Hormel Foods Corporation was established in 1891 as Geo. A. Hormel & Company in Austin, Minnesota, by George A. Hormel, an ambitious entrepreneur and the son of German immigrants.
He built his first plant in an abandoned creamery located on the banks of the Red Cedar River approximately one-half mile northeast of Austin. Within three years, a large two-story brick building was going up behind the creamery. This was the first of a number of expansions at the site over ensuing years.
Sales of fresh pork products flourished in the late 1890s. The company set up its first branch sales office in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1901. Additional branches were opened in the years that followed, including a distribution center in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1904 and offices in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1905; Chicago, Illinois, in 1913; Dallas, Texas, in 1916; and Atlanta, Georgia, in 1918.
As early as 1917, Hormel instituted an impressive export business that accounted for approximately one-third of the company's sales volume. By 1924, more than one million hogs were being processed annually at the Austin plant--nearly a 200 percent increase over the number handled in 1922.
Hormel developed the world's first canned ham in 1926. In 1927, the company initiated a distribution system for its products involving "sausage trucks," vans driven by salesmen who sold and delivered products on specific routes rather than relying on product distribution by refrigerated railroad cars.
The company's founder, George A. Hormel, retired from handling the day-to-day operations of the firm in 1927 at the age of 67, but continued to serve as chief executive officer. His son, Jay, was named acting president and became president in 1929 when George was elected chairman of the board of directors.
The first Hormel manufacturing facility to produce branded products outside Austin was established in Los Angeles, California, in 1928. By 1933, distribution centers had been set up in 14 cities across America.