My memories of our bacon company

Oscar and Eben created their own bacon company and we now manage and own it together with a group of friends.  Below I share some of my personal memories and my own journey.

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2008

I resigned from Goosebumps Frozen Food Logistics.  The company owners, Hans Kakebeeke and Cilliers Viljoen offered to help me create a meat brand. I was unsure what products to produce.  Pork, chicken or beef?  I traveled the country, testing every possibility we came up with.  The retailers gave us a chance on a concept of selling frozen bacon.  It was a dismal failure, but bacon became our business.

Carina Lochner suggested the name in reference to “wood smoked” products.

The company started as a bacon brand produced by a 3rd party, Table Bay Meats.

Arriving at a hotel in Johannesburg very early one morning.  A few hours sleep and then off to potential clients.
Arriving at a hotel in Johannesburg very early one morning. A few hours sleep and then off to potential clients.
Frozen-bacon.  A dismal failure.
Frozen-bacon. A dismal failure.
Testing products in townships in Cape Town.
Testing products in townships in Cape Town.
An early Woody's product.
An early Woody’s product.
Product testing in a township in Cape Town.
Product testing in a township in Cape Town.
The first ever product trial, done my Johan van Zyl from Deli Spices.  We injected turkey backs.
The first ever Woody’s product trial, done by Johan van Zyl from Deli Spices. We injected turkey backs.
The first Woodys logo, created by Carina Lochner.
The first Woodys logo, created by Carina Lochner.
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First Woody’s promotion – two American students from UCT entered the competition and won a Magents T-shirt each.

2009 and 2010

On 14 April 2009, Goosebumps agrees to sell the brand name to me.  Dawie Hyman was initially part of the venture and supported me during the first year to augment the income from product sales.

Oscar Klynveld joined the venture in Nov 2009.  He has been the company Managing Director right from the start.  The company was created in January 2010 in Potchefstroom to trade products with the same brand name.  On 5 Feb 2010, a meeting was held at the Palazzo Hotel, Montecasino as the first formal company meeting.

Oscar Klynveld at a meeting at Cater Chain, Johannesburg.
Oscar Klynveld at a meeting at Cater Chain, Johannesburg. One of the first Woody’s meetings with a potential producer.
Anton van Rooyen at a meeting in Potchefstroom.
Anton van Rooyen at an early Woodys meeting in Potchefstroom.
Ehrardt Meyer in Bloemfontein at a Shoprite show.
Ehrardt Meyer in Bloemfontein at a Shoprite show.  He has been with Woodys right from the start as part of the sales team.
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First packaging.
First packaging.
Eben and Oscar at the Shoprite show.
Eben and Oscar at the Shoprite show.
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Tristan, holding proofs for Woody’s labels on 29 May 2010 which we drove through to Johannesburg to pick up.

On 18 Nov 2010 Willem Klynveld joined Woodys to take over the sales, advertising, and marketing of the company.

On 12 Nov 2010, Tristan, Will, and Eben hiked up India Venster (up Table Mountain) and abseiled down one of the cliffs to welcome Will to the company.  We have always combined bacon and an enjoyment of life!

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Tristan gets ready to abseil.
Will's welcome to Woodys.
Will’s welcome to Woodys.

Oscar and Trudie later joined us on an Indian Venster hike.

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Oscar and Trudie
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Tristan and Trudie looking at Oscars ascend.
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Oscar and Trudie

2011

In 2011 Oscar and Eben decided to assign half of the company to a fertiliser company, Profert in order to get the required funding to set up their own factory.  Eben undertook the first of many trips to Europe in order to gain exposure in bacon factories.  They had a thorough introduction to the world of functional food ingredients, spices, product development, various meat processing equipment types and equipment producers and the international pork trade.

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Andreas Østergaard, who introduced us to the world of functional meat ingredients. This pic was taken hours after Eben arrived in Denmark. Andreas is giving his first lecture on basic meat processing.
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Kristian Nielsen, who introduced us to the magical world of spices and flavours. The pic is taken on a ferry between Denmark and Germany, on our way to visit meat factories in Poland.
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The magical city of Girona in Spain where we were introduced to high-pressure injection.
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In Paderborn, Germany where we were introduced to the art of tumbling by the Henneken brothers.
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The basics of tumbling by the Henniken brothers.
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Visiting Tönnies in Germany where Susanna introduced us to the international pork trade.
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Oscar, measuring the cooking loss of products we produced in England after one of my trips.
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Visiting Danish Crown where we met Peter Birkelund, a renown processing expert. Peter and Eben remain in contact to this day.
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Two processing experts who became important in the life of Woody’s. Hendrik Jeppesen (Jeppe) and Ken Pickles. We met Ken when he was NPD Manager at Vion.
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Jeppe during product trials in a Tulip factory.
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We widely consulted with some of the best food institutes in the world.
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Kevin Picton at the Bull pub in Peterborough, helping out behind the counter. Kevin would become a close friend.
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A meeting at Vion. On the left, at the head of the table is Geoff Dobson.
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Oscar at the Vion meeting.
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Eben at the Vion meeting.

The European experience introduced us to the fundamentals of meat processing and the requirements of running a meat plant.  We became connected to the world of functional ingredients, spices, equipment and generally the art of meat processing.  It was a great foundation, but not a model that can be applied without major adjustments in South Africa.

In this year I was more in the UK than in South Africa.  Above all, I remember getting home.

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2012 and 2013

At the beginning of 2012, I spent a lot of time in a Tulip plant just outside Bristol.  Here I gained my most valuable experience.

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Production and QC staff.
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Jeppe
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Production manager and QC .
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Jeppe in a discussion with Martin Sauer.
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Jeppe, Martin and staff inspecting injection.
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QC and Abattoir manager.
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Lee Coates, Production Director.

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Construction finally started on the new factory in the old Roelcor building at 7 Assegaai Road, Kraaifontein at the end of 2012.

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An old carcass chiller was turned into a factory.
Breaking out.
Breaking out.
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An old carcass chiller was turned into a factory.
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An old carcass chiller was turned into a factory.
The electrical contractors.
The electrical contractors.
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An old carcass chiller was turned into a factory.
Woodys Kraaifontein site
An old carcass chiller was turned into a factory.
Cooling plant.
Additional cooling plant.
Tristan and Lauren helping as often as they can.
Tristan and Lauren helping as often as they can.
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Fixing old ammonia pipes.
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Laying the new floor.
Slowly taking shape.
Slicing area slowly taking shape.
Oscar, inspecting the work.
Oscar, inspecting the work.
The production area taking shape.
The production area taking shape.
Starting to look like a food factory.
Starting to look like a food factory.
Equipment started to arrive, mostly from Europe.
Equipment started to arrive, mostly from Europe.
Equipment started arriving from around the world.
Equipment started arriving from around the world.
Offloading the one packing machine.
Offloading the one packing machine.
Staff started moving into offices.
Staff started moving into offices.
Moving equipment into the factory.
Moving equipment into the factory.
Oscar, Eben and Willem.
Oscar, Eben and Willem.
Oscar, our Managing Director.
Oscar, our Managing Director.
The 1st smokehouse.
The 1st smokehouse.
The brine mixing room taking shape.  In the pic is Luke, our plumber.
The brine mixing room taking shape. In the pic is Luke, our plumber.
Tristan, inspecting the new freezer ceiling.
Tristan, inspecting the new freezer ceiling.

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Moving the old ammonia lined into the ceiling.
Moving the old ammonia lined into the ceiling.
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Andreas giving deboning training.
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Here I am taking the first meat through the injector.
Oscar testing the clipper.
Oscar testing the clipper.
Finally, bacon!
Finally, bacon!

By early April the work was completed and production started.

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Eben, Oscar, Will, Nathan, Lindsay are in the back with Alison and Lynn, our food safety consultants. Kneeling in the front, left is Andreas Østergaard, all the way from Denmark to help.
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First production day, 9 April 2013.

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The first shipment of bacon leaving the factory on 13 May 2013.

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In June 2013, our one smoker exploded.  We survive and move on to bigger things.

James Klynveld joined the company on 8 July 2013 as financial manager.  Roy Oliver joined Woody’s on 1 Sept 2013.

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The new Woodys logo was introduced in this year.

The Woodys branding was completely re-designed under Will’s leadership along with a new corporate website and social media platforms.

2014

Woody’s continued to refine its processing techniques and processes.  It incorporated more aggressive marketing such as a bacon festival that we attended.

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Will, doing his magic at a bacon festival in Cape Town.
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Ehrardt and Will at the bacon festival.
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Oscar at the bacon festival.

During 2014 Woodys started expanding their marketing across the border to other African countries.

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An old church in Windhoek.
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Oscar at the Avis dam in Windhoek.

2015

Woody’s became more “corporate” on 25 May 2015 and Profert’s involvement ended.  June 2015 became a very important benchmark month from a profit/ loss perspective.  On 17 June 2015, the record number of bacon packets to date were sliced and packed.  Tristan spent a week with Will, job shadowing him.  Product quality became a major focus in 2015.

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Tristan and Eben during Tristan’s job shadowing.
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Tristan reporting back to Oscar.
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Catering bacon champion.
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Catering bacon champion.
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Roy Oliver
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On 17 June 2015, a record number of boxes bacon was sliced and packed in 24 hours. The A-team of bacon packing!
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Quality took a major step forward.
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Quality took a major step forward.
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Quality took a major step forward.
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Quality took a major step forward.
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Quality took a major step forward.
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Quality took a major step forward.
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Quality took a major step forward.
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Quality took a major step forward.

2016

In 2016 we embarked on a project where we started to change over from conventional bacon production to the grid system.  Here are photos of our first attempt, through subsequent versions and onto the design that we currently use.  Also included is Jason delivering our first trolly, our conveyor filling stations, and some product pictures – produced in the new system.  Here is a link to an article that deals with some of the meat science underlying the development:  The future-processes-and-technology using microbial-transglutaminase.  The product features are also our first free-range products, packed on a new Seal Pack machine.

Oscar and Jason were the brains behind the grids and I focussed on the functional ingredients and the use of Transglutaminase along with setting up the processing steps using the grids.

The grid system has been developed and improved over the years.

2017

In 2017 we changed our production from a supply-driven system where the production was dictated by whatever we receive on the floor as quickly as possible, by a system of planned batches which drives everything, from meat intake to the slicing program.

Also in 2017, we bought a sausage company based in Montague Gardens as then O’Kin brand came into the Woodys stable.  The Woodys logo was again progressed.

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Random photos from 2013 to 2017.

2018

Major changes took place in 2018.  The factory moved to Montague gardens to rebuild Kraaifontein.  Ryno joined the company and took over from me as production manager.  Adriaan took on the role as General Manager.

2018 sausage department
Sausage Department
Butchery Dep
Butchery Department

Injection Dep

sausage dep
Sausage Department
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Scullary
slicing dep
Slicing Department
woodys QC Team
Factory QC Team

The listeria outbreak became a major focus in 2018 and still, product quality remained our number one challenge.  Oscar put in a huge amount of work implementing proper management systems in the company and ensuring that all critical positions are properly staffed.  More than ever before, Woodys evolved into a more corporate culture.

Eben and Minette got married on 28 April 2018.  Here is a special message that Adriaan help make possible from the Woodys staff.

Eben and R&D

Research and development have been a passion for 10 years and I learned the hard way how NOT to do it.

  • First attempt, 11 years ago.  My initial thoughts were around mass-market products with high extensions.  After all, I got involved in meat processing because of a love for chemistry and a belief that food chemistry is the basis for making food more affordable.  This would remain a focus, even if only in the back of my mind for many years.

Poultry Stew

  • Very early on in the venture, I learned that I know far too little about meat processing to be able to make any meaningful contribution to high extended products.  My attention changed to straightforward learning – as much as I can; as fast as possible.  What is meat processing and what are the rules of the trade?  How to make standard bacon became my prime focus.

Factory Trials 2

Factory Trials

International Cooperation on R&D

International Team on low cost product

  • It is now 2018 and Oscar and I have been doing this for over 10 years.  If the hindsight of 10 years taught me anything, it is that low end, mass produced, low margin, high extension products are not where I want to be.  Over the years I became fascinated by good quality, natural and healthy products.

I have always been fascinated by the history of our art, believing that if I am able to master the earliest principles of our trade, that I will be able to see the future more clearly.  Bringing these together, the origins of our trade and a proper understanding of meat science and meat chemistry, became the result of everything I have learned in my professional life.

R&D

Below are photos where I cured bacon with ammonium chloride, the only alternative way to cure bacon that does not use nitrite and nitrates.  I discovered that its use probably predates the use of saltpeter for bacon curing and its origins are found in pre-history.


One of our earlier best successes was maple bacon, but the development was never completed.

R&D 2

All these culminated in a new vision of product development where highly qualified NPD personnel, develops unique to top quality products.

Below are photos where we do an ancient Roman pork roast recipe with salt, spices, and honey.

While in New Zealand, I developed the “why?” behind such products that combine my love for the ancient history of foods and developing exceptional quality products with top NPD professionals.  The almost 25 000 members of my food technology Facebook site testifies to the massive public interest in this approach.  My articles on my food technology blog have been read almost 100 000 times

What you eat should represent what we aspire to as humans; human technology developed from ancient times as we became more sociable; started living together in cities and meals developed into social events. Food changed into an art, and as an experience, certain foods are on par with the most pleasurable physical experiences of humans.

Legendary foods developed around the world.  Sumerian and Roman roast dishes of salted pork and honey dating back to a time before the Christian Era. Tang Dynasty’s Jinhua-hams from China appeared around the 600’s AD.  Cured meats from Italy, Rome, Ireland, Spain were served at banquets for kings and nobility.  Fermented meats, pickled, roasted and cooked.  The change to food as an art is believed to have happened on Roman islands like Sicely and Crete.  Flavours and spices reached probably the highest level of maturity around the Himalaya mountains in Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, India and Malaysia.

The history which leads to this approach are briefly as follows:

I spent the last 10 years immersing myself in ancient foods and recipes, building up a library of stories and a network of food historians from around the globe.  Playing and experimenting with these concepts.

Oscar Klynveld and I started a commercial curing operation, Woodys Consumer Brands (Pty) Ltd. where my focus was learning about curing and setting up the operation.  We have always tried to think differently and developed a network of amazingly gifted butchers, spice experts, and food artisans from around the world while we appreciate the demands of a modern meat curing and fermentation operation.

I learned how to market these through all channels so that the products move at a great pace off the factory floor, onto the retail shelves, and into the consumer’s home.  I learned how to get consumers to fall in love with these products.


 

 

 

(c) eben van tonder

Bacon & the art of living” in bookform

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