RMS Foods Inc.: Strategic Partnering for Growth with Oscar Mayer and the Boca Brand

When Sam D. Cobb, second-generation owner and president of RMS Foods Inc. (RMS), joined the family business in 1976 the company had just nine employees. Since then RMS has grown into a full-fledged operation as the sole supplier of the famous Boca brand and a strategic partner of industry giant Oscar Mayer. Boca consists of soy-based, meat-alternative products from veggie burgers to breakfast soy links. In recent years Boca’s success has taken off as consumers seek healthier, environmentally friendly options, and in turn so has RMS.

RMS was founded in 1959 by Sam’s father, S.G. Cobb. Sam grew up in the industry, working for his father throughout his youth. “I started working in the plant when I was about 10 or 12 years old,” he says. “I drove the delivery trucks when we operated on a door-to-door basis. I went on to college at Texas Tech University and studied animal and meat science where I learned more of the ins and outs of manufacturing. I came back to help my father and take over the business in 1976.”

Today RMS employs over 200 individuals, operating as the exclusive manufacturer of all things Boca for Kraft Foods (Kraft). Oscar Mayer, a subsidiary of Kraft, markets and controls the product’s licensing agreements. “We’re a standalone company,” explains Sam. “However, we have an exclusive manufacturing agreement with Oscar Mayer, which owns the Boca brand. We share ideas on product development, do in-plant tests of new products and contribute to Boca’s manufacturing strategies.”

From Meat to Meatless

Surprisingly, the company started out as a frozen meat product door-to-door delivery service. “Originally, we processed beef, pork and poultry frozen foods,” recalls Sam. “We operated as a home delivery service, bringing these meals to peoples’ homes back when families used to gather around the dinner table. When the economy changed and the fast-food industry began to grow we shifted into that market.”

In the early 1990s RMS increased its ground beef, pork and poultry processing in order to support large fast-food companies such as Dairy Queen, Sonic and major restaurant suppliers, including Sysco. RMS even entered into the Japanese market, supplying high-quality beef and pork products overseas. “I actually learned to be conversational in Japanese,” adds Sam. “We sold to restaurants, retail and food service distributors in Japan from 1987 to 1994.”

As the market for soy-based products took off, Sam saw an opportunity RMS couldn’t pass up and began solely producing meat alternatives. “It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that we established our partnership with Boca,” explains Sam. “With our previous manufacturing expertise we served Boca for several years before it was purchased by Oscar Mayer in 2000.”

The company has been busting out Boca burgers, faux chicken nuggets and ground meatless products out of its Hobbs, N.M., facility ever since. “After many years in the meat-processing business, I realized the future promise of these products with obesity on the rise and the search for healthier, satisfying alternatives,” he continues.

Boca Bonanza

The company’s main Boca market is in the U.S., but the product is sold globally, throughout Canada and Central America. Boca has rapidly grown in popularity among consumers, including meat eaters who just want to cut fat, cholesterol and calories from their diets. The meatless products also fit into vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.

“We’ve developed products that are deliciously savory and satisfying without the meat,” shares Sam. “But I obviously can’t tell you how we do it. That’s our secret.” RMS pumps out traditional veggie burgers and patties, breakfast links, ground crumbles great for meatless chilies and pasta dishes, as well as the popular Chik’n patties and Chik’n nuggets, which provide a golden, crispy low-fat protein source. “Chik’n offers the same taste and texture as regular chicken, but low in fat and without any cholesterol,” adds Sam.

The health benefits of soy are no mystery; for many years scientists and physicians have attributed the bean to lowering the risk of heart disease, and reducing bad LDL cholesterol. In 1999 the Food and Drug Administration approved the heart-healthy labeling of certain soy-based products, revealing that 25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

The Boca product line offers so much soy goodness that it has attracted national attention from well-established weight-loss companies such as Weight Watchers. “We’re currently in our second year of a new licensing agreement with Weight Watchers,” details Sam. “Our products have been added to the points system the company tracks an individual’s daily calorie consumption by. Boca makes a healthy lifestyle easy and delicious.”

Although going meatless is a trend adopted by more and more consumers in recent years, RMS has seen its share of challenges after 54 years in business. “In Hobbs, the unemployment rate is only about 3 percent,” Sam explains. “We have the opposite problem as many parts of the country. We have to compete with the increasing domestic energy field and more and more jobs in drilling and exploration activity. Our biggest challenge is employee retention, but we’re trying to overcome it by offering housing and health care incentives.”

What started out as just nine employees has grown into a successful 200-person operation, and Sam sees nothing but a great deal of growth in the horizon for RMS. “I think more consumers will continue to make healthy lifestyle decisions contributing to our growth and expansion,” he admits. “I think we’re in a good place to expand our product line of meat alternatives with the partnerships we have with our customer and our vendors.” RMS Foods Inc. continues to function as the largest Boca producer, delivering products consumers can feel good about indulging in.