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The OSI Group: From Humble Beginning To A Global Leader

The OSI Group: From Humble Beginning To A Global Leader

The growth of the OSI Group from a Chicago area butcher shop into a global food industry leader is an amazing story. One that combines vision, hard work, a commitment to quality and a little bit of luck. The OSI Group was founded in 1909 as a family meat market in Oak Park, Illinois by Otto Kolschowsky two years after he came to the United States from Germany. Originally called Otto & Sons, Kolschowsky ran the business with his sons Arthur and Henry. The meat market quickly developed a reputation for having the finest cuts of meat and providing the highest quality customer service.

Within 10 years, Otto & Sons was providing wholesale meat to local restaurants and supermarkets. Kolschowsky expanded the business and moved into a new facility in Maywood, Illinois. In 1955, the company got a lucky break. Ray Kroc was opening a fast food franchise called McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois and he asked Otto & Sons to provide him with ground beef for his hamburgers. Arthur and Henry Kolschowsky agreed and soon Otto & Sons was supplying ground beef for McDonald’s locations throughout the United States. It was such a large, lucrative contract, they created Glenmark, an Otto & Sons subsidiary which provided meat for their non-McDonald’s customers.

By the late 1970s, the Kolschowsky brothers were ready to retire. Control of Otto & Sons was turned over to Sheldon Lavin, a former banker, accountant and financial services professional. He had been buying stock in the company and got the owners the financing they needed to expand. Lavin envisioned Otto & Sons as a global brand. He changed the company’s name to the OSI Group and formulated an aggressive plan for international growth. To increase production capacity in the U.S., Lavin built food processing plants in Utah, California, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois and acquired East Coast based Amick Farms and a former Tyson Foods plant in Chicago.

The OSI Group also gained many new clients. They include Papa John’s Pizza, Yum, Saizeriya, Starbucks, Burger King and Subway. It has customers in 85 countries and 70 food processing plants in 17 countries. The OSI Group also acquired Baho Foods in Holland and food company Flagship Europe in the UK. Founded as a Chicago-area butcher shop, the company now has customers in dozens of European countries, is China’s largest poultry producer and has over $6.1 billion in annual revenue.

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