennie-O brand name for the further processed products in 1953. It was a reference to Earl Olsen's daughter. The company itself was renamed Jennie-O Foods in 1971. Olsen's son Charles became company president in 1974.

Jennie-O built a new plant and headquarters near its existing Willmar, Minnesota facility in 1973. In the early part of the decade, the company consolidated vertically with the addition of the Merrifield Feed Mill acquired from the Peavy Company. It also bought a number of smaller turkey farms. The 1980s were also a decade of growth and development. Jennie-O helped pioneer the turkey hot dog phenomenon in 1984.

Acquired by Hormel in 1986

Hormel Foods Corporation added Jennie-O to its stable of international food brands in 1986. The price was not reported, but an analyst told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that it was likely between $70 million and $100 million. It had revenues of about $155 million for 1986 and employed 1,800 people.

Charles Olsen was succeeded as Jennie-O's president by James Reith in 1989. Still more growth followed. Jennie-O bought West Central Turkey's facility in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota in the early 1990s. It built a new plant in Montevideo, Minnesota in 1996. By the end of the decade, the company had eight plants in Minnesota and was processing nearly 900 million pounds of turkey a year.

Jennie-O counted itself the top turkey processor in the United States in 2000, processing more than 800 million pounds of turkey. Its sales were $700 million a year. Jeff Ettinger, a corporate attorney, became Jennie-O's president and CEO in 2000.

2001 Merger with The Turkey Store Company

Hormel Foods brought another turkey processor under its wing in February 2001, buying Wisconsin-based The Turkey Store Company for $334.4 million. According to the Mergers & Acquisitions Journal, it was Hormel's largest acquisition to date. Its operations were combined with Jennie-O Foods, and the new Jennie-O Turkey Store brand was rolled out in April 2002.

The Turkey Store Company's origins dated back to 1922, when Wallace Jerome (then just 13) of Barron, Wisconsin started hatching turkeys. Jerome's business was greatly expanded in the 1940s, when he opened his own hatchery and acquired a new barn for processing.

In 1950 Wallace bought the J.B. Inderreiden Canning Company factory and outfitted it to produce oven-ready birds. The operation was dubbed Badger Turkey Industries. Wallace bought out rival Peter Fox Sons three years later, converting its facility to another hatchery. Badger Turkey Industries was renamed Jerome Foods Inc. in 1964.

Wallace Jerome's son, Jerry, joined the company in 1974 and became president in 1980. In 1984, the company introduced The Turkey Store brand. An employee stock ownership plan was established in 1988, although it remained controlled by the Jerome family. The Milwaukee Journal noted that the company had 1,800 employees in the city of Barron, Wisconsin, which had a population of only 3,000.

The company stopped selling whole turkeys in 1996. It was renamed The Turkey Store Company in March 1998. The company began looking for a buyer since the Jerome family's younger generation was not interested in running it, CEO Jerry Jerome told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

At the time of its acquisition by Hormel in 2001, The Turkey Store Company was the sixth largest turkey business in the United States, with annual sales of $309 million and 2,500 employees. Company CEO (and chairman since 1999) Jerry Jerome held the same roles at the combined company after the merger, while his counterpart from Jennie-O, Jeff Ettinger, was president and chief operating officer.

A "New Recipe for Living" in 2002 and Beyond

The combined company began with sales exceeding $1 billion, 70 percent from the old Jennie-O operations, and an 18 percent share of the $5.5 billion turkey market, according to the Mergers & Acquisitions Journal. The merger was a nice fit; The Turkey Store had specialized in fresh boneless and ground turkey, while Jennie-O concentrated on processed products.

According to the National Provisioner, turkey consumption in the United States had more than doubled since 1975 but was flat since the mid-1990s. The founders of Jennie-O and The Turkey Store had done much to make turkey an all-year item. With per capita consumption of turkey (18 pounds per year) one-third that of pork and one-fourth that of chicken, there was room for growth. Exports also were becoming more important, and the company was experiencing double-digit growth overseas. Jennie-O was pitching turkey as the perfect white meat protein source for a healthy lifestyle, or "the new recipe for living," in its advertising.

Through Jennie-O, which then provided one-quarter of its revenues, Hormel was applying the same formula to turkey that it had to pork, developing new packaged products for the consumer. (It also had large deli, foodservice, and commodity trades.) To fight a trend toward lower turkey consumption in the United States, new product development under the Jennie-O brand accelerated after the merger. The company's So Easy entrées featured fully cooked dishes such as pot roast, pasta alfredo, and barbeque.

Company Perspectives:

In February 2001, two of the turkey industry's leading companies, Jennie-O Foods, Inc. and The Turkey Store Company, merged to create a new, single company: Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc. Now united under a single brand, Jennie-O Turkey Store offers the most extensive turkey product assortment in the marketplace. Jennie-O Turkey Store, with corporate offices in Willmar, Minnesota, is the world's leading processor and marketer of traditional and value-added turkey products. We offer consumers "Turkey For The Way You Live Today" with products that combine great taste, health, and convenience. In April 2002, Jennie-O Turkey Store reinforced its commitment to value-added products by launching a single national brand of signature turkey products under the Jennie-O Turkey Store name. Jennie-O Turkey Store single brand combines the tradition and taste of the Jennie-O Foods brand with the fresh premium qualities of The Turkey Store brand to create convenient, year-round meal solutions for today's consumers. Jennie-O Turkey Store's strong product line-up caters to the needs of today's busy, health-conscious consumers who are discerning about the quality and taste of the food they serve to their families.

Key Dates:

The Turkey Store Company founder Wallace Jerome begins a turkey raising business in Wisconsin.
Jennie-O founder Earl Olsen buys the first turkey processing plant.
Jerome launches Badger Turkey Industries.
The Jennie-O brand is introduced.
Badger is renamed Jerome Foods Inc.
Olsen's son Charles becomes Jennie-O president.
Jerry Jerome becomes president of Jerome Foods.
Jennie-O pioneers the turkey hot dog; Jerome introduces The Turkey Store brand.
Jerome Foods is renamed The Turkey Store.
Jennie-O leads in the U.S. market with 800 million pounds of turkey processed.
Hormel acquires The Turkey Store Company, and merges it with Jennie-O Foods, Inc.
Jennie-O is Hormel's most profitable division.

A new product in 2004 greatly simplified the art of roasting a whole bird for Thanksgiving. Jennie-O came out with a new Oven Ready turkey that could be baked without thawing. The giblets were already removed. By promising consistent results for everyone, including time-strapped or inexperienced chefs, it reduced the holiday culinary challenge to the realm of convenience foods, observed Stagnito's New Products Magazine. A need to cut slits in the cooking bag, however, was designed in to the product. "Consumers don't want to be completely excluded from the culinary preparation, especially a traditional holiday meal, and venting the turkey allows them to feel they are still in touch with the product they serve," said a Jennie-O executive. The Oven Ready turkey took two years to develop. It was made possible by innovative packaging featuring a proprietary Fool-Proof poly cook-in bag produced by Curwood of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Jennie-O was producing more than one billion pounds of turkey a year, sold in 1,300 different products. Distribution extended to a dozen foreign countries, including Canada, Mexico, Korea, Japan, and Russia. The company employed 7,000 people at seven plants in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.

Hormel's turkey division was the goose that laid the golden egg in 2005. Its operating profit was up 73 percent to $136 million. This was the first time turkey outperformed Hormel's refrigerated and grocery businesses. Jennie-O head Jerry Ettinger was named Hormel's CEO in September 2005.

Principal Divisions

Retail; Deli; Foodservice; Commodity.

Principal Operating Units

Willmar/Spicer; Pelican Rapids; Melrose; Montevideo; Faribault; Barron.

Principal Competitors

Cargill, Inc.; ConAgra Foods, Inc.

Further Reading

Baar, Aaron, "BBDO Talks Turkey in New Ads," ADWEEK Midwest Edition, May 13, 2002, p. 10.

Dahm, Lori, "Turkey Made Easy: Jennie-O Turkey Store Brings Convenience to Thanksgiving," Stagnito's New Products Magazine, October 2004, pp. 28ff.

Daykin, Tom, "Hormel Gobbles Up Turkey Store for $334 Million," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 24, 2001, p. 1.

Harrison, Joan, "Hormel Finds a Great Fit in Its Acquisition of the Turkey Store," Mergers & Acquisitions Journal, March 2001, p. 16.

"Jerome Gobbles Up Barron," Milwaukee Journal, December 2, 1990, p. D2.

Martin, Kathryn, "Curwood Flies Away with Award for Its Innovative Oven-Ready Frozen Turkey Carrier Bag," Food Engineering, April 2005, p. 17.

Merrill, Ann, "New Leader of Hormel's Jennie-O Unit Has Lots of Experience in Talking Turkey," Star Tribune (Minneapolis), February 18, 2001, p. 1D.

St. Anthony, Neal, "Hormel to Buy Willmar-Based Jennie-O Foods," Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), December 8, 1986, p. 1A.

Smith, Rod, "Jennie-O/Turkey Store Merger to Take Turkey 'Around the Calendar,'" Feedstuffs, January 29, 2001, p. 3.

Webb, Tom, "Turkey Sales Strong for Hormel Foods," Saint Paul Pioneer Press, November 24, 2005.

Young, Barbara, "Turkey Triumph: Hormel Foods' Creative Approach to Big Bird Product Development Solidifies the Position of Its Jennie-O Turkey Store Division As a Global Marketshare Leader," National Provisioner, December 2003, pp. 10+.

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Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc.

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