Winnipeg Old Country Sausage was originally called Manitoba Sausage. A successful family run company started in 1912 by one family that lasted until 1975. That year, some of the younger generation with outside partners bought out the older members of the family. With big ideas, they made changes to the recipes, and the way the product was smoked. The business started to change. This frustrated my dad, Louis Werner, who had been with Manitoba Sausage for 41 years as a product manager. He would argue with the new management to not make changes. But instead of listening to him, they fired him.
In the spring 1978, Louis and two former salesmen of Manitoba Sausage built a plant one street over. In February 1979, with seventeen former employees of Manitoba Sausage, the doors of the new business, Winnipeg Old Country Sausage, was opened. At the official opening in April, Mayor Bill Norrie came out to cut the ribbon. Of course for this event, we cooked a long pepperoni to be cut! The business became so successful that in the summer of 1982, Manitoba Sausage, who had gotten into trouble, phoned to see if Louis wanted to buy them. He did!
The name of the business stayed as Winnipeg Old Country Sausage. It had become a well-respected name supplying a quality product. Business was doubled quickly. In the fall of 1996, we had a huge fire, shutting the company down for 3 months. When we re-opened all of our customers were waiting for us. In the fall of 1997, Dad passed away, leaving myself, my daughter, son-in-law, and a partner to carry on. One year later I purchased the company from the partner and in January 1999, Winnipeg Old Country Sausage became a family-run business once more.
There have been a lot of changes in the industry over the past years, more rules, different ways of doing business. There is a saying that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve now been in the meat industry for 46 years, my daughter has been involved for 26 years and my son-in-law for 25 years. During that time, we’ve kept all of our recipes the same. Even the natural smoke is the same. Over the past few years we spent a few million dollars making upgrades to the building and equipment plus becoming H.A.C.C.P. approved. We built our own in-house lab so that we can check raw product coming in and finished product going out to ensure that not only do we have a quality product, but also a safe product. We have been working with two levels of government to see if we can change our provincial plant to a federal plant.
Winnipeg Old Country Sausage, a family-owned Manitoba tradition for over a century. We’re H.A.C.C.P. recognized and we have our own in-house lab, ensuring safe, quality products for distribution. With two commercial slicers we are able to slice product for pizza customers. Provincially inspected, we comply with all provincial standards.
With huge upgrades in the plant, new equipment, a bio-lab, implementing the H.A.C.C.P. program and original recipes, Winnipeg Old Country Sausage has come into the 21st century making a safe and quality product serving all of Manitoba.
Winnipeg Old Country Sausage Markets their products under the brand names Winnipeg Old Country, Homestead and Tradition. You can find our product in COSTCO, Food Fare, Safeway-Sobeys, Co-Op, Family Fare and many independent stores and restaurants. Winnipeg Old Country Sausage is known for its wieners, bologna, bacon, smokies, and many more including some gluten free products. We are also in the process of developing some Filipino products like longanisa sausage, longanisa wieners, and tinco. If you have tried the rest, why not buy the best Winnipeg Old Country Sausage has to offer.
If you would like to know more about us, our business, or our products, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!
Winnipeg Old Country Sausage in the News
Fired at 58, Now Heads Own Company
By Darlene Meakin
Tribune Business Writer
The career of Louis Werner, a 58-year-old sausage-maker for the Winnipeg firm, seemed to come to an abrupt end last summer. After 42 years of dedicated service he was fired and told that he would be replaced by a computer. Too young to retire and too old to begin stacking up enough years of service before retirement with any other company, Mr. Werner was in a quandary about his future. But today his life is back on course.
As president and general manager of a company he started with two former co-workers, William Muzik and Paul Werbowski, life couldn’t be better. The company, Winnipeg Old Country Sausage Ltd., no more than an idea on paper a few months ago, is fast making its mark in the local meat trade. Located at 575 Jarvis Ave., it officially opened its brand new plant last weekend. Occupying 8,500 square feet and built at a cost of just over $1 million, it has been open since Feb. 5.
The increase in production since that time has been phenomenal. In the first week of operation, 3,000 pounds of raw meat were processed; but today, the plant processes 8,000 pounds of raw meat daily into smoked and cured meat products. Sales figures are equally impressive. Old Country Sausage had sales of $47,000 in February, but they increased to $170,000 in March. Mr. Werner anticipates that this month’s sales could go as high as $200,000. In the longer term, he projects sales reaching $5 million during the first year in business. Some people, he says, were less optimistic at first about the company’s potential, but now they are having difficulty taking issue with the sales projection.
The pre-Easter period is busy, with consumer demand strong for hams and other smoked meat products. Beyond Easter comes the summer barbeque season, where there is a lucrative trade in products such as hamburger patties and a true company specialty, wieners. In fact, Mr. Werner anticipates that except for January and February, which are generally slow months, the plant will continue to operate at full steam on a year-round basis. IT employs 34 full-time workers, including some office staff and sales force of six. The plant itself is divided into office space and large central work area around which are situated three smokehouses and steamers, a pork cutting room, curing room, cooler, and a shipping area where meats are packed.
A three to four-month delay in getting labels has been a bit of a nuisance, Mr. Werner said, consequently, not all of the company’s 30-plus products have “Old Country” wrappings. But the company has made considerable inroads in being able to market its product line in several major food chains as well as at Eaton’s. A number of restaurants also buy from Old Country, and other potential customers promise to boost sales to higher levels. Having together served the meat business for 75 years, Mr. Werner said, he and his two partners knew what they wanted in terms of product and plant. The priority has been to manufacture a quality product.
Mr. Werner, who began in the meat trade when he was 15, boasts of having the most up-to-date facility of its kind in the province. By word-of-mouth and past connections, his two sales-oriented partners have established the marketing end of the business. Phones in the front office ring constantly and a steady flow of customers, orders in hand, comes and goes.
“We feel we just can’t go wrong,” says Mr. Werner, who also says that in addition to experience “you have got to have the determination and guts that you’re going to make it work.” According to Mr. Werner, realization of the dream he and his partners shared of one day owning their own business has come about with few snags. There has been encouragement and support from government, plus a $210,000 DREE grant to help build the plant, and a helpful bank manager aided in the three getting the balance of their financing.
The staff “is terrific … a real team,” says Mr. Werner. The partners only regret is that they didn’t go into business for themselves much sooner. Says Mr. Werner: “Years ago have talked about going on our own … Now we wish we had.”