Why May 20, 2011 Might Be The Worst Day In Slim Jim's History

Slim Jim, as a snack product, caught a few lucky breaks over the past decade. For one thing, the dark days of low fat diets are far behind us. Slim Jim's meat sticks, while not strictly keto, are, as the Poor Man's Atkins blog puts it, "A great little snack when you are on the road or have to get gas." Unlike your fancier brands of meat snack, Slim Jims are readily available at every convenience store and service station from here to the moon. And as catastrophic as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for the restaurant industry, as well as for numerous other businesses and individuals, the snack food sector saw soaring profits as consumers turned away from healthy foods and stress-ate their way through mountains of junk.

Ten years ago, however, Slim Jim experienced what might have been its darkest day since the company was founded back in the 1920s. On one single day, May 20, 2011, Delishably reveals that the company lost not only its original manufacturing plant, but also its most-beloved product spokesman.

Why the Garner, NC plant had to close

For over 40 years, the Slim Jim plant in Garner, North Carolina employed hundreds of locals (700 at its peak), but WRAL reports that an explosion in June of 2009 not only resulted in the loss of four lives, but reduced production capacity eliminated 350 jobs. The plant limped along for another two years, but despite much lobbying from the town itself, ultimately Slim Jim parent company ConAgra decided to relocate their production facilities to Ohio, instead.

While ConAgra did donate the 450,000-square-foot plant and its surrounding 106 acres to the town, as well as provide them with a parting gift of $3 million towards building a community center, this was slim consolation to the 200+ employees who found themselves out of work. Although the plant itself was eventually razed, the town finally found a buyer for the land and a new employer for its workforce. According to a later piece by WRAL, the town inked a 2018 deal with Amazon for that company to open a new distribution center there.

The tragic death of a Macho Man

On the same day the Garner plant closed its doors, Slim Jim underwent another devastating loss. Although Macho Man Randy Savage hadn't served as the product's spokesman for over a decade, the catchphrase "Snap into a Slim Jim!" is one that will forevermore be uttered only in his trademark Macho Man growl. 

By 2011, Savage was retired from the wrestling ring as well as from his career as Slim Jim's pitchman. He had recently married for the second time, but was beginning to suffer from various health issues. On May 20, he and his wife were driving near Seminole, Florida, when he passed out behind the wheel. While his wife was able to steer the car to safety, Savage died on the scene of what was later determined to have been a heart attack.

Sadly for Savage, the two biggest honors of his career came when he was no longer around to enjoy them. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, but in 2019 received an even bigger honor. Slim Jim, the product he could be said to have single-handedly inducted into the snack food hall of fame, created a product they named after him: Savage Sticks, the biggest, baddest, most Macho meat snacks ever.