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Timeline: A look at Hormel's past, present and future

AUSTIN — From its humble beginnings in town to a well-established international food services company, Hormel Foods became a giant in the industry while still maintaining its "small-town roots" in Austin.

Here are some of the key events in Hormel's history while its 125th anniversary draws closer.


Geo. A. Hormel & Co. began in Austin in 1891. Products such as Canadian bacon and canned hams differentiated the company and stimulated growth.



The first national advertising for the company appeared in Ladies Home Journal.


Annual sales neared $30 million, which was up from $220,000 in the company's first year. While there was a provision market in Austin and a distribution centers across the country, Hormel started moving on up.


Leadership was transferred to Jay C. Hormel, and with it came a change and new ideas for management, products and advertising. Employees were given focus with guaranteed annual wages, a joint-earnings plan and an employee profit-sharing trust.

This also was the period when products such as the famous Spam brand and Dinty Moore beef stew were introduced.


The Hormel Foundation was created, and the Hormel Institute was established the following year. Sales offices were established in 14 cities around the United States as the company continued to expand.



The company gained its first leader from outside the Hormel Family, H.H. "Tim" Corey, after World War II. About this time, the Hormel Girls musical troupe helped to advertise the company's product line.

Hormel Mary Kitchen beef hashes were introduced, as well as other new products to meet the popular trend for convenience-packaged products. Multiple facilities were built and purchased to accommodate customer demand, including contracting production overseas.


The company processed its 50 millionth hog, and annual sales rose to $250 million by its 60th year in business.


Hormel Foods expanded its national reach by establishing manufacturing and distribution sites across the nation. Leadership at the time was under R.F. "Bob" Gray and then M.B. "Tommy" Thompson.

Iconic products, such as Hormel Little Sizzlers pork sausage and Hormel Cure 81 hams, were introduced during this era. Spam also produced its 1 billionth can.



Hormel showcased its iconic parsley leaf as the new company logo.


I.J "Jim" Holton led the company during this time. Hormel's international presence grew and built 10 new domestic facilities, and the decision was made to build a flagship plant in Austin.


Hormel launched its largest national advertising campaign to date for Hormel Cure 81 hams.


The company added nutritional and ingredient labeling on all products and was considered the first to do so in the meatpacking industry.



Annual sales topped $1 billion for the first time.


R.L. "Dick" Knowlton led the company through industry competition and innovation. Hormel's product portfolio continued to expand through acquisitions such as Jennie-O Foods and new product developments such as frozen and shelf-stable microwavable items.


A 13-month strike took place between Hormel and the international union leadership, the members of Local P-9, the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

About 1,500 members walked off their jobs on Aug. 17, 1985, and the strike began the next day. Former Gov. Rudy Perpich called the National Guard to protect newly hired workers who entered the plant. A riot broke out during the strike, injuring nine law enforcement officers; 12 to 15 demonstrators also were arrested in front of the plant gates.

The plant reopened on Jan. 23, 1986, with 500 union members returning to work and 540 non-union employees hired to bring the plant back to full production.



Hormel began trading on the New York Stock Exchange and announced its seventh two-for-one stock split since its inauguration as a publicly traded entity.


Geo. A. Hormel & Co. was rebranded officially as Hormel Foods Corporation. Joel W. Johnson guided the company and incorporated new technologies such as brand-specific websites. Export tonnage exceeded 30 percent as more acquisitions and joint-ventures grew the company's global presence.

A large contribution was the acquisition of The Turkey Store company, which merged with Jennie-O Foods to create one of the largest turkey processors in the U.S.


Jeffrey M. Ettinger's leadership helped Hormel Foods make over 10 acquisitions, including SKIPPY Peanut Butter, CytoSport, maker of Muscle Milk products and Applegate Farms.



The company began reporting on its corporate responsibility initiatives. The $1 billion and $2 billion innovation challenges were introduced to spark sales.


Project SPAMMY, the company's childhood malnutrition initiative in Guatemala, was launched.


The Spam brand celebrated its 75th anniversary with the company's first campaign mascot, Sir Can-A-Lot.


The Spam product was made available for use in domestic and international feeding programs.


Hormel Foods is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and the new Spam Museum opened in downtown Austin. In March, Jeffrey M. Ettinger was named one of the World's Best CEOs by Barron's.

Business units are being led by the company's 10th president, James P. Snee. A two-for-one stock split, the second in five years for Hormel Foods, was approved by stockholders in January.

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