John Morrell Food Group, a Lisle, Ill.-based division of Smithfield Foods, began an exclusive licensing agreement with Nathan's Famous, Inc., Jericho, N.Y., to manufacture and sell branded hot dog, sausage and corned beef products at retail stores nationwide. The agreement commenced in the beginning of March 2014.

"We are very excited to launch our new partnership with John Morrell Food Group," says Eric Gatoff, chief executive officer of Nathan's Famous. "It will allow our very successful retail licensing program to finally achieve a truly national sales, marketing and distribution footprint."

The John Morrell Food Group will leverage the new partnership with full-scale marketing efforts, both in store and out, highlighted by consumer events, including a 3-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series sponsorship with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver Aric Almirola and the addition of new settings for Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifying events.

"This is the beginning of a great partnership with the John Morrell Food Group," says Wayne Norbitz, president and COO of Nathan's. "There are many great events planned for the summer to excite and engage our consumers, including new hot dog eating events and the sponsorship of Richard Petty Motorsports. This, along with many other efforts still to come with John Morrell Food Group, will lead to continued awareness and growth for Nathan's."