We recently spent some time with Excalibur President & CEO Tom Hornstein for a conversation about the past year and a sneak preview of what’s in store for 2019.
So, as you look back on the past year for Excalibur, what are some of the highlights?
Tom: We’ve witnessed another tremendous year for Excalibur. The company experienced steady growth, expanded our offerings and broadened our reputation in the protein industry.
From the launch of our international flavor line, new label design, an employee national award recognition and our community involvement with Pekin Golf, AmBucs and St. Jude’s Hospital Telethon, 2018 has been Excalibur’s most prosperous year to date.
This year sadly marked the passing of Excalibur’s founder, Jerry Hall.
Tom: Jerry Hall was a dear friend. He launched Excalibur in 1986, retired in 2010, and continued as our Chairman of the Board until passing away in June at age 83.
In addition to his entrepreneurial spirit, Jerry’s vision for what Excalibur should be remains at the forefront of our daily operations – a family-owned company that people can rely on for quality products.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that customers nationwide look to Excalibur for great products, great service and great people. It means a great deal to us to keep building upon Jerry’s legacy.
Excalibur marked the second anniversary of the R&D and warehouse expansions this past year. What’s the latest on upgrades and improvements?
Tom: We recently purchased additional factory equipment used for our new bulk filling line. As a company that prides itself on our “legendary quality,” it’s imperative we utilize the right machinery to help us ensure that never wavers.
Excalibur will be ready to hit the road early in 2019 for a series of conferences and shows. The big one, The Meat Conference, will lead the way for a number of reasons.
Tom: That’s right. At The Meat Conference in March, we’ll introduce portion control flavor packets. Excalibur will offer grocers and independent processors, such as small butcher shops, a stackable tower filled with our flavors, which will come in two-ounce flavor cartridges. These pouches have pull tabs, so the butcher can season the customer’s protein at the store or pack it with their purchase to flavor at home.
We think these flavor pouches are an important step for several reasons. First would be food safety because there’s less of a chance of contaminants in the mix and match kits. In addition, customers can now walk into a grocery store and see a variety of the pre-flavored prepared meals. The two-ounce packets are great for these kinds of pre-made kits.
Finally, the seasoning is pre-measured, so there’s no waste and it’s the recommended amount for the protein. That means less guesswork when it comes to the right amount of seasoning behind the counter.
This program is new for Excalibur. We are one of only a few companies offering this kind of personal and customizable approach in the store.
And by the time you reach the AAMP Conference in late July?
Tom: We’ll switch gears to our tumble marinade mixtures. For the first time, Excalibur will also provide clean label dry marinades. These marinades have no phosphates and less water so while the protein won’t be as fluffy, it is a healthier option. Our point is that if you love Excalibur flavors, now you can get them clean label.
What about the state shows that run throughout the year?
Tom: Our big focus at the state shows will be Excalibur’s meat program, especially our meatballs and patties featuring Excalibur seasonings and marinades. The goal is for customers to think outside the meat case, if you will. So, if you’re already buying Excalibur’s Cajun, why not try it on more than one protein? What about adding more than one seasoning to your lineup of meatloaf and meatballs? For example, our Mexican Fiesta is popular for chicken, but did you ever consider how it would taste on meatloaf? It’s excellent!
And there are new incentives for people who catch up with Excalibur at these shows on the road?
Tom: Yes. We’re launching a new rewards program for Excalibur customers who attend the events and purchase directly at the booth or on the trade show floor. There’s more to come on that…
Customer loyalty matters to us. If they are willing to keep buying from us and working with us, that means they’ve had a positive experience, are satisfied with our products and services, and find value in our relationship. It’s why we think rewards programs are incredibly relevant.
Having an innovative plan can really engage our customers and we understand there’s an expectation of benefits for their return business. In addition, if you provide customers with an attractive loyalty program, they may talk about it and inspire others to join. That leads to more opportunities for us to grow the Excalibur brand.