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A Relationship Built on Trust

By Kathleen Furore

The year was 1996.

Norbert Muehlich, then Weber’s product support manager, had just arrived in the United States with one mission in mind: to launch the company’s brand stateside and, in the process, to build Weber Inc.’s reputation as the premier provider of slicing equipment for North American meat and cheese processors.

 

“I came from Germany to get this whole thing started. We had no name in the [slicing] industry then – the Weber name only stood for grills,” says Muehlich, now vice president of Weber, Inc.

 

After renting a small office space, Muehlich got to work. He hired a salesman, and suggested contacting Berks Packing Company, a family-owned and operated meat processor based in Reading, Pa.

 

“I said, ‘I think we need to see Berks,” Muehlich recalls. “Their company had a long family history, and they were proud of their products just like we are.”

In 1993 this was the next step of high-speed slicing.

Weber´s second generation slicers, models 5000 and 9000, partly resulted from “field research”, where new opportunities for functionality could be tested and discussed. Our global partnerships with processors remain a core tenant of Weber growth and success.

www.weberslicer.com/company/history

Berks Packing Co., Inc., founded by the late Mr. Charles A. Boylan, is a local third generation, family-owned and operated meat processor located in Reading, Pennsylvania. His son, Charles P. Boylan, is currently CEO, and his grandson David Boylan is president of Berks Packing Co., Inc. which employs approximately 140 dedicated people.

www.berksfoods.com/about-us

The rest, as they say, is history.

 

“We were one of the first customers who came on board when Weber came into the states about 20 years ago. We felt comfortable at that time with what Norbert was presenting and still have that comfort level today,” John Buckley, Berks Director of Operations says. “Weber has played a key role for 20 years in our success in slicing high-quality products.”

After an initial meeting in Pennsylvania, Muehlich “felt a relationship brewing” and suggested a trip to Germany so the Berks team could get a first-hand look at what Weber was about.

“I took some of the owners and production managers to Germany, spent the weekend having fun, then did business,” Muehlich says. “When we got back they placed an order – they bought the first Weber 5000 slicer sold in the United States.”

“I came from Germany to get this whole thing started. We had no name in the [slicing] industry then – the Weber name only stood for grills,” says Muehlich, now vice president of Weber, Inc.

Norbert Muehlich, Vice–President of Weber Inc., Kansas City, Mo.

“The demand for smaller portion and packaging sizes is where the market is trending,” Buckley says. “Additional equipment is needed to slice and package products that will help us keep up with that demand. We use a vast array of Weber slicers [to do that] including the Weber 902, 904 and 905.”

 

The process, however, is far more involved than simply selecting a slicer. Collaboration between the customer, Berks and Weber is essential, Buckley adds.

“We regularly receive calls from our current customers as well as prospective customers asking about our capabilities with respect to clean labels,” he continues. “They might say, ‘We need a 7-ounce re-sealable package with x number of slices presented in a manner that displays well at retail.' So we’ll speak with Weber application experts and ask, 'How can we best manage this process?’  Weber works with us to provide multiple solutions to give us and our customers what we are looking for. We’ll make suggestions, then Weber will work with us to optimize our slicing programs to achieve the best outcome. If it is something particularly challenging, they’ll often come in and work with our department supervisors to get us the help we need or we will send product to Weber’s Technology Center to have samples run.

 

“No two customers have the same request,” he continues. “Many times we can work through the process, but in some cases we need Weber’s expertise to assist us.”

The industry, of course, has changed dramatically since Berks bought its first Weber slicer.

 

“Today, increased consumer demand for both all natural and organic ingredients is driving growth within the sliced lunch meat category in both the retail and foodservice segments,” Buckley reports. “This started from retail customers wanting to see clean labels. As the trend gained a foothold, we’ve been able to meet the needs of our customers.”

 

Berks' strength remains focused on producing high-quality, whole muscle sliced deli meats in traditional as well as all natural and organic segments – all tailored to meet the needs of each individual customer.

What’s Driving Berks Business

“Berks customers are looking to partner with vendors who are capable of providing solutions to meet the increased demand for both cleaner ingredients and consumer friendly packaging,” Buckley says.

“Berks and Weber have been long-term partners who have worked together to provide solutions to meet our mutual customers’ needs.”

 

The move toward smaller retail-size packages is one example.

“Berks and Weber have been long-term partners who have worked together to provide solutions to meet our mutual customers’ needs.”
The move toward smaller retail-size packages is one example.

www.berksfoods.com

MOVING FORWARD – TOGETHER

As Berks business has grown and expanded, so too has the Berks-Weber partnership.

 

“Berks equipment lineup now includes Weber’s 902, 904 and 905 slicers – larger, more technologically advanced pieces of equipment than the Weber 5000, the machine that launched the relationship some 20 years ago,” Muehlich says.

 

And Berks business shows no signs of slowing.

 

In January 2016, the company debuted a new

state-of-the-art clean room designed to meet the unique challenges that current clean label and organic trends in the deli meat marketplace present.

 

“Our new facility is designed to slice multiple lines of lunch meats,” Buckley explains. The facility, he notes, was built “with the intention for additional expansion” – something that will ensure Berks is poised to meet new trends to come.

 

Whatever the trends, Weber will be part of the team helping the Berks brand live up to its long-standing tradition of providing excellent product quality and superior customer service.

“Berks equipment lineup now includes Weber’s 902, 904 and 905 slicers—larger, more technologically advanced pieces of equipment than the Weber 5000, the machine that launched the relationship some 20 years ago,” Muehlich says.

It all goes back to trust, both partners stress.

 

“Trust has been key to this relationship full – we are Berks trusted advisor and partner, so to speak,” Muehlich says. “If you step up and keep customers happy you’ll have them for a lifetime.”

 

“The Berks-Weber relationship always has and will continue to play a key role in helping us meet consumer demands and take advantage of opportunities in the market,” he concludes.

The Weber Slicer 906 fulfills high hygiene and performance standards.

www.weberslicer.com/products/slicer/slicer-906

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