Red Bird Farms
Red Bird Farms (RBF) began in 1949 as Gibson’s Poultry. Founded by Henry Gibson, a butcher in Littleton, Colo., the business has grown and diversified over the years. RBF has changed hands several times over the years. Mareo Torito, president of RBF, now owns the company and proudly leads his team.
Mareo emerged from humble beginnings, born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. Despite growing up in a family that struggled to make ends meet, he determined to attend Meiji University where he studied French literature. Throughout school, he worked for Yoshinoya Beef Bowl, a chain restaurant, where he learned the skills to work as a butcher. Eventually, the company sent him to the United States, where he worked slicing high-end beef for export back to Japan. There, he met his wife, Maylis. The couple shares a strong value for hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit rarely seen. From cutting meat, the pair moved on to own a restaurant and purchased RBF in 1990.
Building a brand identity
Proper marketing was one of Mareo’s first steps as a business owner. After purchasing the company, he immediately sought out a designer to build the company a fitting and attractive logo. From there, he has constructed a company culture and reputation that encourages consumers to put faith in his brand.
“We compete with major labels such as Purdue,” he explains. “We manage to differentiate ourselves through value. We don’t sell by price, we sell by quality. Ours is always a bit higher than other brands and consumers can tell the difference. Our chicken is natural, with no antibiotics and they are not animal byproduct fed. Our chicken is also tender and juicy. There are several reasons we continue to acquire new customers.”
The company’s target audience includes consumers who care about what they eat. “Healthy food is important and tasty food is important,” Mareo elaborates. While RBF began as a retail-focused processor and distributor, the company’s reach has expanded into food service. Now, the company is split half-and-half between grocers and restaurants. In Colorado, well-established restaurants identify the team’s products by name on the menu. RBF chicken has become synonymous with quality and flavor.
Flying over obstacles
One of the most common obstacles to growth is the reluctance of customers in uncharted markets to try something new. “When we go to new markets, many times I find that the change for retail or food service is not always welcome,” Mareo explains. “The best approach has actually been to contact potential clients, have lunch with people and chat with them. The reputation we have built in Colorado has a lot of influence outside of the state. We are a smaller company with a large market share. We are not the biggest business, but our market share is large enough to have influence. Our position is very unique – there are not many small companies left in this industry.”
Taste and quality continue to be the deciding factors for customers who take on RBF products. Retailers and restaurateurs recognize the value. RBF orders fresh-slaughtered chicken and purchases the meat and brings it into the plant. “The chickens are always in closed box containers and about a day or day and a half later we get them into our plant, store them in holding cooler and process them in a 39 degree cooling room,” he continues. “We perform the cleaning, portioning and packing with specialized film. We process with a liquid form of carbon dioxide by changing the surroundings of products inside of a tray to 100 percent bacteria-free air. We are able to extend shelf life to 10 days without using any chemicals. Our process is more advanced than other processors, which also makes this a more expensive way of preserving chicken.”
On top of that, Mareo says his team offers some of the best service in the industry. “The final trim is done by people, not machines,” he explains. “This is why we are popular in food service –our portions are sized very accurately. For the consumer, it is difficult to picture why we put so much effort into it. We guarantee that what you order is what you get. Our continued dedication to service builds up our brand image and the trust our customers have in us.”
This kind of quality is hard to come by. For much of the company’s success, Mareo credits his staff. Many of his employees have worked with the company for more than a decade. “The financial outcome for our business is very important, but I like to make money with style,” he explains. “I do not want to abuse my employees to make more money. I always try to be a good boss. Success means you can achieve your goals by having your own values and by making money. Money is not everything.”
In the coming years, Mareo is looking at optimizing growth for his company. He hopes to build a significantly larger market share. He keeps a level head about the business, focusing on controlled expansion. With a steady hand, Red Bird Farms will continue to develop a growing market while maintaining high standards of quality and food safety.