Stemmler's Meat & Cheese

Continuing 30 years of healthy, local food in Ontario
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Sean Davis

Stemmler’s Meat & Cheese has been serving customers in greater Heidelberg and the Waterloo region of Ontario for decades. Founded on the core principals of innovation, insight and opportunity, Stemmler’s is celebrating its 30th anniversary this October and continues a tradition of producing high-quality processed meat while supporting local producers and growers of fine cheese, local produce and baked goods.

While these core values and customer commitment remain the same, Stemmler’s has experienced substantial growth in the last several years and a slew of provincial and national awards. The company just opened a brand-new 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Waterloo to meet growing demand and achieve larger capacity.

Stemmler's Meat & Cheese

On a path of expansion, Stemmler’s has also participated in two pilot programs with the Government of Ontario, aiming to get healthy, nutritious, farm-fresh foods on students’ plates.

Humble roots

Even though the company has grown by more than 300 percent over the last decade, Stemmler’s started small and this foundation instilled a certain sense of care — care in the way the company does business and how its actions impact the community.

The Stemmler’s story began in 1985 with founders Gerard and MaryAnn Stemmler. Their first facility was in the family garage with a retail outlet at a local farmers market. It didn’t take long for customers to call on Stemmler’s products and the business began to grow.

In the first year, the family opened a storefront in Heidelberg, a 1,200-square-foot butcher shop. The business went through several expansions before Stemmler’s moved into a new facility in the same town.

Today, Stemmler’s runs two operations: one in Heidelberg and one in Waterloo. Gerard and MaryAnn are still involved, but have passed the company reins down to their sons, Kevin, Shawn and Terry Stemmler. The three brothers are partners and manage the day-to-day duties of the business.

Stemmler’s retail store is similar to a traditional Bavarian-European-style meat shop with an open concept; customers can see into every workspace in the production facility. “Our customers know what they’re getting because they can see the products they’re taking home being made,” says the oldest Stemmler brother, Kevin.

Product and process transparency

At Stemmler’s, there is an emphasis on this transparency, tracing many products all the way back to the fields where they were grown by local farmers. “We’ve worked with local farmers all throughout our entire history,” says Kevin. “We were doing this before it was fashionable and believe it’s something stores and manufacturers all over North America should be doing.”

Stemmler’s has been the first to do many now-trendy things long before market demand amplified. “Our company was one of the first to go down the road of health-conscious meat processing,” says Kevin. “About 25 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-, nitrate- and gluten-free meats and our line has grown. We have specialty products for people with Celiac Disease, lactose intolerance, intestinal disorders and high blood pressure.”

“We’ve been good at finding these niche markets that were once untapped and finding ways to offer solutions and grow our business,” adds Kevin.

Enhancing nutrition for children

Now Stemmler’s is taking its array of healthy, farm-fresh manufactured products and rolling out a series of school lunch and afterschool programs in partnership with provincial government-supported programs. “One part is working with Ontario Student Nutrition Services to get healthier breakfast, lunch and snack foods into the school system,” says Kevin. “We’re focusing on high-protein snacks and lunch options.”

As a midsized company, Stemmler’s has more manufacturing and processing flexibility than larger players and can offer Ontario schools and other organizations more variety and choices. “We’ve worked alongside some major names like PepsiCo, Quaker and Canada Bread to help make a bigger impact,” says Kevin. “The school programs turned to us looking for a protein supplier who is more flexible and nimble. We can change our direction on what we’re doing faster than a large manufacturer.”

Stemmler’s is also working with day care and afterschool programs through Ontario Child Care Services. “We’ve always supported children’s programs, especially local sports teams and clubs, but now we’re taking it to the next level and getting healthier products available before and after school,” says Kevin.

Kevin says the family team at Stemmler’s feels fortunate to be in a position to make such a positive impact on the local community. “We find ourselves with an opportunity to make a difference. Lunch and afterschool food programs are a great way for us to do that,” he says. “As the company celebrates 30 years, we’re starting to think more about what our legacy means and we know leaving the world a little better off is a big part of it.”

Stemmler’s is hosting a grand opening party and tours of its new Waterloo facility in September. “We’ll have a gourmet chef on hand, turning our products into some tasty creations. We’ll also have wine, beer and entertainment along with a dragster we help sponsor; it’s going to be a great time,” says Kevin.

With 30 years of family ownership and a commitment to local farmers, schools and the community, Stemmler’s Meat & Cheese is building on a reputation for a do-good family business and top-quality products.

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