A Midwestern packing house posted record profits in the quarter just ended, but the good news for employees is an old tradition. For the 68th year, Hormel gave many of its workers a Thanksgiving bonus.

Company spokeswoman Julie Craven says a lot of northern Iowans drive across the border to work at the flagship plant in Austin, Minnesota, that was founded by George Hormel about 115 years ago. There are also plants in Knoxville, Algona, and Osceola.

Earnings per share were up five percent for the quarter and 13 percent for the fiscal year on annual dollar sales of $5.75 billion according to Hormel’s year-end financial statement. A lot of people think of bacon, ham and hot dogs when they think of Hormel, Craven says, or products like SPAM lunchmeat and Dinty Moore Stew. But profits this year were driven by double-digit growth in other divisions.

One was the international division, which sells SPAM all over the world, and operates pork plants in China. A second is a specialty-products ingredients group that makes things like a sugar substitute. The third is Hormel’s food-service group, supplying products to the people who feed us meals in restaurants, hotels, schools and universities, hospitals and other “eating-away-from-home” locations.

Hormel also profits from the Thanksgiving holiday as it markets the Jennie-O brand name of turkey products.

The holiday bonus varies among divisions and work sites across the company and Craven says there’s also an employee profit-sharing plan. The company continues to grow and just this month acquired operations in California and Vietnam. The bonuses and profit sharing depend upon an employee’s place in the company, but she says Iowa workers are a part of the profit-sharing.

“For a competitive industry, having a solid performance by your employees is a nice surprise all by itself,” she says.

The world-famous SPAM museum is located at the flagship plant in Austin, Minnesota about thirty miles north of Mason City.

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