by Kylie Blanchard, Co-Editor, North Dakota Horizons Magazine
Tangy summer sausage, red franks, thick-cut bacon, and tear drop hams are products synonymous with the Cloverdale Foods (Cloverdale) name in North Dakota. The Mandan-based company that first found its roots in the dairy business more than a century ago, has evolved to provide a variety of popular meat products that have become a staple for generations of North Dakotans and families across the United States.
Cloverdale founder, Hoy Russell, started Mandan Creamery in 1915. According to the company’s history, Russell’s insistence on uncompromising quality quickly earned his small creamery a reputation for supplying the best dairy products to area kitchens.
A few years later, the company introduced a line of pork products with the same focus on quality, garnering more and more loyal customers and beginning the transition to the company and products that make up Cloverdale today.
“Our founder, Hoy, operated from a position of quality in all that they produced during their era,” says Scott Russell, fourth generation CEO. “Our leading strategic anchor is ‘Tastes Great.’ It embodies our hard wiring to not only produce product with ‘Big Flavors,’ it also informs and challenges us on how to exceed consumer’s need and keep a competitive edge.”
He notes that even while away from the business, family members have remained focused on the quality of Cloverdale’s products. “There is evidence that while attending Iowa State, Hoy’s son, Bill, often wrote his father about changes that should be made to the butter recipe to improve its flavor,” says Russell. “Through all generations, the Russell family has adhered to these tenants of developing products and the business.”
The company’s name can also be traced to its dairy roots. “‘Clover’ was closely associated with many household dairy brands developed throughout the 1920s through the 1940s,” says Russell. “Typically, companies chose a topographical reference to associate with ‘clover’ and our forefathers likely chose ‘dale,’ which means large valley, to represent their proximity within the Missouri River Valley.”
Today, Cloverdale serves as a food service supplier to restaurants, arenas and schools, as well as creating a strong retail brand in the state. In addition, the company has worked to expand its reach through availability in national and independent grocers in markets outside of North Dakota and the Great Plains. Currently, Cloverdale products are distributed and sold in 37 states and U.S. territories, reaching as far a Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
The company employs 450 people to create more than 350 products under the Cloverdale name from meat sourced in the U.S. Each week, the company produces close to one million pounds of product. “We’re best known in the Midwest for traditional regional favorites like tangy summer sausage, franks and teardrop hams, and our future growth nationally is a result of our award-winning triple smoked thick-cut bacon,” says Russell. “We are also launching exciting line extensions to our signature Original Tangy Summer Sausage, so stay tuned.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the long-standing business, it isn’t in a way many businesses have been affected, says Scott Staudinger, vice president of Human Resources. “While others were downsizing, the Cloverdale team grew by 14%. We continue to offer competitive starting hourly wages, with exceptional employee benefits. We’ve equipped our team to be more comfortable, safe and successful with the expectations we place on them.”
Miranda Bergquist, chief financial officer, also notes, in recent years, Cloverdale has placed a focus on organizational health for its employees, which helped to strengthen the organization during the pandemic’s many challenges. Since the pandemic began, Cloverdale’s percentage of business has shifted significantly from food service to retail. “It is still stabilizing into an unknown new normal. We have grown in the Midwest and throughout the country,” she says.
In 2021, the Cloverdale plant expanded to include an additional 44,000 square feet of storage and fulfillment space, new fermentation rooms, increased smoke house capacity, and expanded kitchen area. “These additions will support increased production and more local job opportunities as we grow,” says Bergquist. “It’s a great place to work, and we are proud to continue the tradition of the Russell Family.”
The Keys to Success
Russell says a number of components come to mind that have contributed to Cloverdale’s success for more than a century. “The family members who have participated in the company’s success today and in the past displayed great agility to transform and reshape the business to remain relevant with consumers,” he notes. “I believe we were raised in a manner to understand the importance and meaning of stewardship, and we have a long history of reinvesting to remain relevant and intact.”
He notes the Cloverdale legacy built through generations has also contributed to the company’s longevity. “You also need to be conscious of family pride, as you never wish to be the one who lost the ‘ranch,’ but you need to understand that it takes the entire village of your organization and its leaders to leave a greater legacy for tomorrow.”