A Ground Beef Processor Focused on Sustainability and Innovation
Jensen Meat Company
Jensen Meat Company has been a processor of high-quality ground beef products for over 60 years, servicing the retail, food service distribution, restaurant, and school markets. It produces quick frozen and fresh ground beef patties in a variety of shapes, sizes, and fat-to-lean ratios and it partners with a wide range of food distributors.
Jensen was founded in 1958 by Reggie Jensen, and it was later taken over by Bob Jensen who transformed the company into a grinding operation. The company had previously been in the business of processing and packaging lamb, veal, beef, pork, and fish. However, for the last 28 years, Jensen has focused its attention on ground beef products. Under the leadership of its current CEO, Abel Olivera, the Jensen Team has made the company what it is today.
Jensen’s 375 employees are committed to providing the best looking and best tasting ground beef patties to customers and consumers. “I’ve been here at Jensen for 20 years, and we have a team that’s driven, passionate about Jensen and where it is going. We have a staff with 150 years of combined management experience,” says Patricia Lavigne, Vice President of Executive Accounts at Jensen Meat Company. “Our CEO Abel Olivera believes people are the passion behind the brand. He encourages us as leaders to build our people up and to train them, as they are the future of the company.” The open-door policy at Jensen creates a transparent environment that is ideal in the workplace.
The Jensen processing plant located in San Diego, CA is one of the most modern plants in the United States west of the Mississippi River. Its storage facility is LEED Gold Certified, it utilizes heat from its compressors, it is equipped with advanced motion lighting, and it has a secondary storage facility that is used to generate solar power. Half of the 250 SKUs of products it manufactures are for the Jensen brand, and the remaining half is for a variety of private label brands. Approximately 80 percent of these products are frozen, and 20 percent are fresh/refrigerated.
Originally headquartered in Vista, CA, Jensen moved to its current location in San Diego in 2013, and at the time there were no intentions for immediate growth per se. The company was pleasantly surprised at the rapid increase in its customer numbers after it moved from the 28,000 square foot facility in Vista to the 150,000 square foot manufacturing plant in the Otay Mesa region of southern San Diego. In fact, Jensen experienced double-digit growth since 2013, increasing its volume sales from 45 million to 80 million. It was a much faster rate than expected and the company recently added two new individual quick frozen (IQF) production lines to meet the growing demand.
Most manufacturers in the United States are facing the massive challenge of a workforce shortage of skilled or even unskilled workers. Jensen, on the other hand, is fortunate to have a standby list of individuals that are waiting to become employees. “We feel blessed that we don’t have to wait for employees due to the list of people that are ready and willing to work and be a part of the team,” says Lavigne. Located in close proximity to the southern border, there are a high number of individuals with work visas readily available to work.
The training process at Jensen begins before the actual hiring process to ensure that the working relationship will be a good fit. Prior to hiring an employee, Jensen demonstrates different aspects of the career that may not have been previously considered by showing a video that properly explains the break schedule, the cold work environment, and the company’s open and supportive workplace culture.
A unique aspect of the training program at Jensen is its Buddy System. When a new person is brought on board to join the team, they are assigned to a certain individual that has been with the company for a good amount of time to shadow the new employee. It gives the newcomer a mentor and a safe place to ask for advice during the training and testing processes.
In addition to its open approach with employees, Jensen has developed a reputation for its ability to be flexible with its customers and provide the exact product requested. “We want to have a variety of items to provide, and we don’t ever want to say ‘no’ to a customer. If you send an order for same day [delivery], we’re going to coordinate to try and make sure we can make it happen. We want to be flexible with our customers and their growing needs,” says Lavigne.
Indeed, Jensen is a company focused on innovation and staying abreast of new trends in the industry concerning its food products and also its packaging solutions. The company strives to be consistent with its formulas and products to ensure the same high quality throughout its production lines as they continue to develop and expand.
Not only is Jensen compliant with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, its quality goes a step above with SQF 3 certification. The company does not use any scraps, head meat, or cheek meat in its products and its strict quality control standards also include Sanova, a lemon juice and salt solution that kills 99.99 percent of all pathogens without impacting the great taste.
When Jensen first moved into the San Diego area and immediately saw growth, the management team came together and decided to find ways to give back to the community that helped it reach such success. The company is now actively involved in numerous charitable organizations including A.J.’s Kids Cranes, the Children’s Hospital, Wounded Warriors, and Feeding America.
Jensen also considers ecological sustainability in every aspect of the business from sourcing to production. To reduce indoor pollution, the company used low VOC paint in its offices and installed FLOR tiles that are made from 100 percent recycled fibers, 95 percent of which are manufactured in the U.S. The company is also looking into the construction of solar canopies over its existing parking lot to generate renewable energy.
Another way that Jensen demonstrates its commitment to environmental sustainability is the purchase of an electric Toyota Prius for the V.P. of Executive Accounts to use for work rather than her own vehicle. The car, affectionately called “Jensen-mobile” by the employees, is brand wrapped in advertising for the company.
To ensure that its suppliers are following the same standard of sustainability, Jensen works closely with its suppliers in the U.S. and abroad. These relationships have allowed Jensen access to domestic and non-domestic, grass-fed beef raised in natural environments.
Recently, Jensen also partnered with a company that provides food shortage solutions through sustainable, plant-based meat alternatives. The plant-based market is one of the largest growing trends today and upon looking into the industry, Jensen discovered that the consumer research company Mintel stated that the number of food and drink products that mentioned the term ‘plant-based’ in the United States grew 268 percent from 2012 to 2018. The number of vegans and vegetarians is increasing and there is also a popular flexitarian diet that encourages the consumption of plant-based foods while allowing some meat and animal products in moderation. “Jensen has jumped on board because we feel that consumers should have options,” says Lavigne. “Yes, we are a ground beef processor, but we also want to be a part of the plant-based growth to have that option for our customers.”
Jensen is excited for the second quarter of 2019 as it will be launching a newly developed product that will be the first of its kind in the industry. Committed to maintaining its position at the leading edge of quality fresh and frozen ground beef patties, the team at Jensen is always looking ahead to find new trends and develop new ways to better the business.
As the company focuses on innovation, sustainability, flexibility, and transparency, its relationships with its customers, restaurants, retailers, and consumers will continue to thrive. Five years ago, the Jensen Meat Company name was not as well known, but today it is recognized on a national level for its high-quality standards and delicious products, as exemplified by U.S. Business Executive magazine honoring Jensen with the “Best of the United States” award in 2017 for its commitment to leadership and excellence in the food industry.
As Lavigne says, the company’s formula for success is simple: “We’re a team dedicated to producing the best tasting quality burger our consumers can feel good about serving their families.”