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Overview

Empire Kosher is the largest kosher poultry producer in the United States. But back in 2003, before Renaissance Partners stepped in to help, the business faced several challenges.

The Problem

The company, the largest employer in rural Juniata County in central Pennsylvania, switched ownership several times in the 1990s. Despite its issues, Empire Kosher still held a monopoly position on the kosher poultry market in the eastern United States - but that position was fading. The company was losing money and market share. A marketing campaign aimed at reaching and penetrating wider markets was unsuccessful.

To salvage the situation, Empire Kosher’s new private equity owners applied for a state government grant, citing the risk of mass layoffs and the potential shuttering of the county’s largest employer. The grant was tentatively approved, with one caveat: the company’s owners were required to work with Renaissance Partners to determine if the grant money could be utilized effectively for a successful business turnaround. In other words, the grant money was approved if Renaissance Partners could make a sound business case for the investment.

The Solution

Renaissance Partners sent personnel to the Mifflintown plant. They walked the plant floor, evaluated production and interviewed “boots on the ground” workers, including two specific subject matter experts.

Moving into the Rapidly Growing Organic Market 

Richard Youngman, a storied executive with a track record of growing successful natural food brands, joined the team to evaluate how the poultry was being prepared and processed. As a producer of kosher poultry, Empire Kosher followed specific preparatory processes to maintain a kosher designation. However, those processes were labor-intensive while the kosher end product didn’t command a high enough premium in the market to make up the gap.

But Youngman, an expert in organic food production, quickly ascertained that simple changes could give Empire Kosher’s poultry an organic designation as well. Back in 2003, organic food was not nearly as easy to find as it is today. An organic designation could expand the brand’s audience significantly and help penetrate entirely new market segments. This insight provided a huge and low-cost growth opportunity for Empire Kosher.

Updating Equipment and Improving Plant Maintenance

Mike Hulet, associate professor of poultry science at Penn State, joined the team to evaluate production equipment. The plant was outdated and non-compliant with food safety regulations. For example, lack of cash flow made it difficult for the facility managers to provide regular maintenance (or, in some instances, replacements) to freezers, refrigerators, the assembly line, and other critical machinery.

Empire Kosher had collected vendor quotes to make large-scale improvements to the physical plant, but the estimates were outdated and inaccurate. Worse, the company had requested so many estimates over the years that many vendors refused to provide more. Hulet’s major contribution to the program was his ability to evaluate the machinery and provide a new, accurate estimate due to his knowledge of the poultry industry.

The Results

With the help of Hulet and Youngman, along with cooperation and enthusiasm from plant employees, Renaissance Partners determined that investing in Empire Kosher was worthwhile. As a result of Renaissance Partners’ assessment, Pennsylvania approved the funding and Empire Kosher went on to make significant improvements to the facility. Eventually, they launched a successful organic poultry line called FreeBird.

The business turnaround was a success. In fact, when COVID-19 struck in March 2020, animal processing plants were placed under heightened scrutiny. When Empire Kosher’s facility was evaluated, the company earned the highest grade of all Pennsylvania plants. The company’s growth over the years can be attributed to work done based on Renaissance Partners’ recommendations as well as the care and devotion shown by the employees committed to providing their community with a high-quality Kosher poultry product.

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Typography is the art and technique

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed.

Typography is the art and technique

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed.

Typography is the art and technique

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed.

Typography is the art and technique

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed.