Richard L. “Dick” Knowlton, a member of the inaugural class of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame®, began his career at Hormel Foods in 1956 as a merchandising manager and eventually became president and chief operating officer in 1979 and chairman in 1981. He managed Hormel Foods to consistent profitability and propelled the once staid, old-line meat packing company into the future by spearheading a company-wide emphasis on development of value-added products.

Among his many business accomplishments, he managed the company through a massive re-invention of its product lines to become a modern retail powerhouse. He built a $100 million state-of-the-art processing plant in Austin, Minnesota that in 1982 was the most productive in the industry and featured robotic technology that was years ahead of the industry.

During his long career, he brought hundreds of shelf-stable, ready-to-cook and non-meat convenience items into the firm’s product portfolio. In one 18 month period in the late 1980’s, Knowlton spurred Hormel into introducing an astounding 134 new products including the groundbreaking Light & Lean 97 line and Top Shelf  microwaveable products.

During his tenure, Hormel acquired Turkey processor Jennie-O Foods, a major catfish company and Chi-Chi’s line of Mexican foods.

Now retired, Knowlton currently serves as Chairman of the Hormel Foundation Board of Directors and director of the Horatio Alger Association and Supervalu, Inc.
He is a member of the Business Advisory Council at the University of Colorado and the Mayo Clinic Advisory Board.

In 1992 Knowlton won the Horatio Alger Award, an honor he shares with such luminaries as Hank Aaron, Henry Kissinger, Maya Angelou, General Colin Powell, Jack Kemp, and Tom Brokaw. He also lent his name to an annual meat industry innovation award in recognition of “a man whose legacy of achievement comes from a deep-seated determination combined with a down-to-earth affinity for everyone he encountered, setting the gold standard for corporate leadership.”