WILLMAR – The Jennie-O Turkey Store plant on Benson Avenue just west of downtown Willmar will close in the first half of fiscal 2022, according to a statement from Hormel Foods, owner of Jennie-O.
The news comes like Hormel Reports Double-Digit Sales Growth in each segment of the business in the fourth quarter.
The statement said that members of the Benson Avenue factory team will move to the Willmar Avenue factory, which is both newer and larger than the Benson Avenue location. Production currently performed at the Benson Avenue plant will be consolidated into several Jennie-O plants.
The Benson Avenue plant was built in the 1940s and purchased by Earl B. Olson, the founder of Jennie-O Foods, in 1949. It was Olson’s first turkey processing plant, and the company was originally called Farmer’s Produce Company, according to the company website.
In 1953, Olson rebranded the brand of factory-processed turkeys to Jennie-O, in honor of his daughter Jennifer. The plant has also been converted to a USDA inspected turkey plant. The company name was changed to Jennie-O Foods Inc. in 1971. The company was purchased by Hormel Foods Corporation in 1986.
The Benson Avenue factory underwent a renovation in 1992 and a new packing area was added, according to Hormel’s media department. The Willmar Avenue factory and company offices were built in 1973, according to the website.
The company didn’t become Jennie-O Turkey Store until 2001, when Hormel purchased The Turkey Store Company, which was originally founded by Wallace Jerome in 1941. The company was based in Barron, Wisconsin. Hormel then merged Jennie-O Foods and Turkey Store Company into Jennie-O Turkey Store.
In total, Jennie-O has 12 laying farms, three hatcheries, more than 100 cash crop farms, eight feed mills and seven processing plants, according to the website. The other processing plants are located at Faribault, Melrose, Montevideo and Pelican Rapids in Minnesota and one in Barron, Wisconsin.
The press release also indicates that the commercial functions of Jennie-O Turkey Store will continue to be more fully integrated into the Hormel Foods organization.
“Turkey and the Jennie-O brand play an important role in our strategy for diversification and growth,” said Jim Snee, chairman of the board of directors of Hormel, president and CEO, in the statement. “To further improve the growth and profitability of this business, we are launching a series of actions to create a more efficient, innovative and demand-driven portfolio of turkeys. “
Net sales of Jennie-O products increased 23% in the fourth quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 and volume increased by 1%. The release said the recovery continues in the restaurant business, strong demand for Jennie-O retail items and higher prices offset the negative impact of whole poultry shipments earlier in the year. Higher feed costs and transportation costs had a negative impact on segment profit, which decreased by 7%.
Overall, Hormel posted record fourth quarter net sales of $ 3.5 billion, up 43% from the same period last year. For the full year 2021, Hormel achieved record net sales of $ 11.4 billion, an increase of 19% from 2020.
“We achieved record sales and profits this quarter with growth in every segment and channel,” said Snee. “I am extremely proud of how the entire team overcame so many challenges to show off these amazing results.”
News of the plant shutdown spread to Willmar on Thursday morning. Kandiyohi County and Willmar City Economic Development Commission executive director Aaron Backman has fortunately said no employees will be made redundant.
“The good news is that anyone working at this smaller facility, west of downtown, will be relocating,” Backman said.
Although the factory is currently being set up for turkey processing, Backman believes there is an opportunity to bring a new business to Willmar, if and when the factory goes up for sale.
“There are other food processing companies or other businesses that could use this facility,” Backman said. “We are cautiously optimistic, this is our motto, that we can reuse this.”