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Bacon & the Art of Living is the history of Woodys.
Oscar and Eben created Woody’s Consumer Bands (Pty)Ltd.. Below I share some of my personal memories and my own journey.
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 of 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.
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.
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!
Oscar and Trudie later joined us on an Indian Venster hike.
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 to 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.
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.
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.
By early April the work was completed and production started.
First production day, 9 April 2013.
The first shipment of bacon leaving the factory on 13 May 2013.
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.
The Woodys branding was completely re-designed under Will’s leadership along with a new corporate website and social media platforms.
Woody’s continued to refine its processing techniques and processes. It incorporated more aggressive marketing such as a bacon festival that we attended.
During 2014 Woodys started expanding their marketing across the border to other African countries.
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.
First very tentative step was taken towards our own solution to improve the quality, consistently! Work begins on a new method of bacon production.
This system would be refined into what I believe is one of the best current bacon systems on earth! See Best Bacon System on Earth
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.
Oscar and I worked on the grid system 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.
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.
Random photos from 2013 to 2017.
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.
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
Over the past 10 years and I learned the hard way what NOT to focus on in terms of R&D.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 should be approached with great respect and the product mix must be combined with high-end products. Over the years I became fascinated by good quality, natural and healthy products while I continued to work on innovative new bottom end South African products.
I have 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 both for mass market and high-end products. Novel meat ingredients and processing techniques work best when they are applied in combination with old school technology. 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.
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.
Below: One of our earlier best successes was maple bacon, but the development was never completed.
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.
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.
Bringing exquisite products to life in line with these traditions is the goal. There is simply no excuse for anything less!
(c) eben van tonder
Chapter 13.00: Woodys Photos
“Bacon & the art of living” in bookform
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