With New Facility, North Country Smokehouse Aims to Grow in Claremont
It's been about 9 months since North Country Smokehouse, the Claremont-based producer of bacon sausages, and other smoked meats, opened its new production facility. But a shout-out from the company today thanking its builders for some pretty flattering photos of the building got us wondering how things are going there.
Especially after we heard Alicia Baker, North Country's brand manager, describe the building. "It's the Willy Wonka of bacon!" she said.
Before we get there, it helps to know a couple of things. The company started in 1912 as an expansion of Abraham Satzow's Claremont meat cart, and grew from there to become a high-end provider to restaurants, hotels, and resorts. In 2015, Abraham's grandson, Mike, sold it to Les Spécialités Prodal, a Montreal-based firm that's owned by the Bretons -- a third-generation family of farmers who were major pork suppliers to North Country. It's the Bretons who decided to expand.
And boy, did they expand. From about 15,000 square feet to 67,000 square feet. The decision to build anew, says Baker, was straightforward: "We were not going to be able to grow at all without expensive investments to meet city code." So the new building is not only big, it's state-of-the art. "We’ve brought in leading equipment from all over the globe," says Baker. And clean. Actually, Baker says, "immaculate." "With organic meat," she explains, "the entire process has to be at a different level. Organic products require different cleaners, and different sustainable practices even for cleaning. So the assembly lines are sparkling."
All the new space has allowed the company to grow substantially in less than a year. They've doubled their employees -- to over 100 now -- and doubled their capacity. And they've added new lines, including organic deli meats and certified humanely raised natural deli meats (meaning, among other things, that the pigs roam free -- "they run around as happy pigs," in Baker's words).
This, in turn, has helped what had been a small Claremont business set its sights on some serious growth. Before the change, about 80 percent of its revenues came from its core business with chefs. That's down to 70 percent, as its moved into retailers like Hannaford's and Whole Foods and, soon, a variety of other supermarket chains. "We can meet the consumer demand that these retailers put on us," says Baker. "Our goal is to double our sales -- from $25 million before this, to $50 million in three or four years."
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