A proven commodity: Evans’ Innovative Foods focuses on locally raised meat movement
The Innovative Foods store is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. It can be found at 4320 Industrial Parkway, Evans. For more information, Innovative Foods can be reached by phone at (970) 330-8400 or online at http://www.innovativefoodsco.com.
Dave Ellicott remembers when he first started in the meat processing industry.
Back in those days, they were still wrapping individual cuts by hand in white paper and families kept their processed meat in lockers at the processing plant.
Ellicott remembers going once a week or so to get meat out of his locker.
Several decades later, Ellicott is still in the business. Along with his wife, Tami, Ellicott runs Innovative Foods, a meat-processing plant in Evans, Colo.
Tami said they still get calls asking whether they have meat lockers at Innovative Foods, but, unfortunately, space doesn’t allow that tradition to continue.
Ellicott said he can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I’m a meat and livestock guy,” he said. “It’s really the only trade I know. I grew up in it.”
In fact, the Ellicotts come from agriculture backgrounds and even met in at an Iowa Beef Processors plant in Nebraska.
They decided to start Innovative Foods when they realized how much time Dave was spending on the road. He said he was on an airplane about once a week for 10 years.
“What we really wanted to do is just settle back in this area and get off the road,” he said.
Tami said the experience he gained during those years has been vital to their business.
“It brought him a wealth of knowledge and experiences to help do what we do today,” she said.
Dave said he learned along the way, and what he learned actually led to the specific focus of Innovative Foods.
“Some of the research consulting work that I had done involved some research that suggested there was going to be an opportunity for niche marketing of local product,” he said. “That whole fresh/local movement, even though it’s a small fraction, is still rapidly growing as a market. And it’s not slowed up at all yet.”
Innovative Foods concentrates on custom processing, wholesale and even retail sale from their store at 4320 Industrial Parkway, Evans. Ellicott said his favorite item they make is the summer sausage.
“We are a locally based custom meat processing and wholesale meat facility that serves the northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and Nebraska panhandle region,” Ellicott said. “A majority of our business is processing for other farmers and livestock producers in the area.”
Even though Innovative Foods mostly processes for other farmers, they have a few of their own brands, which they sell to Whole Foods and local restaurants, including The Kitchen in Fort Collins and Beast and Bottle in Denver.
They don’t raise any of their own farm animals though. They contract to other farms, which are all family-run operations.
And the Ellicotts know a thing or two about family-run operations.
Their two sons, Matt and Tyler, have been involved since day one.
Tyler, a junior at Valley High School, helps out in the summer and on weekends.
Although Matt doesn’t work there regularly anymore, he is around to help out from time to time. Matt’s wife, Sara, takes care of marketing and social media for Innovative Foods.
“We pride ourselves on being a family business and we are,” Tami said.
“If we need help or something needs done, they’re definitely involved in helping.”
After nearly eight years in business, the Ellicotts have a few good stories up their sleeves.
Last month they accidentally showed up to an event a week early. They cooked from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. for the Evans Chamber banquet before realizing that the banquet started at 7 p.m. the following Saturday.
“We just had to laugh at it and say, ‘Oh wow, that was our practice run,’” Tami said.
Natural disasters have taken their toll on the business too. The 2013 flood ran right up to the edge of their property before receding.
Dave said they got lucky. They had tons of processed meat and many carcasses hanging in the cooler. The meat wouldn’t have survived more than a few hours without power to keep it cool.
Luckily, the outage only lasted about four hours.
That didn’t stop Dave from running out and tracking down the power company trucks.
“I was out lobbying to get the power back. I said ‘Hey, I know you’re busy but you’ve got to plan on getting down to 47th,” Dave said. “I said, ‘I cannot get by on my good looks and water.”
Innovative Foods had power back before dark that night.
Tami remembers sitting through a tornado once, too. She said he mother-in-law called to tell them to get to a safe place but they were at the processing plant.
“Where do you go in a meat plant to take cover with a bunch of sharp knives and heavy objects around you?” she said.
By a stroke of luck, the tornado didn’t hit close enough to affect them.
With the exception of modernizing machinery and technology, lot of the meat processing industry has remained the same, but Dave recognizes one thing that’s changed. The white paper has been replaced with the more efficient form of packaging — vacuum sealing.
Gone are the days of hand-packaged cuts of meat in white paper, but the locally grown movement is still going full swing. ❖
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