From ads to consumer surveys to menus at foodie hangouts, animal fats are having a moment — but at Coast Packing Company, that moment has lasted nearly a century. Still ensconced in its home base in Vernon, just southeast of downtown Los Angeles, the family-owned and operated business marks its 95th anniversary this month.
A closely held corporation, Coast Packing is today the number one supplier of animal fat shortenings in the Western United States. Coast is regional, national and, increasingly, global. Markets extend from Southern California to Washington State, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Utah. Internationally, Coast is active in Mexico, and as the market allows, the company ships to Asia.
“We certainly didn’t get here overnight,” said Eric R. Gustafson, CEO of the 95-year-old company. “Coast Packing has been a quiet leader in the Southwest since the 1920s, growing and evolving in a way that now seems almost quaint. But when the bottom line includes considerations like quality, reliability and transparency, everything becomes easier to digest.”
With a legacy 95 years in the making, Coast Packing’s ties with its customers, partners and suppliers are both broad and deep. Coast Packing was founded as a Southern California livestock and meat-packing business in 1922 and expanded over the years into a regional food-industry powerhouse.
The three founding partners set out to build a livestock and abattoir business, and retained that focus for more than 40 years, slaughtering hogs brought by railroad from the Midwest and processing meat into various cuts to supply Southern California butcher shops. During those four decades, Coast Packing produced a full line of pork and beef processed and smoked products, including its popular 1950s favorite brand, Ol’ Smokey.
In the early 1960s, after assessing the company’s profitability and competitive position, management decided that the business did not meet expected returns. While change was in the wind, the consensus was to remain in some facet of the food manufacturing industry, which was growing in tandem with Southern California itself. Given the company’s extensive ties to the meat industry, the processing of animal and animal-vegetable shortening products became a natural choice.
Today, the company sources raw materials from major meat packing plants across the United States. In some cases, supplier relationships are multigenerational, extending back 50 years and more. The company participates actively in various ethnic markets – from Hispanic retail chains, with its VIVA brand, to various Asian specialty markets. Coast Packing’s reach reflects the demographic and ethnic makeup of the U.S. as a whole.
Coast sells to major manufacturers, distributors, retailers, smaller food service operations and leading bakeries, and is active in virtually every major area of the food industry and then some. Coast’s refined and fully deodorized beef tallow has been an ingredient in lotions and soaps for more than 30 years.
“As an integral part of Southern California’s restaurant, baking and food industries, Coast Packing was built on our line of quality shortenings and oils, backed up by both superior service and unsurpassed value,” Gustafson said. “But our number one status isn’t solely a statement about our size. While the numbers are significant, our growth has not fundamentally changed our status as a family business that that prizes customer relationships spanning generations. We continue to live by the handshake.”