September 13, 2010 11:06 AM
Entertainment icon Pat Boone is known for chart-topping records in the 1950s, white buck shoes and outspoken conservative views.
And soon, Colorado Springs investor J.W. Roth hopes, the singer, actor and writer will be known for one more thing: red meat.
Pat Boone All-American Meats is set to start selling a line of premium, U.S.-grown meats online Nov. 1. It’s designed as a legacy brand in the tradition of Jimmy Dean Sausage and Newman’s Own. And like Newman’s Own, which was started by the late actor Paul Newman and has given more than $300 million to charities, Pat Boone All-American Meats is about more than just business. It’s also about spreading Boone’s message of the need for “an All-American revival,” of returning to the days when families ate together and neighbors knew each other. And it’s about helping fund conservative Christian causes close to his heart to further that revival.
“He believes, and I believe along with him, that America is in a bit of trouble in the sense that we have lost our way,” Roth said.
The 76-year-old Boone, who was friends with Newman, said he had thought of having a legacy brand — perhaps a line of salad dressings, “because I do make my own salad dressing here at home.”
“But it was just a whim,” he said by phone recently from his Beverly Hills home. “I don’t know if I would ever have gotten around to it.”
Then Roth entered the picture.
Roth is the co-founder and co-chairman of Accredited Members Holding Corp., a publicly traded investment research firm based in the Springs. Accredited has several arms, including an acquisition arm. Its first acquisition was World Wide Premium Packers, which owns the Pat Boone All-American brand. (The price of the recent deal was not disclosed.)
But Roth’s involvement goes far beyond that. World Wide Premium Packers was created by Roth and a handful of Accredited Members investors.
“It’s almost a bit of a test project for Accredited, because I was on both sides,” Roth said.
Several years ago, Roth invested in a meatpacking facility in the Colorado community of Evans. About a year ago, he said, “I decided to either figure out a way to enhance my investment or I wanted to sell it.”
Roth saw that direct-to-consumer mail order meat sales was the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. meat industry. “So I thought, OK, let’s build a brand that you sell online, like Omaha Steaks.”
But he needed a hook. J.W. Meats, for example, had “no zip to it,” he said. When a colleague at Accredited mentioned that he was a friend of Pat Boone, the light bulb went on.
“Out of all the legends out there, there are only a couple that have been able to pull off a big legacy brand,” Roth said. “And I think Pat Boone can do it.”
So Roth flew to California and pitched the idea to Boone.
Boone said he was immediately intrigued — drawn, he said, by the notion of “an iconic or legacy brand that, as J.W. put it to me when we first got together, would be accomplishing good things after we’re both gone.”
Under a licensing and royalty agreement with Boone, Boone and/or his heirs will allocate 50 percent of his royalty from Pat Boone All-American Meats to mutually agreed-upon nonprofit organizations, including the Parents Television Council and Springs-based Focus on the Family. Beyond that, Roth said, Boone has indicated that he and his wife, Shirley, will contribute a portion of the remaining royalty to the charities of their choice.
“God loves a cheerful giver,” Boone said. “We have been cheerful givers. We love to give.”
Boone said he quickly hit it off with Roth, a conservative Christian as well.
“He’s one of the most energetic, hands-on, up people that I have ever met,” Boone said.
While Boone said the charitable component was the biggest lure for him, Pat Boone All-American Meats is a good match in other ways, too, he said. He and his wife have always stressed family togetherness, and meal time is family time — or should be, he said.
“Too often we’ll eat our meals in a den or somewhere where there’s a TV set and hush each other instead of talking with each other.”
The fact that Pat Boone All-American Meats will help fund the notion of an All-American revival makes for a built-in market for the line, Roth said. The company’s key demographic is Christian, conservative women over age 55, many of whom subscribe to the same notion.
At the same time, Roth acknowledged, there will be people who don’t buy the meat because of the causes the brand supports.
“I don’t think we can be all things to all people,” said Michael Genho, who is interim chief operating officer of World Wide Premium Packers and assumes the role of president effective Nov. 1. But, he assured, “we’re not out evangelizing any one religion. We’re not even out taking hard-line positions on political issues. What we are doing is there are some core values that made this country great, that Pat Boone has stood for his entire life, and we believe this product will allow you to support the kinds of organizations that help propagate that kind of lifestyle in our country.”
Some won’t care either way about the causes the line supports; they’ll simply be hooked by the quality of the meats, Roth said.
“We will be priced competitively with Omaha Steaks, yet our quality will be superior,” he said.
The line will consist of hand-trimmed, thick-cut premium steaks, said Genho, who has a master’s degree in meat science from Colorado State University. “We think we’re creating an experience for people when they eat our steaks.”
But Pat Boone All-American Meats could move beyond steaks — or even meats.
“Already other manufacturers are coming to us with other products,” Boone said. “‘Can we tie in with you? Can we have a Pat Boone coffee? Can we have a Pat Boone soup?”
For now, though, the focus is premium meats. Roth is projecting $14 million to $15 million in sales the first year and $32 million to $33 million in year two.
The funny thing, Roth said, is that he ended up building a business too big for “our little packing plant” in Evans. So World Wide Premium Packers had to forge co-packer agreements with large packing facilities.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “we hope to launch what will become one of America’s premier brands.”