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Johnsonville Sausage LLC: finding new opportunities beyond the pork commodity markets

Keith D. Harris (Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)

Publication date: 18 June 2019

Issue publication date: 8 July 2019


Theoretical basis

This case used the interplay between individuals, firms and markets to examine how a company sustained success from its value adding activities. The theory of value creation was demonstrated by the leader’s ability to configure the firm’s tangible and intangible resources to create opportunities beyond the commodity markets. Also, what matters were not just the technical processes of developing value-added products, but how the company’s culture served as a link to new products, new markets and new ventures.

Research methodology

The case was based on primary and secondary sources. The primary sources face-to-face semi-structured recorded interviews with the protagonist at the company’s headquarters. The secondary data were from the company’s website, and public information about Johnsonville Sausage LLC. Supplemental information was gathered from market research firms. No names have been disguised. The case has been classroom tested with undergraduate students in a capstone course. The author has no personal relationship with the company.

Case overview/synopsis

Kevin Ladwig, Vice President, was concerned by the expanded production of ethanol, an attractive supplement to gasoline in the USA. Because most ethanol is processed from corn, expanded production of ethanol heightened the demand for corn. Since corn is a staple feed ingredient for animals, heightened demand for corn increased the cost of Johnsonville’s raw material – hogs. In fact, the cost of feed was Johnsonville’s major economic input in animal production from farrow to finish, accounting for up to 70 percent of the total production cost of hogs. The case introduces the nexus of food and energy markets and how the “Johnsonville Way” was used to convert an old idea into an innovation.

Complexity academic level

This case is appropriate for undergraduate and graduate courses in business and agribusiness management. It would also be appropriate for courses using concepts in innovation and organizational culture.



Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The authors may have disguised names; financial, and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


Harris, K.D. (2019), "Johnsonville Sausage LLC: finding new opportunities beyond the pork commodity markets", , Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 181-198.



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