Belmont Meat Products Ltd.
Belmont Meat Products Ltd. (Belmont) originally began operating in 1966 as a broad scale meat distributor in Ontario. Over the past 50 years, the company has evolved significantly. In the 1990s, the company shifted focus to beef sales and processing, dropping other products and building up a strong niche. Initially, the facility in Toronto, Ontario, focused on beef patties for hamburgers, slowly building up the line to include frozen and fresh ground beef and cuts for grilling or roasting.
“The company and its personality were very different in the ‘60s,” says W. J. “Duffy” Smith, who has been with the company for two years and serves as CEO. “This company was purchased from the original owners in 2007. Since then, we have taken the focus away from commodities and placed more emphasis on differentiating our brand. Over the past few years we have seen annual growth of 30 to 40 percent. This comes from knowing our customers better, building a relationship of trust with them and providing the quality and innovation they need. We work directly with our customers to fill custom orders and we have grown to the point where we can turn these requests around quickly.”
A broad product line
Belmont specializes in providing custom and value-added beef products to a broad market. Customers include quick service restaurant chains, casual dining eateries, retail supermarkets, club and warehouse stores, as well as specialty frozen food stores in Toronto and the surrounding areas in Ontario. The company brands products under its own name, as well as for private label customers. “We have worked hard to build up our key areas of business over the years,” Duffy notes. “We are constantly refining our process and expanding our portfolio.”
For starters, the company packages products differently than 10 years ago. With pork, beef and poultry on the production lines, the team offers diversity and flexibility. “We offer frozen, fresh, partially cooked and fully cooked products,” Duffy elaborates. “We also make oven items that you just open and cook. Some products we are working on are proprietary. They involve mixed protein blends like poultry and pork. We are also doing stuffed burgers with pockets of different ingredients in them. We have meatloaf and marinated meats, as well. Some of the products we are working on are cooked or par-fried for food service appetizer uses. We have a breaded steak strip that is new, as well.”
Beefing up operations
The meat industry has faced unique challenges in recent years. Belmont sources most of its product from Canada and the U.S., especially in areas that have experienced severe droughts in the last five years. The lack of rainfall took a major toll on grazing vegetation, as well as feed crops. Much of the corn production in these regions has been diverted to ethanol production, increasing demand and driving up process for farmers. Meanwhile, demand has gone up around the world.
“Raw material cost is a big ticket to pass along to consumers through retailers and even harder with food service,” Duffy explains. “Pork prices have risen also with the recent sicknesses in the herds. If your business relationships are good and you can value add you can make it. I think things will be tight despite more rain and grain as the herds have to be rebuilt with cattle and pigs. We will see strong packer prices for a bit longer.”
Despite these challenges, Belmont has been on a strong trend of growth. Duffy credits his staff with much of the company’s success. “We have an outstanding team of people in a category that is crying for innovation with unmet consumer needs,” he says. “We have a solid crew of people who like to find solutions and explore consumer needs. While per-capita consumption is going through the roof, we know there are ways to grow the business by meeting unmet needs and moving proteins around the plate.”
Belmont will continue to grow through innovation and development. Duffy points out key performance drivers such as revamping existing, bolt-on or flanker products. “Our process of innovation concerns quality and technology. We can succeed if we follow those processes. On the other hand, we also measure our success through the satisfaction of our employees. We live and breathe transparency. Our aim is to focus on supporting workers and keeping good people. We like winning the right way.” As Belmont Meat Products Ltd. grows into the future, Duffy is confident in his team and its ability to present high-quality and innovative meat products to a growing market.