Jensen Meat Co. began with providing steak cuts in 1958, then later evolved into a leading ground-beef processor in 1986, but up until the past few years, many consumers in its home market of San Diego didn’t know the company was there. “We were lacking visibility in our own town,” CEO Abel Olivera says. “We are now changing that by growing our retail presence, boosting our community presence and, bottom line, letting local residents know they can buy local products.”
The company in recent years has stepped up its local marketing and advertising efforts. These include placing billboards and serving its burgers for free at community events in conjunction with a gourmet food truck. “We want to be out there in our community and give people the chance to taste our products,” he adds. “My dream is for people to ask specifically for a Jensen patty when they go to local supermarkets.”
Jensen’s patties and other ground beef products can be found throughout the western United States at major retailers including Walmart and Kroger as well as wholesale club stores. The company also supplies national foodservice providers and restaurants.
The company is pursuing new opportunities nationwide in addition to enhancing its visibility within its local market. “For years, we sat in our offices waiting for customers to call us about co-packing opportunities,” Olivera says. “Within the past three to four years, we’ve taken a different approach, adding an internal sales staff and devoting more resources to marketing, which has helped us expand our reach.”
Jensen Meat’s rapid expansion from 23 million pounds of ground beef sold in 2005 – when Olivera joined the company – to 65 million pounds sold in 2014 prompted it to move its manufacturing operations. The company in 2013 moved from a 28,000-square-foot facility in Vista, Calif., to a 150,000-square-foot location in the Otay Mesa area of south San Diego. The company is utilizing 81,000 square feet of the new space, giving it room to expand even further, Olivera notes.
The company manufactures individually quick-frozen and fresh patties in different shapes, lean/fat ratios and sizes under both the Jensen and private-label brands. Jensen Meat offers three main sub-brands under its own name: the Jensen Legend premium brand, the Original brand and the Classic brand.
“We consider these our good, better and best brands, which we’re really pushing on getting into local supermarkets first and then expanding,” Olivera says.
All of Jensen Meat’s products are manufactured with high food safety and quality standards in mind. The company is SQF Level 3 certified and was the first meat-processing company in the United States to use Sanova, an antimicrobial solution made up of lemon juice and salt. The solution is effective in killing 99.99 percent of all pathogens, Olivera notes.
All raw materials prior to entering Jensen Meat’s facility are tested for pathogenic E. coli. “We don’t allow any raw materials into our facility that haven’t been tested previously, but even with that, we wanted to add additional protection to our process,” he adds. “From the time we receive it in our facility, we know we’re getting a very clean product.”
Jensen Meat products are made from high-quality cuts of beef that are processed into patties using the company’s patented “ultimate fill system” process, which grinds the meat in a manner that creates air pockets, making it juicier and more tender.
“We pride ourselves on making the highest-quality products,” Olivera says.
The company’s staff is regularly trained in optimum food-handling and quality techniques. “We pride ourselves on spending resources on properly training all of our production staff on being cognizant of food safety and quality issue,” he adds. “Our people are very proud of what they do in this company, and the people behind the brand are what make it better.”
From Ranch to Table
The company continues to look at ways to improve the quality of its products while keeping abreast of market trends. One trend in particular the company is mindful of is the demand for grass-fed, natural beef products.
An agreement recently reached between Jensen Meat and the Montana-based nonprofit organization American Prairie Reserve (APR) will help support the group’s wildlife-friendly ranching and conservation efforts while also giving the company access to domestic, naturally raised and grass-fed beef. Jensen Meat will create a new sub-brand, Jensen Natural, using this beef.
APR currently owns more than 305,000 acres of wildlife reserve land, with a goal of eventually piecing together more than 3.5 million acres of private and public land.
The incentive program will pay ranchers for using APR’s wildlife-friendly ranching methods and refraining from the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. “We are incentivizing ranchers to raise cattle the natural way,” Olivera notes. “This would enable us to give consumers natural, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free beef. Our customers want to know where their food is coming from; with the Jensen Natural brand, we will give consumers visibility from the ranch to their table.”