Hot dog, hot dog, hot-diggity-dog!
Increasing sales and the spread of its business to 15 states is prompting Sahlen Packing Co. Inc. to expand its Buffalo operation with a new high-pressure packaging and storage facility.
The goal is to enhance food safety, while also extending the shelf-life of its meats, which don't sell as quickly outside of the Western New York marketplace. That will allow the company to broaden its sales and tap a bigger consumer base.
The maker of the popular Buffalo hot dog, headquartered at 318 Howard St., wants to reuse a vacant 17,500-square-foot building around the corner at 17 Montgomery St., while also constructing a 15,500-square-foot addition. The new $6.5 million facility will be refrigerated, since workers will be dealing with meat.
For part of the building, officials plan to install a large specialized packaging and pasteurization machine, which places the packaged hotdogs or other meat into a canister under water, where they are subjected to high pressure for six to eight minutes. The meat is then boxed and put into refrigerated storage in another part of the building, which will operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The process "gives us an extra layer of food safety," said company president Joseph Sahlen Jr., noting that the new system "basically kills all bacteria in the packaged product." As a result, its products can now last 160 days on store shelves.
It's also a more efficient production process, Sahlen said, since the company typically has difficulty maintaining staff for its facility. Sahlen said he expects six or seven employees to work in the new operation.
"This really puts us in the forefront and able to compete on a national basis," Sahlen said. "Recalls are the end of the world. If Sahlens were to have a recall for whatever reason, that's devastating. You want to be able to kill bacteria."
The expansion marks a milestone for the family-owned business, which will mark its 150th anniversary in 2019. Founded in 1869, by a previous Joseph Sahlen, the company sells hotdogs, sausages, smokehouse ham and other deli meats in 15 to 18 states. Last fall, it expanded sales through an agreement with Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix, a supermarket chain with 1,131 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina and Tennessee.
That growth is "still in its infancy," Sahlen said, noting that "out-of-town markets take time to develop." Still, he said the company ships 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of product every week.
The 1.57-acre parcel is located next to the rest of the Sahlen's complex, near Fillmore Avenue and William Street. Plans by C&S Cos. and Bammel Architects call for the company to keep the existing foundation and walls of the brick building, while replacing the roof and concrete slab. The red metal-panel addition will include three loading docks, as well as new sanitary, storm, water and electric services, and new trees.
The project was approved Monday by the Buffalo Planning Board.
Sahlen said he hopes to operate the expansion by the end of the year.