West Side News

Falter's looks to regain brand identity in local market

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Account Manager Jason Falter (right) and salesman A.J. Hague of Falter's Fine Meats says the nearly 125-year-old company has been working on a renewed commitment to raise its profile in the marketplace.

The fifth generation of family members and employees at Falter's Fine Meats wants to raise the company's profile.

Jason Falter, 27, whose great-great-grandfather, Herman Falter, founded the company more than 100 years ago, said he and his sales force are using modern marketing techniques -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like -- and old-fashion door-to-door promotion in the face of mounting competition.

Though it started as Herman Falter Packing Co. in 1890, the business these days is concentrating on its signature brands of ham, baloney, German and Italian sausages, hot dogs, bacon and other meat products all prepared on site.

"We offer a level of flexibility and service to local restaurants, delis and grocers, among other independently owned businesses, that can be hard to find in the meat industry otherwise," said Falter, the business' account manager. "And that's what we take pride in. We look to continue to grow with Columbus, improving on what we consider an already great history."

The production facility and various offices are on a 7-acre campus at 384 Greenlawn Ave. on the South Side.

Unlike its nearby competitor, Thurn's Specialty Meats, also on Greenlawn, Falter's does not sell retail merchandise on premises.

Lana Smith, who's been part of the sales team for 17 years, estimates Falter's produces an average of 20,000 pounds of meat per month and serves more than 200 accounts in Ohio and parts of Kentucky.

Local accounts include Little's IGA, Weiland's Gourmet Market, Huffman's Market, Thurman Cafe and the German Village Coffee Shop.

"I think the 'local' thing has helped us," Smith said. "They want to know where their meat is coming from. It's a good name."

Kolache Republic in the Brewery District uses a number of Falter's meats, including the polish sausage in the klobasnek, a sort of stuffed bun that also has cheddar and, for those who want a little spice, jalapeno.

"We want to have the best quality possible with a price that is fair for our customers," said Doug Sauer, a co-founder of the restaurant. "We get the best of both worlds with Falter's."

The company has about 35 full-time employees, including Jason Falter's brother, Cy, and their father, Robert, and uncle, C.J.

The industry has changed much in recent years, forcing Falter's to change with it. Butchering now accounts for less than 5 percent of Falter's overall business.

The company slaughters about eight cows a week. Falter's stopped slaughtering pigs about six years ago.

At its high point, Falter's was slaughtering 300 pigs a day, with larger abattoirs slaughtering 3,000. Jason Falter said it didn't make any business sense to continue.

Still, Falter's is struggling with brand identity, something salesman A.J. Hague, a high school friend of Falter, is trying to change.

"The general consensus is they've heard of Falter's," he said. "A lot of people think we're out of business or they're waiting on a salesman to call. People know the name. It's a quality product."

The market has shifted in dramatic ways, Falter said.

Many neighborhood denizens no longer have a personal relationship with the mom-and-pop retailers down the street.

"On a macro scale, you've lost so many small grocers, so many restaurants that had your name on the menu," Falter said. "That, in my opinion, just really went away for a while. It's a lost generation, really."

Last summer, for the first time, Falter's rented a booth at the Pickerington farmers market, another competitively priced way for independent and small businesses to market themselves directly to the public.

"It was just a good way for people to start talking about us," Falter said. "They just hadn't seen us in a retail environment for a while. But they were excited to see that brand out there."

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