Quality, innovation, and a focus on what the consumer wants ensure the Jensen brand is recognized as a ground beef leader.
Sports fans in the U.S. would be beyond excited to get a call from Bo Jackson regarding a business partnership. The only athlete to be named an All-Star in both professional football and professional baseball recently called Abel Olivera, CEO of Jensen Meat Company, to discuss that very situation.
The punchline to this story? Olivera had no idea who he was talking to.
“I’m not a huge sports fan. I got a call from him, and he had done a lot of research about the industry. He wanted to start a line called Bo’s Burgers, and had heard a lot of good things about Jensen Meat. We set up an appointment for him to tour the facility. I didn’t know who he was until our EVP told me. It’s a huge honor to be working with someone like Bo.”
Jensen Meat Company has called San Diego County home since 1958 when Reggie Jensen founded the business as a steak portioning control company that sold steak to local restaurants. Until 1986, Jensen was known for selling beef, lamb, chicken, and fish to local restaurants. Bob Jensen, Reggie’s son, took the business over in the 1980s, and shifted the focus of the brand to perfecting ground beef patties.
Today, around 60 percent of the business is made up of private label offerings with partners including Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Ralphs, and Food 4 Less selling Jensen beef patties under private label brands.
“This company has done a great job [developing] the private label business, and the brand has grown from coast to coast this way,” said Abel Olivera, CEO. Olivera has been with the company since 2005 serving various positions from Operations Manager to Vice President of Operations before being promoted to his current position.
“But the old guard was set in its ways and pushed the business forward without focusing on marketing the Jensen name. But the new generation has been able to break that mentality.”
Bob Jensen retired in 2011, selling his share of the business. The new generation within the business took the initiative to push the brand out into the market.
“We were lacking visibility even in our own hometown,” Olivera said, “People in San Diego didn’t know who Jensen was, or that there was a patty manufacturer in their town. We’ve done an excellent job selling our private label, now it’s time to get people to know what Jensen is today.”
Kicked off with a 'Locally Produced in San Diego' marketing campaign, brand recognition became a central goal about three years ago, and Jensen hasn’t looked back. Olivera credits Trisha Lavigne, Vice President, as the driver of this movement towards publicizing the company through Jensen-brand products.
Lavigne, an 18-year Jensen veteran, oversees corporate marketing, large account management, and customer service functions. She is one of the few women executives in the meat industry, where she leads the company to new levels of success among current accounts while also guiding development of new accounts as Jensen continues to expand.
From social media to food truck partnerships and local charity events, the Jensen Meat Company name is reaching more people in Southern California than ever. Now, around 40 percent of Jensen’s offerings utilize its own name and branding.
“Millennials are focusing on healthier choices, and all consumers want a good-tasting burger. We’re looking to offer higher end products and healthier choices,” Olivera said.
The company, therefore, is launching Jensen Natural Brand that only utilizes natural raw materials: no hormones or antibiotics, and a leaner meat overall. This move made sense for the company that is already focused on food safety.
An Angus and beef pre-seasoned blend also launched at the beginning of April at Food 4 Less.
If you’re looking for something to spice up your meal, then Jensen’s new beef burger with chorizo is definitely for you.
“There’s an increasing interest and demand for chorizo in California,” Olivera said. “Locals know what it is and are going to Mexican local markets for chorizo dishes. It’s a good opportunity and niche for us.”Jensen’s team is always looking for new flavors and formulations, and today utilizes social media to hear what consumers want.
“Consumers drive the growth and future of the brand,” he shared. “They will dictate the next blend or flavor.”
Facilitating both the private label and Jensen label divisions of the business is the company’s plant, which Olivera claims is the newest and most modern plant west of the Mississippi for the industry. It manufactures 250 SKUs of retail and foodservice products, processing individually quick-frozen (IQF) and fresh patties in different shapes, lean/fat ratios, and value-added products.
But what makes the plant so modern? Olivera, and Jensen employees who had a great deal of experience in the industry, met with a manufacturer to create an automated grinding line specifically for Jensen’s needs.
“We didn’t just go out and buy a grinder,” he said. “We spent six months with our manufacturer and designed a grinder line based on the expertise of the people at our company. Some of these guys have been with the company for 40 years, so they know what works and what doesn’t.
“It’s fully automated, computer controlled, and incredibly consistent.”
Integral to the technology is the software that blends different formulas depending on the product the grinder is producing at the time. Jensen Meat Company is the only business in the industry that has this type of automated equipment.
Although Jensen Meat Company’s current focus may be on the Jensen-branded label, transparency, safety, and its private label business are huge parts of the business’s success and growth.
“We’ll continue supporting our long-term customers: they helped build this brand. Our Jensen-branded products though, will help consumers know who Jensen is. When they think of a hamburger, they should think Jensen. There’s no reason why anyone in San Diego should be carrying someone else’s burger.”Oh, and Bo’s Burgers? Jensen Meat Company is now the official manufacturer of the line after finalizing the deal earlier in 2017. We have a feeling the burgers will be just as good as Jackson’s career, in large part thanks to Jensen Meat Company.
Jensen Meat Company is a privately held, leading processor and marketer of high-quality ground beef products. Located in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego, CA, the company has strong branded products sold under Fat Burger®, Great Value®, Kroger®, Sam’s Choice®, and Sysco®, as well as other licensed product extensions.
Founded in 1958 by Reggie Jensen, it produces 75 million pounds of ground beef annually from its new 150,000-square feet, state-of-the-art plant where it manufactures 250 SKUs of retail and foodservice products as individually quick-frozen and fresh patties. Jensen Meat products are sold through retail, foodservice, and club store channels throughout the United States. Our commitment is to provide the best looking, best cooking, and best-tasting ground beef products to our customers and consumers.