Business Profile | Dave Van Kampen

April 2013 View more

President and COO of Best Chicago Meat Co.

Best Chicago Meat Co., LLC, recently expanded its menu with the purchase of David’s Kosher Hot Dogs and Moo & Oink BBQ products, satisfying the tastes and needs of consumers. Naperville Magazine caught up with Naperville resident and President and COO, David Van Kampen, to uncover his recipe for success.

N2013_04_01_090BUSINBest Chicago Meat Company continues to grow and expand despite a tough business environment in the food industry. What do you attribute to your success?

A group of us who have known each other for 20 years had a desire to build a business based on four principles: quality in leadership, quality team members, a quality organization, and quality products and services. The common denominators for each principle are, of course, quality, and also people who care. Every decision we make supports these principles. We also have a clear understanding of our industry and a laser-focused vision on how our business can compete. To that end, we focus on local or regional niche opportunities that do not appeal to the big guys in our industry. We go where the competition is not. Again, a clear vision involving quality people that care about each other is truly the foundation of our success.

So that was our foundation, but we still needed to build a house that would withstand the tough business environment and multiple challenges our industry faces. We feel our portfolio of products and brands—Moo & Oink, Glenmark, David’s Kosher, and JemmBurger – will hold up to economic fluctuations. Our range of trusted products can easily satisfy the tastes and varied needs of just about any meat-loving consumer. We also bear in mind that food is fun. Our superior hot dogs, hamburgers, specialty sausages, sauces and seasonings are used at most typically pleasurable events such as parties, BBQ’s, and other special occasions.

Another factor helping us build our regional brands is the consumer and business trend to buy locally. Local and regional food products today are perceived to be fresher and have a better value.

As president and chief operating officer of Best Chicago Meat, what is your proudest accomplishment so far?

First of all, I can’t take any personal credit for our accomplishments. Every success has been the result of our entire organization. I need to go back to July 17, 2008. This is the day we acquired Best Chicago Meat Co., a struggling business that was going into bankruptcy. The business was running day-to-day with no apparent future. The employees had no health insurance coverage and had no idea if they would receive their next paycheck. I had worked with many of the employees at a previous company and was friends with many of them. The economic environment was not the best, but in our first year we were able to get the company profitable, provide an employee benefit program, and even provide a year-end bonus to all the employees. Most importantly, we were able to strategically position the business for a solid future.

Best Chicago Meat’s commitment to its customers goes beyond just offering specialty food products. Tell us about your support of community projects.

A common characteristic of success, whether as an individual or a company, has been to recognize the responsibility to give back to the community. Our business makes every effort to identify and support community needs. Youth sports programs, church festivals, March of Dimes, Real Men Cook, food banks and neighborhood block parties are some examples of our activities. The more success we have, the more we can support our community. To build brand identity, I would much rather invest in a fundraiser for a local charity than to advertise with a professional sports team. Idealistically, having a business that allows us to support our community is a perfect match for my personal work-life balance. The business is a means to an end – giving back to our community.

What are the challenges facing your company in the next five years, and where do you see new opportunities?

Some of the challenges facing our company align with the food industry as a whole. The balance of nutritious, yet great tasting foods, is a real challenge. The consumer demand for value, convenience, and new products adds to this challenge. Recognizing consumer needs and respecting the external forces of special interest groups and government policy clearly define our future business opportunities. Fortunately, our brands and products allow us to meet these challenges through the fusion of culturally-based flavor profiles and recipes. Our current marketing focus is Chicagoland and some expansion in the Midwest. Our future will include the expansion of our brands to specific markets throughout North America.

As a Naperville resident, what are some of your favorite things to do in the Naperville area?

My children were always involved in high school, park district, and club athletics, so I have spent many hours as a spectator and cheerleader. Of course, downtown Naperville provides so many opportunities for dining and shopping, but overall, I really enjoy the outdoors and nature that are so well integrated in our community. Biking and walking along the trails and Riverwalk is one of the more relaxing activities I enjoy. Frequently I see deer and other wild animals during my bike rides. I think Naperville has worked extremely well with its surrounding communities, DuPage County, and the Forest Preserve, to preserve the natural prairie lands and the balance of nature as it has developed its subdivisions and commerce.

If you can eat only one product your company produces, what would it be and why?

My favorite product is probably the newest product we bring to market. By the time we complete all the taste testing and product development work required, I am ready for the next one. But if you are going to put me in a corner, I really can’t refuse a good Kosher all beef Chicago Style hot dog.

Photo by Mike Hudson