Hormel honors 50 years of curemasters at Wednesday eventPublished 10:17am Thursday, March 14, 2013
Brian Hendrickson gets letters from time to time asking if the Hormel Curemaster is a real person, and it always amuses him. Unlike Betty Crocker or the Pillsbury Doughboy, Hormel’s Curemaster is alive, and for 50 years has led the company’s signature Cure 81 ham category.
“It’s always fun to reassure the public that yes, there is a real person behind the signature on the label,” said Hendrickson, the seventh and current curemaster, at an event honoring the brand and its leaders Wednesday at the Hormel Foods Corp. south location. Joining Hendrickson were the five other living curemasters.
The brand, which Hormel calls the Cadillac of hams, has been a tradition for the company since 1963. But in 2010, sales were slipping, and Hendrickson said they launched an effort to reconnect with the consumer.
“We needed to get in touch with the consumer, and figure out how do we turn this trend around,” he said.
They did, and sales have increased by 16 percent since last year.
To Al Fleiner, curemaster from 1973 to 1977, there was nothing like Cure 81 when he led the category. But today’s Cure 81 ham is a big improvement from the original, he said.
“It’s a nicer looking ham,” he said. “The flavor is pretty much the same as it’s always been. But it’s a lot better product. The old ham didn’t stick together very well. This ham is a solid piece of meat, and a beautiful product.”
Hendrickson said the brand’s secret today is the same as it was 50 years ago.
“I think the secret that gets passed down from generation to generation is pride and quality,” he said. “Make sure you’re putting the best product in the market place you possibly can.”
Hendrickson said the event — which included a curemaster plaque dedication ceremony, a luncheon with the curemasters and their families and remarks from Hormel executives — was overwhelming.
“It’s truly an honor to have an event honoring 50 years of Cure 81, and to see my fellow curemasters,” he said.