It made perfect sense for Frank Leavy to found the Harvest Meat Company in 1989 with his sons Jay, Kevin, and Dennis. Frank, an Irish immigrant butcher, owned three retail butcher shops in Iowa. He ensured that his children understood the value of a strong work ethic and sense of loyalty at an early age by requiring them to work in his butcher shops. Over time, it became apparent to Frank that there was a need to bring Midwestern quality protein products to the western part of the United States, and Harvest Meat Company was established to fulfill this need.
At first the company, which simultaneously opened distribution sites in Phoenix, Ariz. and San Diego, Calif., had a few trucks and participated in every aspect of the business from warehousing to selling to curing to delivering. Harvest Meat relied on cold-calling potential customers and offering them its services. Initially, the company’s headquarters were based in Phoenix, but they moved to San Diego within a year, and at that time Frank Leavy decided to focus his efforts on the sales side of the business.
The company branched out, establishing itself in newer markets, such as Orlando, where it opened a distribution center in 1990; Kansas City (1994); Denver (1995); Dallas (2005) and Sacramento (2007). For every branch Harvest Meat opened, the company recruited people from within to run the newly-established branches. This enabled the company to incorporate its established business culture and work ethic into the new branches. “We always make an effort to advance from within the company,” says Jay Leavy, CEO. “We ensure our employees feel and understand our loyalty and attachment to them. As a result, we have very little turnover and now employ 350 people across the United States.”
In 1998, Harvest Meat confronted a new challenge: how to incorporate its work ethic and business culture into the family-owned Western Boxed Meats, which the company acquired that year. Harvest Meat Company succeeded by combining the best aspects of each business. In 2002, Harvest Meat acquired Joseph Solomon Sales, another family-owned business located in Los Angeles, Calif. Again, the company incorporated the best parts of each organization and created a company that functioned to achieve the high standards previously established by the Harvest Meat Company
“Growth has been our main plan throughout the past 20 years,” Jay Leavy says. “We are very aggressive with ongoing sales and locations. We have sales offices in Tampa, Miami, New Albany, Mississippi, and Seattle. We run a fleet of 130 trucks and employ over 80 sales people. Our employees service more than 4,000 customers in 30 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.”
Together with his brothers (Ken Leavy, President, and Dennis Leavy, Executive Vice President) and his father (Frank Leavy, President Emeritus), Joe Leavy has grown Harvest Meat Company into one of the top five meat distributors in the country, averaging 10-percent growth per year for the past few years. Harvest Meat Company is a leader in the procurement of poultry, beef, and pork. It also distributes cheese, lamb, seafood, and processed meats to its customers. The company has positioned itself as a leader in its industry through its skill as a strong buyer. What this means is that Harvest Meat Company has the ability to know when and what to buy in a fluctuating market. This enables the company to provide its customers with fresh product at all times, at the best prices. “Only 25 percent of what we have is pre-sold,” says Jay Leavy. “The rest we don’t have an order for yet, so it is important that we order the right quantity at the right time. We also buy in bulk, so we obtain better pricing, and pass that on to our customers
Harvest Meat Company works hard to expand its customer base and increase sales while maintaining quality of product and price. It is important to the company that it remains focused on meeting customers’ needs.
RISING ABOVE THE REST
What sets Harvest Meat Company apart from its competitors is not product but service. There are a lot of high-quality suppliers in the industry, so it is not difficult to carry the best product. But providing top-quality service in addition to high-quality product is where Harvest Meat excels. The company offers delivery three to six days a week, direct contact with phone sales representatives for each of its customers, field representation, and transparent sales programs with suppliers. These sales programs enable customers to meet with the suppliers, ask questions, and ultimately obtain product according to the customer’s needs. “Some people want to hide their customer base from the supplier, but we’re not like that,” Jay Leavy says. “We want what’s best for our customers.”
By establishing a large national distribution program and forming associations with other family-owned large businesses in areas where Harvest Meat Company does not have distribution coverage, Harvest Meat is able to market to national retailers and distributors and network the companies together so the customer gets the exact same pricing on product across the United States.
What’s important to note about Harvest Meat’s distribution logistics is that the routing system is generated by computer, unlike the system years ago where it was done by hand. Although the distribution routing system states a particular route is ideal, Harvest Meat Company will adjust the distribution to meet a particular customer’s needs or if the distribution does not make sense for some reason. This may cost the company money, but in the long run it saves the customer money, and Harvest Meat Company ultimately sees repeat sales as a result of its efforts.
Trucks equipped with satellite systems allow the company to track its trucks, communicate with drivers, and inform customers that drivers will be arriving within a designated time frame, or alert customers in advance to make necessary adjustments if the truck will not be arriving on time.
Although the cost of fuel has increased, Harvest Meat Company is not buckling under the weight of that additional cost. Regional distribution centers allow the company to limit its driving radius to a 200- to 300-mile area, keeping fuel costs at a minimum and allowing the company to remain competitive. In addition, the company redistributes a lot of products for its vendors, which ultimately lessens the cost to the vendor. Vendors bring in full loads of product to Harvest Meat’s distribution centers, and Harvest Meat breaks-up the loads and distributes them to areas where their trucks are already scheduled to deliver product.
The increase in organic and natural stores has provided new opportunity for Harvest Meat Company. The company is responding heavily to the demand for all-natural and organic products. In addition, consumers have shifted toward eating healthier, and that brought with it a ten-fold increase in seafood sales over the past four years.
Food safety is another area in which Harvest Meat Company has risen to meet change. Today’s consumers are very conscious of food safety. In addition to abiding by current food safety rules and regulations, Harvest Meat also keeps its customers informed about food safety by providing country-of-origin labeling. The company also uses a bar coding system that gives it the ability to identify each product, where it was produced, and date of production, and then tracks that product throughout the system. If a customer has a problem with a product once it reaches the customer’s site, Harvest Meat has the ability to determine how and where the problem occurred. The company also uses an inventory control scanning system. This system ensures product is sold in rotation, which prevents spoilage of perishable product and provides customers with the freshest product possible.
For close to 20 years, a traditional work ethic focusing on customer and employee loyalty has been at the core of Harvest Meat Company. This philosophy has served the company well and has helped propel it to the top of its industry. It is this same philosophy that will enable the Harvest Meat Company to keep growing while continuing to meet its customers’ needs.