In mid-1917 a group of nine people gathered in Estcourt to discuss the establishment of a bacon curing factory in the area. By August 1917 the Farmers’ Co-operative Bacon Factory Limited was founded and building commenced on the banks of the Bushman’s River in Estcourt.
The factory was officially opened on June 6, 1918 by General Louis Botha. Mr Thrupps of Johannesburg became one of the co-operative’s first large clients.
In June 1919 the SS Saxon carried the first bacon exports to the United Kingdom, which were well received. The company secured a number of awards at the 1920 Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg. In the same year the manufacture of the now famous Eskort Gold Medal Pork Sausages commenced and the co-operative’s continued marketing of excellent products was rewarded with the third successive win in the export hams and bacon categories at the 1922 Rand Easter Show.
Tragedy struck in 1925 when a fire caused extensive damage to the factory and production was temporarily relocated to Nel’s Rust Dairy Limited in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Despite the setback the company won the top three prizes at the 1926 London Dairy Show.
During World War Two over 1-million tins of sausages were supplied to the Allied Forces all over the world. Over 12 tonnes of bacon per week were supplied to convoys calling at Durban harbour.
Early in 1948 plans for a factory in Heidelberg, Gauteng, were drawn up and the factory commenced production in September 1954. The retail Eskort butchery, a favourite shopping stop for travellers between the Reef and Durban, was opened in 1951.
During the 1950s the company embarked on a concerted effort to improve the class of pig being received into the factory and this work, and the purchase of breeding stock, played a major role in the development of reliable, quality raw material. The first vacuum-packed, sliced bacon in South Africa was made available in 1959.
The Golden Jubilee Year of 1967 was celebrated with plans for additional expansion at both Estcourt and Heidelberg, which was continued vigorously to make Eskort the single largest brand in the South African processed meat industry. Eskort products are distributed nationally through 26 distribution centres, which are then shipped to the many retail and wholesale outlets available.
The Eskort range of products now extends to over 100 lines and includes bacon, sausages, viennas, polonies, ham, and cold meat loaves.
Since 2000, the Eskort product portfolio has been extended into the fresh pork market with products such as spare ribs, bacon cherry sticks, marinated rashers and smoked eisbein being marketed at the Eskort butcheries in Heidelberg and Estcourt.
Eskort is actively involved in social projects in local communities. The company supports the Shalom Children’s Ministries in Heidelberg and Estcourt and the Bhekuzulu Self Sufficient Project, which cares for people with HIV, orphans and displaced children in the Estcourt community. Eskort is also the proud sponsor of the Eskort Cavanaugh Marathon.