Processing Magazine

Tyson adapts to economy, sees progress in poultry

February 9, 2009
Now that people really are cooking at home, the world''s largest meat producer is downplaying the just-like-home aspect of prepared food and shifting to items designed to seem a little more fancy. The Associated Press reports that at the company annual shareholders'' meeting, Hal Carper, Tyson group vice president for research and development, showed off packaging for the new Beef Tips with Burgundy Sauce. The strategy Carper mentioned is part of Tyson''s effort to adapt to consumers who are eating at home more often and, when eating out, visiting less expensive restaurants. The company is approaching consumers who are eating at home more by also lowering the weight of products to help keep prices down. Carper said Tyson is involving its restaurant and retailer customers in brainstorming and developing new products. Tyson''s new refrigerator case offerings include pork loin and beef brisket choices, and the company''s international division offers a new chicken burger with a texture like a traditional hamburger. Interim Chief Executive Officer Leland Tollett clarified at the meeting that Tyson''s 5 percent production cut in December was meant to clear excess inventory from the market, and not an indication plans to cut its output for the long-term. Tollett, who served as CEO from 1995 until 1998 and returned to Tyson last month after the abrupt resignation of CEO Dick Bond, said the company''s beef and pork divisions are doing well. The company''s long-term focus is its international business and building its presence in markets with a growing middle class. Rick Grubel, group vice president and international president for Tyson, noted that 95 percent of consumers in India who eat chicken get their birds live. He said Tyson expects significant growth in India as consumers buy more chilled chicken, for instance. Tyson is expanding in Mexico, where it has been for more than 20 years, and in China, where it hopes to tap the growing middle class. Brazil is also part of Tyson''s long-term plan. Tollett said Tyson intends to gain market share in the time ahead, though he said Tyson is not in the market to buy other poultry companies. Tollett said the permanent new CEO likely would come from within Tyson''s ranks, though outside candidates are being considered. He would not give a timeframe, other than to say that if he leaves fast that means Tyson has deemed its chicken division is in good health. His retirement in 1998 topped a career of nearly 40 years with the company.