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Made-Rite Meat Products Inc.: A Spicy Blend of Business Savvy
Norm Campbell founded Made-Rite Meat Products Inc. 15 years ago when he just couldn’t handle being retired anymore. As a seasoned veteran of the meat packing and processing industry, he found himself “really thinking about what he could have done better over the years,” he explains. Using hindsight and determination Campbell founded a company that has grown to become Canada’s largest producer of beef jerky. The firm also produces pepperoni, salami and a signature vegetarian jerky, and has ventured into smoked meats, including pastrami.
Campbell originally entered the meat packing business in 1947 and eventually landed a job at Shop Easy stores overseeing the entire meat operation in British Columbia. By 1968, Campbell decided to branch out into wholesale supply and worked for 25 years “supplying meat to restaurants, hospitals, and hotels, which is a really cut-throat business.”
Wanting to sidestep this intensely competitive corporate atmosphere, Campbell established Made-Rite's business model as one of supplier, which gives the firm infinite potential for growth as it no longer works in contest with its clients. Campbell explains, “I came up with the idea of being a custom co-packer to larger packers, essentially producing under their label, not directly under our company name. This way, we weren’t a threat to any of the people we work for, because we’re, by definition, not a competitor.”
Campbell knew he had the equipment and procedures in place to provide quality product, but the private label/made-to-order business model took some time to lure in a client. “It took us about a year to find a client,” Campbell reveals. “Our first break was for a customer who was producing a product that was very labor intensive. They really only made it when they had to and they weren’t set up for the production of this item because they produced around 150 other items. It was just a pain in the butt for them so we took it on, and when they needed product all they had to do was pick up the phone and it would appear on their doorstep.”
The company’s sales steadily increased over the years until the firm eventually outgrew its facilities. “We’ve been in business over 15 years and we’ve gone from a 3,000-square foot facility to a 35,000-square foot facility,” says Campbell. “We had to stop taking on work in the jerky market because we simply didn’t have the space to produce it at the old plant.”
Made-Rite’s approach also enables the customer greater control over what it establishes as its niche. “We let the customer take care of actually sourcing the meat. That way, they have greater control over the quality of the product,” explains Campbell. “The customer takes care of the branding and sales aspect, and we take care of the production.”
As its increased its client base, so has Made-Rite seen an increase in demand for specialty meat products, expanding its operations into vegetarian jerky and halal meats. “Our vegetarian jerky has a texture almost identical to the real thing,” says Campbell, who further explains that the vegetarian jerky uses the same proven, preferred spice blend in the meat product, just infused in a soy-based item. Meanwhile, the firm’s expansion into the halal market resulted from a mixture of market demands, both dietary and economic. “Beef jerky is one of the highest priced items on the shelf, so we figured the best plan was to diversify,” explains Campbell. Made-Rite is always open to work with new partners in developing custom co-pack products.
Campbell started Made-Rite as a means to keep himself occupied when first faced with retirement, but having achieved the success he sought he now prefers to delegate the day-to-day operations. His son, Douglas, and daughter, Debbie, currently run the company in British Columbia, and Campbell splits his time between the province and property in Arizona. However, Campbell isn’t exactly retired still. “I spend my time coming up with designs for equipment and machinery to get custom-built in order to improve efficiency and production time for the employees. In this industry, you don’t just buy equipment off of the shelf,” he laughs.
Ultimately, Campbell hopes to see the company expand its operations into the United States. Made-Rite already has relationships with several suppliers in California and is just coming off of a three-year project to develop new packaging, which puts the company in a prime position for expansion. With over half-a-century of experience in the industry and a proven track record of innovation, Made-Rite Meat Products Inc. is positioned to find success throughout North America.