Monogram Foods CEO Karl Schledwitz wins Meatingplace Knowlton Award

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Meatingplace has chosen rapidly growing, entrepreneurial meat snack specialist Monogram Food Solutions and the company’s CEO, Karl Schledwitz, as the 2017 recipients of the industry publication’s annual Richard L. Knowlton Award.

With an eye toward revitalizing and finding profits in corners of the industry (that is, left-behind brand names) that others aren’t willing to take on; rapid, but profitable and sensible expansion; interest in innovation and new capital investment to improve business operations; and strong community and employee-company ties, Monogram rose to the top of a strong list and will wear the honor well.

The Knowlton award criteria include exceptional business leadership, innovation, industry leadership and corporate citizenship. The award is named after legendary industry innovator and former Hormel Chairman Richard Knowlton.

Monogram, the Memphis-based maker of beef jerky, sausage, hot dogs, pre-cooked bacon and more, continued its staggering growth in 2016 with the acquisition of Wilmington, Mass., frozen appetizer processor Progressive Gourmet and the expansion of the company’s processing and distribution capabilities. The move was the latest example of the company’s successful formula of capitalizing on underutilized, affordable assets and neglected brands in categories with major growth potential.

Led by Schledwitz, who has raised more than $120 million of private capital in the last 20 years to build four businesses, and managers boasting experience from the heaviest hitters in the meat processing industry, Monogram has achieved a 42 percent compounded annual growth rate in revenue since the company was founded in 2005. The small startup has grown into a company with more than 2,600 employees — more than 200 times the number of employees with which it began.

That type of growth doesn’t come without innovation. Among its latest examples is Easy Bacon. The “game changer” bacon, which the company promoted with a company co-owned by comedian Steve Harvey, moves from skillet to plate in less than two minutes, and produces 80 percent less grease and smoke than traditional bacon during the cooking process.

Monogram can make the bacon and give it, too. The Monogram Loves Kids Foundation has donated almost $1 million dollars to charities that help underserved children and families in the communities where the company does business.

“Karl Schledwitz is a modern day Dick Knowlton who has found ways to transform existing companies into entrepreneurial giants,” Meatingplace Publisher Bill Kinross said. “We need industry leaders like Monogram to continue to advance our industry.”