In the United States, a publicly traded company must hold an annual meeting of shareholders to handle the election of its board of directors and to conduct other business such as approval of executive compensation. Sometimes a few dozen shareholders show up as a formality, but not at Hormel Foods. The Minnesota-based company draws a standing-room only crowd each year, staging what is arguably Austin’s No. 1 social event.
This year’s annual meeting was no exception. Shareholders began taking their seats in the Austin High School auditorium – the only venue in town large enough to host the gathering – more than an hour before the meeting was called to order. The 2018 voting was uneventful as it generally is. It doesn’t seem to be why thousands pack the hall.
What does bring them out on what is usually a dark and cold January evening is the promise of a family reunion of sorts, a once-a-year opportunity to join with people with whom they’ve worked, grown up, raised children and shared something special. To thank them for coming, the company hands out gift boxes chockfull of products and dollars-off coupons, even tipping off the local grocery store ahead of time so it can have additional quantities of Hormel Foods products on hand.
Hormel Foods Chairman, President and CEO Jim Snee is a natural on stage, expertly moving through the business portion. He is equally adept – if not more so – in bringing the company’s vision and strategy to life by relating results, success stories and plans for the future.
There’s entertainment, too. This year it came in the form of the global premiere of a SKIPPY® peanut butter commercial that features the song “Uptown Funk” from record producer Mark Ronson featuring 11-time Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Bruno Mars. The song boasts a line that seems to be written for Hormel Foods: “smoother than a fresh jar of SKIPPY®.” There also was the introduction of Our Food Journey™, a stirring video that outlines the path Hormel Foods is on.
Yet, what gets everyone each year – and 2018 was no exception – are the spotlights put on ordinary people with extraordinary stories. They get to the heart of this business that’s now 126 years old. A group of deaf and partially deaf workers from the Jennie-O Turkey Store plant in Faribault, Minn., shared the stage with Snee, as did a young girl named Kendra who returned to Guatemala to find her roots and help her native country through Project SPAMMY®. “Superhero” Jackson, a boy with autism, donned his SPAM® brand cape as his mother, Tiffany, explained why her family is so indebted to the iconic brand. It wasn’t the first time (nor is it likely to be the last) that tears were shed by stockholders who arguably have more than a financial connection to Hormel Foods.
Snee adjourned the meeting to bring the regulatory requirement of an annual meeting full circle.
“Enjoy your evening,” he said.
It’s a safe bet everyone did.
On The Road Again
For Hormel Foods Chairman, President and CEO Jim Snee and the team of people who ensure the company’s annual meeting of shareholders goes off without a hitch, it probably feels like déjà vu all over again.
Some 12 hours after the yearly production, often hailed as the largest and most talked-about event held in Austin, Minn., the Hormel Foods crew returns to the Austin High School auditorium to do a version of the meeting for employees only. Think of it as the annual meeting’s younger (and more playful) sibling.
What’s been branded the Hormel Foods Corporate Road Show gives senior leaders an opportunity to go out to locations around the globe to share results and to offer insight into the strategy and plans for the future. It contains most of what transpired during the company’s annual gathering, save for the voting and other elements required by law. The event is more relaxed, with even more energy, excitement and enthusiasm.