There are very few companies that are able to lay claim to the achievement of surviving for more than a century, and when they can also claim the accolade of being the leader in their industry and the foremost innovator in their field that is definitely something special. The OSI Group is able to not only claim those high marks of praise but many more. It’s not bad for a company that started out as a small meat market on Chicago’s west side.
The son of German immigrants Otto Kolschowsky was a man who had learned the butcher’s trade from his father, just as he had learned it from his father before him, and his father before him. At the turn of the century in Chicago, Illinois, the meat industry was king, and being a butcher, especially a good one, meant you were at in high demand. As Otto decided to strike out on his own and start Ott’s Meats in the Oak Park neighborhood, he knew that he would have a lot of competition, but he also knew that there was no one in the greater Chicagoland area that could provide a high-quality cut of meat at a better price. Soon, word of his great business practices and even better butchering spread far and wide, and he had to expand into the wholesale business. He started out by providing great meat to restaurants and hotels in the area, even garnering such success that he had to add his sons to the business to keep up the operation’s demands. It wasn’t long before he was the number one provider of high-quality meats to the top establishments in the state. This got the attention of one particular future customer, one who would change everything.
McDonald’s was a brand that was growing faster than a weed in summer, and they needed to expand their supply chain network. This meant finding top quality suppliers in most of their local regional markets. In the upper Midwest they heard that Otto was the man that they wanted, and soon a partnership was formed that would the food service industry. Within a few years, Otto & Sons had grown to be the sole provider of proteins for the entire McDonalds system in North America. McDonald’s also grew, expanding to many other countries and once again they turned to Otto & Sons, now the OSI group, to help them keep up with the demand that their expanded system had. This led to further innovation and even more global market share for OSI.
Eventually, other food distribution networks wanted to take advantage of the modern techniques, rapid service, quality customer care, great pricing, and exceptional products that the OSI Group had been providing to McDonald’s for years. OSI rapidly expanded their production system to keep up with the new demands and soon found themselves in a formidable position, being the number one provider of proteins to the best food service distributors in the world.
Today the OSI Group employs more than 20,000 people around the world. Their network of production facilities includes 65 properties in 17 countries with more facilities being adds every year and a plan to expand into even more countries in the next few years. The OSI Group has become the number one provider of beef alternative proteins for the Indian market and the number one provider of Kosher & Halal Pork Alternative proteins in the middle east.
One thing is for sure, when Otto Kolschowsky started Otto’s meats more than a century ago, he probably didn’t foresee the path that the business would take, but he would certainly be proud of the legacy that has come from what he started, and would no doubt be looking forward to what the future holds.