Hormel hands out annual profit sharing

Published 6:19 am Thursday, November 27, 2008

Eldon Winkel is a model for fiscal management in a nation drowning in credit card debt and overspending.

A mechanic in the grocery products division at the Hormel Foods plant in Austin, Winkel cashed his first profit sharing check 26 years ago. Ever since, he has rolled each annual check into his 401k.

“That’s built up a pretty good net income for me,” Winkel said.

Email newsletter signup

Despite the savings he has accumulated, Winkel said retirement with his wife anytime soon is still questionable.

“It could happen,” he said. “With the economy, we don’t know yet.”

Winkel was one of approximately 1,750 Hormel employees who collected their annual profit sharing check Wednesday, the 70th consecutive distribution for the company in this Thanksgiving Eve tradition.

From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 22 teams were treated to a celebration and a pat on the back from plant manager Mark Coffey. More than $14.8 million was handed out to all eligible hourly and salaried employees.

“We had to make this a very fun and festive day,” said Coffey, explaining that Hormel is unique for its profit sharing program as well as its recognition of employees.

“There’s no doubt every employee makes a difference,” Coffey said.

Hormel has made headlines recently for increasing sales of its famed Spam products, with customers’ buying trends changing in the slumping economy. Spam line employees have been working six and seven days a week, Coffey said.

The company has reported their profit is down 4 percent, while sales increased 9 percent to $6.75 billion.

“Yes, profits are down by 4 percent,” Coffey acknowledged. “With rising fuel and input costs, our team still delivered. The grocery products team exemplifies what made our company successful this year.”

Coffey pointed out that Hormel has avoided layoffs and closures, unlike other larger companies — Airplane manufacturer Cirrus Design in Duluth and the Ford plant in St. Paul — who both reported they will be temporarily laying off hundreds of employees next month.

Coffey attributed their “great team” combined with a “broad-range portfolio” in making Hormel the exception to the layoff trend. He said although checks are slightly lower this year, employees can be grateful for stability.

“Any bonus is better than no bonus, and we can be proud of that,” Coffey said to employees. “You work for a company that is stable, that is profitable, that is growing.”

LeRoy Willie and Jose Rodriguez, who work on the cook-in-the-bag machine, said this time of year, anything is appreciated.

“It helps out with Christmas,” Willie said while waiting for his check Wednesday.

Theresa Esplelien, a general worker, said she likes being recognized for their hard work.

“I enjoy it,” she said.