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Three Brands with Ingredients to Success

Natalie Baudler , Katie Plumski | July 15, 2016

Impact | Inside Magazine

Not surprisingly, these three products are still thriving in our company today

As the larger settled farms of the Midwest began to produce excess corn, the availability and low cost of this feed attracted pig production and processing to the Midwest. By the mid-1800s, the states that produced the most corn also produced the most pigs.

Austin Plant

Geo. A. Hormel Plant in Austin, Minn., during the early 1900s

This proximity to farms is one of the main reasons the Hormel family chose to go into the pork processing business in Austin, Minn. The pig was the paramount of George A. Hormel’s success in getting his small business on its feet.

“When a customer was in doubt, we always recommended a nice cut of pork,” George A. Hormel wrote in his unpublished autobiography of the popularity of pork and its importance and to his young business.

Three of the most successful products marketed at the beginning of the business were hams, bacon and fresh pork. Not surprisingly, these three products are still thriving in our company today.

When a customer was in doubt, we always recommended a nice cut of pork.

George A. Hormel

Through many rebranding efforts and innovations, these products saw many names such as Hormel’s Superior Brand pork, Hormel’s Dairy Brand bacon, Hormel Flavor-Sealed ham and more throughout the years. Today, they live branded as Hormel® Cure 81® ham, Hormel® Black Label® bacon and Hormel® Always Tender® fresh pork.

Under the meat products division of the Refrigerated Foods business segment, these three brands stand out in the marketplace, and are carefully managed internally to make sure they maintain relevancy and are a large contributor to the division’s success.

“Hormel® Black Label® bacon, Hormel® Cure 81® ham, and Hormel® Always Tender® fresh pork are three legacy brands within our meat products division that are rooted in quality, craftsmanship and consumer relevance. Steady innovation, product optimization plus brand integrity have been our formula for consistent growth over time. These great brands have not only survived the test of time, but they continue to thrive to this day,” said Eric Steinbach, marketing director, meat products.

Always Tender

Hormel® Always Tender® fresh pork

Hormel® fresh pork has always been part of the company’s supply chain and the Hormel® Always Tender® brand was created in order to bring additional value to this segment of the business. The brand was created in 1993 when Hormel Foods patented a brine that provided the consumer with a tender and juicy eating experience every time, guaranteed. In 1996, Hormel® Always Tender® marinated meats were launched with two flavors, peppercorn and teriyaki. Today, the portfolio has expanded its flavors and cuts of fresh pre-seasoned, pre-marinated meats to pork loin filets, pork tenderloins, and pork roasts. The brand is the No. 1 brand of flavored pork in its category and has recently reformulated its ingredient statements to align with a companywide initiative.

One thing that hasn’t changed throughout the years, is that consumers want something easy and quick, yet flavorful and healthy

Eric Steinbach, marketing director, meat products at Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods implemented a clean label initiative to simplify the ingredient statements of many of its retail products through the removal or replacement of ingredients, while still delivering great-tasting items that consumer expect. In fiscal years 2014 and 2105, a total of 12 clean label projects were initiated across the company, and Hormel® Always Tender® marinated meats were one of the first products to be completed.

Video: The Hormel® Always Tender® brand was featured in a Fourth of July grilling segment this summer.

“We understand that listening to our consumers is essential, and will continue to develop innovation based on the insights we gain to meet their wants and needs. One thing that hasn’t changed throughout the years, is that consumers want something easy and quick, yet flavorful and healthy, and that’s where Hormel® Always Tender®marinated meats will continue to be.”

Black Label Bacon

Hormel® Black Label® bacon

Hormel Foods has been making bacon since the beginning and Hormel® Black Label® bacon has stood the test of time due to relentless attention to detail for the production resulting in superior quality and taste loved by consumers everywhere. The brand has adapted and innovated to ensure core varieties and flavors are on-trend with consumer movements.

In 1989, the brand invented a microwave-ready bacon as the microwave itself was being brought into households across the country. This product evolved into a fully-cooked bacon segment as consumer needs changed to want even less preparation.

Last year, the Hormel® Black Label® bacon brand launched a line of premium flavors to hit on meal occasions beyond breakfast and satisfy consumers’ wants to basically, wrap everything in bacon, and consider using bacon in all meals, and even snacks and desserts.

Along with this premium line launch has come several marketing campaigns including creating a motorcycle fueled by a bacon grease biodiesel blend, hosting a bacon-themed burlesque show in Las Vegas titled, the Black Label® Bacon Strip Show™ in order to celebrate the new premium line of bacon, and continuing to have a strong presence at bacon festivals across the nation. These concepts are reaching a new and changing consumer through unique media channels paired with a strong social media presence across platforms.

Video: Black Label® Bacon Strip Show™ recap

All of this has been leading up to 2016, where the entire portfolio will be redesigned and united under the Hormel® Black Label® brand.

“2016 will be a historic year for us as we unite under one brand across all breakfast meat segments,” said Nick Schweitzer, brand manager, meat products. “Our goal is to have our positioning around being the serious quality bacon match our quality products. If you’re going to be on the same team, you’ve got to wear the same jersey.”

Cure 81 ham

Hormel® Cure 81® ham

The Hormel® Cure 81® brand is rooted in legacy and example of unmatched quality in its category. The brand was developed in 1963 when Geo A. Hormel & Company took an unprecedented approach to product development by asking more than 1,000 homemakers to help create “the world’s most nearly perfect ham.”

As consumers’ tastes and preferences have changed, their ideas of the perfect ham have also evolved. Hormel®Cure 81® ham offers enhanced flavor, texture and appearance for today’s families and still retains the highest quality standards, resulting in a moist and tender ham.

50 years of Cure 81

The six living Curemasters and Refrigerated Foods leadership gathered for a photo at the Curemaster Reunion in the spring of 2013. Left to right: Steve Venenga, vice president of marketing, meat products; Al Fleiner, Curemaster 1973-1977; Tom Day, group vice president, foodservice; Les Colling, Curemaster 1977-1990; Art Goembel, Curemaster 1990-2001; Larry Huston, Curemaster 2001-2006; Rich Chuick, Curemaster 2006-2008; Brian Hendrickson, current Curemaster.

A Curemaster oversees the production of each ham and is essential to preserving the integrity and quality of the product. For the brand’s 50th anniversary in 2013, all living curemasters were brought together for a reunion to share about their experiences as curemasters.

Video: a look at the first 50 years of the Hormel® Cure 81® brand.

The brand continues to innovate with the new smokehouse series of items like the Hormel® Cure 81®Cherrywood Smoked hams and the new exclusive line of hams sold only online, branded Curemaster Reserve™ hams.

Curemaster Reserve Ham

The Curemaster Reserve™ brand was launched in time for the spring holidays, with five flavors of premium cut hams and six different glazes to choose from. Family gatherings across the country enjoyed a ham from this small batch line of products, delivered straight to their door.

Social media buzz along with press from popular sites celebrated the launch of these quality products. The Curemaster Reserve™ brand was featured in a Food and Wine article titled, “6 Things to Put in a Grown-Up Easter Basket,” and specifically mentioned the brown sugar ham with sriracha glaze as a favorite.

“We were pleased with the initial launch of the line and are excited to continue offering these premium hams to our consumers,” said Megan Kubsch, brand manager, meat products. “We are very excited about the future of the Hormel® Cure 81® brand, and the Curemaster Reserve™ brand is a huge part of our future as we look to extend our expertise into specialty items and online offerings.”

More Stories About Our Products

This article was featured in Issue I of Inside Hormel Foods magazine. Click here to explore these unique collections of thought-provoking and heartwarming stories, recipes and features on our employees and the different areas of our company, all packaged up in a beautifully designed digital viewer for you.

On April 15, 2019, Hormel Foods Corporation completed the sale of the CytoSport business to PepsiCo, Inc. The transaction included the Muscle Milk® and Evolve® brands. For more information on CytoSport and its brands, please visit