Stemmler’s Meat & Cheese

Innovative processing and sales for a new generation of consumers
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Forrest Lancaster

Gerard and Maryann Stemmler founded Stemmler’s Meat & Cheese (SMC) in 1985, cutting and packing high-quality meats in the family garage and taking product to sale at the local farmers market. Within a year, the business began to grow. The family purchased the first storefront in Heidelberg, a 1,200-square-foot butcher shop. The business went through several expansions before the Stemmlers moved into a new facility in the same town.

Today, the crew operates out of a 6,000-square-foot office, processing floor and store. At more than three times the size of the company’s previous location, the new facility has allowed SMC to experience steady controlled growth while maintaining a customer-oriented business.

While the original founders are still involved in the company, Gerard and Maryann’s sons, Kevin, Terry and Shawn Stemmler, manage day-to-day operations as partners, as the brothers grew up in the business.

“We each play different roles in the business,” Kevin elaborates. “I studied mechanical engineering and now I am involved in research and design. Shawn’s focus is in purchasing and manufacturing: building partnerships with our farmers and managing production. Terry does the financial side, human resources, pricing along with manufacturing, alongside Shawn.”

Together, the brothers oversee a staff of approximately 40 people between retail, wholesale and processing. The business offers fresh and frozen products, including hand-cut beef, pork and poultry, as well as value-added products, including bacon, burgers, sausages, smoked meats and deli meat. Customers include independent consumers, as well as food service operators. SMC has a growing presence in health care, standing apart from competitors with health-savvy products processed to protect consumers with allergies, intolerances or special dietary needs.

Health-conscious products

For nearly 30 years, customers have trusted SMC for high-quality meat products that are good for the body and taste even better. “Our company was one of the first to go down the road of health conscious meat processing,” Kevin elaborates. “Around 20 years ago, we started to target customers with food allergies. There were so many families that had to make two separate meals to accommodate an allergy in the family. Back then, we were providing MSG and Gluten-free meats and our line has grown. We have specialty products for people with Celiac disease, lactose intolerance and intestinal disorders.”

The team has travelled to Europe to study new ideas that help SMC better serve customers. The company also attends several trade shows and other events where people in the industry exchange ideas. This attention to consumer demand and industry innovation has kept SMC ahead of the curve for several decades. As a smaller business with lower overhead, Kevin says these innovations are easier to incorporate. Connections with local farmers also offer improved traceability and fresher product.

Health and diet-focused products are becoming the norm in the industry, although SMC leads the competition in terms of experience. The team’s latest initiative is focusing in on sodium levels. “We are reducing our sodium levels better than the industry average already and there are several reasons for that,” Kevin explains. “We have come across a new ingredient. The manufacturer has a special process for making this sodium substitute. Not only is it good for flavor, but we can substitute it one for one. Customers have a hard time tasting the difference and this ingredient also has the same functionality of sodium, which is a huge bonus, along with being a non-allergen and completely natural.”

Market developments

SMC’s health-conscious products have gained a large following. With strong production capabilities and proven quality control, the company is attracting consistently more attention from the healthcare market. Kevin, Shawn and Terry’s team have established new partnerships with several organizations. “The healthcare industry is underserviced,” he explains. “We want to do it in our own way. Because we are smaller and more flexible than larger companies, we can be more creative in some ways. We have a lot to contribute to the market. Many of these customers are very happy to give us an opportunity with them. We are getting into senior homes, long-term care facilities and hospitals that are more than willing to listen to us. I think we are going to make our mark over the next three to five years.”

With strong potential in the healthcare market as well as the company’s established retail and wholesale operations, Kevin says the business is poised for significant growth in the coming years. SMC has been featured repeatedly on the Profit 500 List with a continued trend of steady expansion. “We haven’t tried to grow quickly,” Kevin clarifies. “We like to grow steadily rather than big jumps. Still, we have seen sizeable growth and within the next three to five years we will be looking at another large benchmark.”

To manage this growth, the Stemmler family has also honed in on internal operations and efficiencies. Upgrades include improved infrastructure for information gathering and control within the facility. The company has been working with Bizerba, a tech company based in Germany, building better inventory control for small to mid-sized businesses. Altogether, SMC is investing more than $150,000 into internal efficiencies.

SMC is a strong business. Standing on a foundation of quality and service, the team is moving forward to meet the changing needs of consumers. “Things are changing very fast now,” Kevin explains. “Sustainability is huge for the upcoming generation and that extends into food as well.” With a proven commitment to local growers and natural and healthy foods, Stemmler’s Meat & Cheese in well prepared to serve a new generation of consumers.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Bizerba North America
Lund and Associates