podcast

May 18, 2022

KLN Family of Brands including Tuffys, Nutri Source Pet Food and Wiley Wallabys Licorice and Sweet Chaos Popcorn(Season 4 Episode 19)

KLN Family Brands is a manufacturer of pet foods and candy based in Perham Minnesota.
We talk with Mike Hamilton who leads up the Tuffys and Nutri Source Pet food brands and Jadi Anderson who heads up Kenny’s candy division including Wiley Wallabees Australian licorice and Sweet Chaos popcorn, about being a manufacturer from a family-owned company in Minnesota.

KLN Family of Brands Podcast Transcript

Stephanie Hansen 0:12
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the makers of Minnesota podcast where we talk to cool people doing cool things. We have an opportunity a lot of times to talk to smaller brands and brands that are just getting started. But kaolin brands is a family brand that has been around for a long time. And we’re going to do a two parter here, because I’m with Mike Hamilton, and he is with the toughies brand of KLM. And I’m gonna talk with some other folks that are with different aspects of each brand. Because I felt like it would be kind of weird to talk about sweets and pet food in the same conversation. Mike, absolutely. Thank you for being a guest on the program today. You said your title is director of commercialization. So commercialization is that different than marketing?

Mike Hamilton 0:56
Really, what commercialization is, is product development and innovation bringing new products to market, not only the products themselves, but also the process for how we go about bringing new products to

Stephanie Hansen 1:06
market. Okay, I’m dying to ask you questions about that. But let us start with KLM brands is a family of brands that is based in Minnesota.

Mike Hamilton 1:16
So Kayla and family brands is based in Perham, Minnesota, okay, is where the headquarters for the overall enterprises along with the headquarters for toughies pet foods as well as candies, candy and confections. I am located in Delano, Minnesota in the toughies pet treats facility that was just built two November’s ago. So pretty new, pretty new facility. But in this building, it’s 185,000 square feet, where we’re making all pet treats. And actually, we just a month ago, started up our first pet food canning line as well.

Stephanie Hansen 1:53
Okay, so you’re like the guy who was responsible for that? I’m assuming because you’re creating new products and trying to get things on the line? How do you know? I mean, do you like literally test products with dogs to see if they like to eat them?

Mike Hamilton 2:08
Sure, sure. Yeah. So for one as far as this facility goes, luckily, we have smarter people than me in this business that can actually have the vision to know all the pieces that need to fit together and how it all runs, I was merely a accessory to that to that process. Thank goodness. But yeah, so when we’re developing new products, or one, we evaluate kind of what the market needs are, where is there some whitespace where we can go into into a pet store and find products that consumers really want or pets really, really want or need. And then within that development process, once we have the idea and come up with the actual product that we can produce or test online, then we will do feeding trials feeding panels, with the with the pets to make sure that it’s palatable, it will also do all sorts of testing on the product to ensure that it has the right levels of vitamins and minerals, fats, proteins, things like that, that make our dogs and cat vibrant, that all those all those things are included in those products.

Stephanie Hansen 3:11
So toughies started as a dry brand. And now going into a canned environment. There has been some evolution in pet food because as people have gone away from more grain based diets and really heavy on their protein, that trend has followed that they’ve been doing that with their animals, too. It seems like maybe what’s good for humans isn’t as good as what’s you would feed your dog. But I don’t know. Like, do you guys have to ride those trends and follow based on kind of what people want to feed their pets? Sure.

Mike Hamilton 3:44
Yeah. So over the course of the last, say 10 years, maybe even 15 years humanization of the pet food industry has been probably the number one leading trend

Stephanie Hansen 3:56
zation of the pet food industry, I love that term, because it really describes it extremely well. So okay, would you

Mike Hamilton 4:02
say it is exactly right. And that’s what we call it humanization. So so really, you’re taking a lot of those trends that are found in the human market and translating those into pet food is something that’s been going on for a while now. And you see that in the stores through different kinds of proteins, you’ll see that through different kinds of products that kind of mimic human products. And in even the the terms human grade is now being used more and more in the in the pet space as well. With that comes some expectations around quality and things like that. So I would say if you go back maybe over the past 20 years in the pet food in the pet food space, you can see the levels of quality ratcheting up and ratcheting it up as consumers and pet parents expectations around what they’re feeding their pet. So for us to be able to have a wide variety of products that are going to be able to meet the needs of all of our consumers and our customers whether it’s dry food or what food or treats for example. We want to make sure we have plenty of different products for people to choose from.

Stephanie Hansen 4:59
When you Think about a L n as a family brand and toughies. You know you’re competing with, like Purina who’s just a massive producer of grains and products. How does it feel to be a family brand that stacks up against some of those really larger conglomerate? And yet you guys are still a mom and pop? How does that work?

Mike Hamilton 5:23
Yeah, so for one for me, I love it. I love being in a position where we are as a family approaching the market. And also, we kind of carry that out into our community as well. So, so Kailyn family brands, toughies, pet food, and actually, our primary brand is nutrisource. You know, all of these kinds of entities combined, are very focused on supporting our local communities, and also encouraging our consumers and customers to visit independent pet stores, independent pet retailers, to find our products, and we are very focused on ensuring that we’re driving in all our messaging. We’re driving our customers into those independent pet stores. So like, just like us, we want to promote other other families as well as without these pet stores and things too. So it really works out really well. It fits well with my own personal ideals of how one should go to business. And when there’s always you always have the Nestle’s and in the Mars Petcare out there in the market to kind of compete against we definitely have the opportunity to carve out our own space because of our different approach to any market than what those kind of big guys would do.

Stephanie Hansen 6:33
I like the nutrisource brand. They carry it at Fredonia hardware, which is a big local company for the Twin Cities. What was your background before pet food? Or have you always been in pet food?

Mike Hamilton 6:44
Yeah, so I’ve been in pet food for the past about 13 years. Prior to that I spent some time in the lawn and garden industry working for Scotts Miracle Gro and prior to that I was actually working for m&m Mars in the candy business, different supply chain and procurement roles

Stephanie Hansen 7:01
in in your own personal life. Do you have pets?

Mike Hamilton 7:04
I do. I have a three year old mini schnauzer named Penny. Cute. Yes, she is. She is definitely one of our favorites in the family. And we don’t know what we do without her at this point. But you know, for her to have a pet. A Father in me that works for a pet food company. I think she gets really excited when I come home every day, I can give her some different treats to try and things like that. So she may not know how good she has it. But we absolutely love her.

Stephanie Hansen 7:33
It’s interesting to me to think about the grocery store, and the pet food aisle at the grocery store. Because I feel like it’s gotten so much bigger. Do you due? I mean, in the day, it was like just a few cans and then a couple of bags. And maybe they’d have some more bags up at the front. But now a lot of the grocers, you know it’s half an aisle people are really dedicated to their pets, during like the pandemic where we had all these people adopt pets, did you see like an uptick in sales because of that?

Mike Hamilton 8:04
Yeah, for sure. So the industry, in general has been growing by leaps and bounds each and every year. And COVID definitely provided yet another boost to the market as far as the number of pets that are that are out there to to feed. As far as the retailers go, they know the value of pet food and the necessity of pet food. And so they know that from the standpoint of how much how many dollars, they can get per square foot of shelf space, they will get quite a bit of a bump by increasing the amount of pet food that they keep in their stores. And so that’s one of the reasons why, you know, we’ve seen more and more kind of products available and more shelf space dedicated to to pets is because of that, that kind of price per square foot that they can get in their in their stores.

Stephanie Hansen 8:51
What’s the hardest part of your job?

Mike Hamilton 8:53
You know, I think we’ve got a lot of opportunities to continue to expand and grow. And some of that is prioritization and figuring out which which ones do we want to focus on the most. And we got so many different opportunities to to make new products and continue to drive the products that we’ve got today. So I would say that, you know, and even looking at it more not even just within the pet business, but company wide, a lot of different opportunities out there and figuring out where are we going to take our place, our next bets was to continue to grow the business overall. And I think as an organization, that’s that’s a really good problem to have. Because Luckily, the products that we’re making people want and we’re continuing to grow it just matter of you know, are we growing it at the rate that we’re that we want to and what we will be doing next?

Stephanie Hansen 9:40
I hate to use the analogy of squirrel, but I think it’s a good analogy. So in terms of the KLM Family of Brands, do you get involved and sit down at leadership meetings and talk about what those next steps might look like?

Mike Hamilton 9:53
Yeah, we do have a strategic planning team that gets together on a regular basis and talks through not only one where we’re at today but where we want to go next and, and really think about how do we further expand the business to be able to support our consumer base and and really keep keep the nutrisource brand, or any of our other product lines that keep them keep them relevant within within the the market

Stephanie Hansen 10:18
was candy first or was pet food first because I feel like Wallaby licorice was a big bass driver.

Mike Hamilton 10:25
So pet food was actually first, it was first Okay, Duffy’s pet food started in 1964 Kenny’s businesses is quite a bit newer than that. And the wildly wildly Wallaby brands in the in the nutrisource brands came in after the fact. But yeah, the pet food business has been around since the 60s.

Stephanie Hansen 10:41
So was the nutrisource brand, a brand that you guys bought, and then brought it under the Family of Brands? Or did it get created?

Mike Hamilton 10:47
You know, it was it was created in house. Actually, in 2003, we develop the brand here,

Stephanie Hansen 10:54
it is funny because, you know, we went through this period of pet food needing to be like science based and Science Diet and nutrisource and pro like all of these sort of more sciency sounding names, and brands that were more nutrition focused came on. Versus like, in the beginning, it was like Fido and elbow and, you know, kind of more of, I don’t know, just family looking packages, and you didn’t think about what you fed your dog that much. You just kind of put it in their bowl. And if they liked it, they liked it. Now, you know, even with the whole advent of soft, refrigerated foods, that you know how much that that is contributing to the space do you guys have a refrigerated product yet?

Mike Hamilton 11:37
We do not have a refrigerated product yet. It’s a it’s a little bit of a different market not to say that it’s something that we will never have. But it’s something that we know is out there and have not gone down that path yet.

Stephanie Hansen 11:50
Yeah. And it’s kind of in like some of the organic stores. There’s a lot of I don’t know, the one I bought my dog recently had blueberries in it. And what I do is terrible. I like I buy the dog food, the pellet food. And then I buy a little assault mouse and I try to mix it in to keep her interested because she’s 18 and I’m trying to kind of always trick her into eating different things and just being interested in the food that we have because you buy a 20 pound bag of dog food and the dog just eats the same thing every day. I’m not sure that’s the best idea either. What do you know anything about that? Or

Mike Hamilton 12:23
yeah, actually one of the one of the benefits that we promote with nutrisource is that because the base set of nutrients are all the same, the minerals and vitamins that we use, you can actually can rotate feed with all of our different products. So no penny shall go from a chicken product to a beef product to Turkey and you know, so on and so forth all the way through our product line with no ill effects at all because that nutrient base is the same and that’s one of the things nutrisource In general we talk about the science behind foods nutrisource is in itself a solutions based product we focus a lot on gut health, ensuring that not only is your going to do well on the product, but it’s also going to help with the overall absorption of nutrients so all the nutrients that are in the product are going to be properly absorbed into the body so so so definitely we try to go down that we do go down that path with all of our products to be promoting the utmost nutrition for for our pets, the concept that you brought up a kind of build a bowl of put a put dry food in with wet food and things like this. We agree fully. That’s something that we promote with our canned lines as well as our dry dry food line. We actually also just launched in January a line of new broth products called kombucha. It’s a kombucha themed inspired product. Actually, I’ve got some here

Stephanie Hansen 13:47
that yeah, he’s showing me we’re on video. So he’s showing me a packet. It kind of looks like a packet of broth like you would buy bone broth in the store.

Mike Hamilton 13:56
Yeah, it’s a broad it’s a broad style product but in within the product it also has a extra component that speaks specifically to gut health and it supports palatability so if you wanted to pour this on your dry food, you can use that to encourage your dog to eat. Maybe if the dog is slightly stressed and doesn’t want to eat the helps. They’re also what I do at homes I pour it in Penny’s bowl so that her water bowl to encourage her to drink more drink more water as well because it just flavors the water so a lot of different uses for a product like that but that’s one way that we can continue to go through and work on that buildable mentality of putting in the dry food with the wet food and as well as the palatability.

Stephanie Hansen 14:35
That’s a cool product Mike and I’m embarrassed to tell you but I’ve for a lot of years been making instant pot broth for my dog with like leftover chicken bones and I make a lot of stock for myself and when I don’t have a pot that’s really good enough or enough scraps to make it people worthy. I will make it for her. And then I just pour it over her dog food and yeah, that’s so funny.

Mike Hamilton 15:00
Absolutely. So that’s a great way to do it. Some people, though, may not really know much about making broth themselves, so they Yeah, exactly. Buy our kombucha, right.

Stephanie Hansen 15:09
I love that you’ve made that product. That’s amazing. When you look at just the trends of what we maybe are going to see in the next year three, five, what are we moving towards in pet food and care for our pets? What are you seeing?

Mike Hamilton 15:23
Yeah, so I think if we look at the trends in the human space, I think we can continue to project them over to over the pet food as well. So things like alternate proteins, that’s becoming more and more popular plant based proteins. Actually, insect protein is something that has been hitting the radar screen for, for the pet world as well.

Stephanie Hansen 15:44
There’s a lot of giant, not giant, but there are a lot of cricket farmers in the Twin Cities, I happen to have had a bunch of them on the podcast, and you know, crickets regenerate every six weeks. So it’s a giant opportunity to get a lot of protein and it’s in a powder form. So you can do a lot with it. How funny would that be if we start feeding our pets cricket protein, but it would make sense? Yeah, it’s

Mike Hamilton 16:08
actually already happening. There are products out in the market now that rely on things like crickets, black soldier fly larva as well, because it is a highly sustainable protein. palatability may be a little bit in question. But but it is something that’s digestible and and highly sustainable

Stephanie Hansen 16:25
dogs like it.

Mike Hamilton 16:27
Not as much as neat. Yeah, but there’s other ingredients that you can include in there to help them with that. And maybe people who are using insect protein or are balancing it out with some animal protein, as well as to be able to have something that is a little bit a little bit more sustainable in that way. But plant protein as well is coming along as dogs like pea protein, not on its own. No, it’s a little bit on the bitter side. But again, you know, as a way to get more protein in their diets, that is something that they can consume and digest as well.

Stephanie Hansen 16:57
Do dogs need more protein? You know, I know that that’s the humanization effect. And I’m not a scientist, you know, I know that it’s not necessarily awesome to feed your pets, all grains and that some protein is good. But is it kind of like humans, maybe to where we think like, oh, we have to feed our dogs 30 grams of protein a day? I don’t know. Like, how do you know what’s enough?

Mike Hamilton 17:19
Right? So for starters, I’m not a nutritionist and nutritionists. So I don’t want to do that. Yeah. But there is a point where there is some sort of diminishing return on just like human body on how much protein that you can take and how much protein you can actually absorb. And adults lifestyle makes a big difference to that that may dictate how much nutrients how much protein that they would need in their diet.

Stephanie Hansen 17:45
Yeah, I mean, couch dogs are very different than working dogs or dogs on a farm are.

Mike Hamilton 17:50
Absolutely Well,

Stephanie Hansen 17:51
it’s been super interesting to talk with you about toughies. And I will look for it and also nutrisource which I again, I ended up getting it Fred alone us a lot. It’s been a blast. And thanks for getting us more familiar with the kale and Family of Brands. We’ll put your podcast together with the candy podcast, but we’ll separate them a little bit. So it’s not so weird. It’s fun to know more about this company. I know. It’s a family owned company that’s been in the Twin Cities for some time. And I think you guys have sponsored some my Katie canine. My talk 1071 I work at that station to help. Fantastic. Yeah. So thanks for supporting Katie. She’s pretty incredible. And it was great to meet you.

Mike Hamilton 18:32
Great to meet you, too. Thanks for having me on. We’re introducing nutrisource and toughies to the rest of the listening audience.

Stephanie Hansen 18:38
Absolutely. Thanks. Bye. Bye. Hi, this is Stephanie Hansen. And you’re listening to the makers in Minnesota podcast. We’re going to take a break from KLM brands so that I can tell you about my other podcast. If you like this type of content that you’re hearing, you might like to follow a couple of other channels where I have podcasting as well. One is Stephanie’s dish, a podcast called dishing with Stephanie’s dish. And this is specifically where we talk with people that are recipe developers or home cooks or people that have produced cookbooks. It’s been a super fun podcast. I’ve had guests like Robin Asbell and Jenny Breen and Amanda PA. And it is just been really fun to chat with people about their cookbooks and about their journey and basically how they got there. And also people that are home cooks that are doing recipe development at home. It’s just a fun spot to kind of collect all of those thoughts. I also of course have a podcast called the weekly dish that I do a Stephanie March. That one’s produced by my talk one Oh 7.1. And you can find that wherever you find your podcasts, just look for weekly dish MN and it’s a two hour show each week. So you download each hour, and you don’t miss any content about the local Twin Cities food scene. We talk about food trends, we talk about wine and beer and things people are making and Stephanie does an excellent job covering the restaurant scene, and it’s a great podcast. So I hope that you’ll join us and subscribe to my newsletter so that you can get all the recipes that I make every single week. A lot of them are full of Minnesota maker ingredients. And if you could do that, that’d be awesome. I’ve got a cookbook coming out in September called True North cabin cookbook. And again, it features a lot of products that are made in Minnesota in my personal recipes, and I’d love it if you’d subscribe. Now back to the podcast. And we have kind of a special episode today because we’ve got two different parts of it with k ln family brands. And we are with JD Anderson today and she is the director of marketing of Kenny’s candy. And we talked with Mike Hamilton, who was with the pet food side and we just figured it would be too weird to talk to you guys about pet food and candy in the same conversation. So we split it up a little bit. So candy is fun. JD

Jadi Anderson 20:48
Kenny is fun. And just to reassure all of your listeners, we are in different buildings. That food candy people food totally separate and we always joke ones across town and the other one where I’m at totally different not mixing up the products.

Stephanie Hansen 21:05
Are you up in Purim?

Jadi Anderson 21:07
I am okay.

Stephanie Hansen 21:08
And how far is perm from the Twin Cities? So we’re about three

Jadi Anderson 21:11
hours north of you all and about an hour east of Fargo if that position us

Stephanie Hansen 21:19
and Kenny’s candies. Is that like an overarching brand for different types of candies? And can you help me just understand a little bit more about that?

Jadi Anderson 21:28
Yeah. So candies, candy and confections is our manufacturing company. A parent firm that handles our people food again, if that’s how you want to look at it, but under candies, candy, we have two brands. And so that’s really what people are going to know us as and so we’ve got Wiley Wallaby licorice, and that’s our soft and chewy licorice. It’s been around for about 15 years now. And then our newer brand is sweet chaos popcorns. And so sweet chaos is a line of savory popcorns everything like your standard white cheddar and kettle corn. And then we get into kind of unique flavors like jalapeno blue cheese, and then we also get to do fun things like drizzled popcorn with chocolate. So we’ve got in collaboration with Cold Stone Creamery, we do a cake batter popcorn got a chocolate and peanut butter popcorn. And then we do all kinds of fun seasonal flavors to

Stephanie Hansen 22:17
where do you find the popcorn? Is that in grocery or Yeah, so

Jadi Anderson 22:21
both of the brands can be found at quite a few different chains, Minnesota is our backyard. So you can find them all kinds of places here grocery, your mass stores like Target and Walmart. You can find them at some drugstores like CVS, so they really get some, some nice love from those stores and a lot of local stores here too.

Stephanie Hansen 22:41
How long have you guys had the popcorn line?

Jadi Anderson 22:42
It’s been about five years now. And it’s gone through a couple of revamps just to figure out kind of who it really is. In its younger years, but the brand as it is right now has been around for four or five years,

Stephanie Hansen 22:54
then did you work on that? Or have you been to the company since then? Okay,

Jadi Anderson 22:58
no. So I’ve been with the company for eight or nine years now coming up on nine years, I guess. And so I had the opportunity to help develop sweet chaos from its infancy. And so like I said, it’s changed a little bit. We used to have some mixes with pretzels and chocolate covered chips and popcorn. And those were fun. But we’ve we’ve kind of moved on from that, like I said, so we’ve changed evolved cats in different packaging designs, but I’ve gotten to work on all of it. It’s been fun.

Stephanie Hansen 23:25
So when you introduce a brand, can you walk me through sort of like how that conversation happens at a family owned company, and how you get to the shelf? And then I’m curious about how you’ve already made some retooling? Because that’s pretty nimble for manufacture.

Jadi Anderson 23:44
Yeah, so we’re a unique manufacturer in our space. So we’re very large, we’re very well known within the industry for producing both our own brands and then private label brands. And so we do a lot of product development, we have a great team here that I get to work with have four individuals currently, but it used to be two. And so I had one that works on popcorn, and one that would work on licorice. And so in the popcorn building, there are actually two separate buildings, we had been working on a lot of private label, and that’s kind of our bread and butter. That’s kind of who we were, as we did private label and CO manufacturing for other brands. And we were sitting one day pretty casually and someone said, Hey, it’d be really nice if we had our own brand. And of course, me being our marketing directors, I guess it would I can get on board with that. And so I got to sit down with our r&d Foodtech over at building to and just say what does this look like? What should we what flavors should we be looking at? What can we do what makes us different than the others that are out there? And so that’s really kind of where we start is popcorn is not new, drizzled popcorn is not new. So why are we different than than what people can buy? And so we sat down and we tried a few different things. And so you know, if you pick up a bag of our popcorn, you’ll notice that we really focus on the ingredients that we’re using. We’re not going to tell you that eating chocolate drizzle popcorn is the healthiest thing in the world, but it’s a great snack for when you need kind of that sweet little thing. And so we’ve got you know, we’re We’re using coconut oil and non GMO coconut oil at that. And we use non GMO popcorn seed and cane sugar instead of beet sugar. And so we very consciously made those decisions to say, who is our consumer? What are they looking for? So like I said, you know, we started with kind of those mixes and and when we looked at retooling it, we just said, is that working for us as a company? First off, we’re in small town, Minnesota. And so do we have the labor to support continuing to do a complex project like that? And does the market support that as well. And we just said, you know, what, the drizzled popcorns are going so well, we’re going to shift that’s going to be our focus. It’s really where we’re comfortable. And so we made that shift, had a really great packaging design at the time, as everyone has seen over the last few years, you know, COVID accelerated a lot of what we were looking at, and that includes what our packaging looked like. And so we were fortunate to be already in conversations with people about what does that change look like? How do we bring some more definition to our brand and make it stand out on shelves for people? And so we’re already in that process, and COVID just kind of helped it along. And so our newest bags feature our name a little more prominently than they were before. So historically, we’ve focused on what is the product? And how are we communicating that. And we’re just getting to the point where we’re actually building up our brand name, and people are starting to recognize us because we are in more retailers. So So as we’ve as the world has evolved, and as our needs have changed and become more known, we try and be as nimble as possible, we can make changes, I’m going to say quickly, but like quickly, can still be a year, it just happens to be faster than a lot of others in the industry. And that’s really been a priority of ours is to maintain that that level of being comfortable, and then moving into the uncomfortable. So we make sure we’re staying current,

Stephanie Hansen 26:43
it sounds like leaning into local. And people knowing that you’re a family brand in the state of Minnesota and in our community has sort of become more important.

Jadi Anderson 26:54
Absolutely. So we have these these great brands. And we’ve kind of flip flop back and forth. How does the story look, as we talked about KLM, and then our manufacturing facilities as well. And really, you know, we’ve, we’ve talked about the fact that whether you’re talking about the brand, or you’re talking about our company, people want to know who they’re buying from, and they want to be comfortable with that, especially today where you can go online, and you can buy from stores in New York or California, it doesn’t matter where you’re located anymore, they can get product to you. It’s the same with brands. And so we’ve just found it more important to really start talking about Who are we at the core of our company? And what are we doing? And so, you know, we talked about being family owned, and, and that’s great. We are third generation, family owned and very proud of that. But really, it’s those values that we are trying to infuse into our brands. So it becomes second nature for all of our people here, but also something that is just known in the marketplace. And so the family that we get to work for the Nelson family, they’re very giving very caring and charitable. And, and we don’t, we haven’t historically talked about that a ton. And that’s something that we’ve just said, you know, we we obviously are a manufacturer where we’re trying to make money and be a profitable business. But But why? And so Charlie’s quote is, you know, what good are we if we’re not trying to make a difference? And so what are we doing with that success that we’re having to better this world that we live in? And and so that’s really started with, you know, our home community have grown, we do a lot of, we’re very involved in the community here. We’re doing a lot of giving and participating, for sure. But then you said you got to talk to Mike. And you know, Mike’s in Delano a little closer to the cities there. And so we see that community expand, especially again, as the world has changed and accelerated the community no longer is our community of puram. You know, this, this community of 3000 people, it’s still here, but we’ve expanded and so now we reach the Twin Cities and and then what does the global community look like too? So

Stephanie Hansen 28:51
can we talk about your licorice for a minute? Because I’m obsessed? Yes. I love the black licorice. But I that’s not a flavor that Anna’s flavor maybe isn’t for everyone. And you guys have a raspberry, you have an apple. I work at my talk 1071 and on Saturdays and Katie canine will leave bags of Wiley, wallabies, licorice in the studio. And I’m always so thrilled when?

Jadi Anderson 29:19
Well, we are to then yeah, we’ve been very fortunate to have a relationship with with her for quite a while. And it’s great that she leaves people food around because I know she’s known for the pet side. But yeah, so our licorice was really our first kind of foray into developing our own brand that we were going to take nationally and really try and make something out. And so in 2007, the team again sat down had the conversation of what does this look like? How do we make it how is it different and better, and someone at that time stumbled across an Australian style licorice and so for those who aren’t familiar Australian style licorice is a shorter piece with a thicker center and it does not have a hole down the middle like a more traditional liqueur To twist wood, and really what that allows for is a nice soft and chewy piece. And it seems to hold even more flavor. And so the team came back and said, This is what we want, but do it better. And so after a year and a half, and I think the number is 100,000 pounds of licorice, wow, perfected our red and black formulas, and so are classic red and black were the first two that we went out with and again really focused on, hey, this is an Australian style licorice. It’s, it’s got this great Biden flavor to it. And then again, you know, we’ve shifted as the years have kind of come along. So you mentioned or other flavors we have, I think it were up to 14 or 15 different flavors now. And so, green apple watermelon. Blasted Berry is our first mixed flavor bag, which launched unfortunately during COVID, but it’s gone really well. So that’s been really fun. And we’ve gone through kind of facelifts there as well. So we started like I mentioned really stressing Australian style and teaching people like, here’s a premium licorice, this is what it tastes like, like your taste buds can grow up and you can kind of still have this treat that you loved as a kid to really saying like, Okay, now here’s who we are, here’s who we are as a brand. And we had a lot of fun with a third party redesigning our packaging, and making the brand that focus. And it’s been great. It’s been well received, it’s been four years now. And it’s it’s great when we walk into a store, or we walk into a customer meeting and people say like, Yeah, I know who that brand is now like, it’s, it’s been great to watch it evolve.

Stephanie Hansen 31:29
When you talk about the CO packing, what kind of people do you co pack? And do you still accept people like that? Is that a core business?

Jadi Anderson 31:38
Yeah, so it is still a large chunk of our business, in, in all facilities for sure. We do it under very strict contracts. And so I can’t share who we go back with but very much so names that people would recognize out in the marketplace we have the pleasure of working with so it’s kind of fun and exciting to get to work with some of those bigger companies and and see how they operate and and they’re, you know, great people just to get to meet these other people and behind other brands,

Stephanie Hansen 32:07
at what type of level would you need to be to even be considered co packing with you.

Jadi Anderson 32:12
So we have a couple, we have a couple of different buckets, like a co branded item is usually quite a bit larger just because they’re more established or making a larger splash. But we also do private label. And so that tends to be a little smaller, and our minimums are maybe going to quote this wrong. But it’s like 3000 to 6000 pounds. So it’s okay, not huge. When you think about licorice and the fact that it’s sold in one pound bags. But yeah, so it’s, it’s fun, we get the chance to work with companies that are just coming out and just emerging and trying to figure out, you know, that process that we’ve gone through Who are we? What is our brand? What do our flavors look like? And then we get to work with these companies who have been around for decades, and are well established. And it’s just fun to see the different stages that each brand is at as

Stephanie Hansen 33:03
a marketer, what are some of the challenges you’re seeing in the food space,

Jadi Anderson 33:07
I mean, there’s a lot of things. For anyone who does marketing, I hope this all resonates. But the biggest thing right now is is obviously just the ever changing trends and trying to stay on top of those. And I heard it put perfectly the other day like the trends were changing, but then COVID really accelerated them, right. And so not that we didn’t know that some of them were coming. But just being nimble enough and fast enough to adapt to whatever comes out is is always a priority for my team. And so social has been a huge focus for us as especially as people went home. But even just as people live with that device in their hand, right. And so we it’s almost like we have an in person life. And then we also have kind of this secondary online life that we also live and participate in. So we’re working with influencers, who these, these people are almost people that we consider friends we consider, you know, like I know them, if I met them, I could talk and have a conversation with them. And so we do a lot of work with those people and just develop genuine relationships. We want to work with people who like our product and feel confident recommending it to those who follow them. So we do quite a bit of that. And even just staying on top of social trends has been interesting. So you know, we’ve seen a rise in tick tock and now we’re seeing Amazon posts come out and being a family owned company. We’re a relatively small marketing department. And so it’s very hard to know so much. Yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s fine because we get to work on all kinds of different things. But staying on top of those trends as they just seem to keep rolling into the next one and keep moving and you get one and you move on is kind of the concept. So So tell

Stephanie Hansen 34:45
me about Amazon post because that’s not a trend I’m aware of.

Jadi Anderson 34:49
Yeah, so I mean, it’s, I mean, we’re all familiar with Amazon, right? We can go and order almost anything we want online in this day and age. And so they’re adapting A feed that you can start posting on. And so it’s more lifestyle images for those brands that you’re buying from on Amazon. And, again, we’re very lucky to have a third party that we’ve partnered with who is diving deep into the details there. So my team can look at kind of the bigger picture overviews. But I think, you know, that’s new for us. But we’re seeing influencers from Instagram, start being Amazon influencers. And it’s interesting to see how the, the online world is merging. And what each platform is doing,

Stephanie Hansen 35:29
I guess, the idea being that, would you be on Amazon and you’d be scrolling a feed? And you would see, like an influencer, that you like, eating popcorn, and you’d be like, Oh, okay, and you could click and buy that popcorn that the influencers eating?

Jadi Anderson 35:45
Yeah, so we’re starting it from a brand perspective, or that’s what we’re looking at right now. And so same concept, like you’re scrolling through it, and you see our red licorice, and you can pop right over to buy it right, you don’t have to leave the site, even it’s all right here. And then Amazon influencers are kind of a whole nother piece of the world, I guess. And they can have their own shops. And so you know, I have an influencer that I like on Instagram, and they have a shop on Amazon, I can pop on there and buy the outfits they’re wearing, it’s just a quick, easy way to make that purchase. And in all honesty is nice for us marketers, it allows us to track some of the success of the campaigns that we’re working on,

Stephanie Hansen 36:21
I do a little bit of that, as a brand myself and haven’t had a ton of success. I guess the thing that I probably get the most success from is cookbooks and cooking utensils, because I do a lot of that. But I can see that it’s a huge opportunity. And I think Amazon is trying to figure out, like they have all these people that want to be influencing Amazon products. But it’s not really worked super great for lots of people to just like, you know, have a link, a text link on your website or a referral link. So I see them trying to help the influencers to really be able to make that connection in a lot more significant ways that what do you think Amazon post is designed to do? Yeah, I

Jadi Anderson 37:05
think it really is, you know, we talk internally, and we look at the concept of we have to meet our consumers where they’re at. And so you’re not coming out to find me as a brand, right, I have to come to you and I have to introduce myself and make you want to buy me. And I think Amazon sees that. And they say okay, how do we make this even easier for people? How do we make ourselves the choice. And so obviously, they compete against not only Walmart and Target anymore, but they’re competing against all of these regional grocery stores and drugstores because everyone has an E commerce site now. So I think it’s really a learning for Amazon, to just say, how do we make ourselves that choice. And we all know Amazon sits in hot water every once in a while. And so trying to stay on top of their game and make sure that they’re the one that you’re saying, Yep, I’m still choosing them. They made it easy. It was fast, it was convenient. And

Stephanie Hansen 38:01
yeah, it is kind of a weird space. Because on the one hand, when I’m mass market, shopping, shopping, we’ll call it meaning I’m, you know, going to do a big shop, I really like to try to support target because I know that money stays locally. And you guys are a family brands. So you get how important that local pieces. But I also recognize that Amazon is super convenient. And they’ve made this shipping super easy. And with my Amazon Prime. So I do struggle with that as a consumer that wants to support local businesses. And I think we’re finding that out, right, even during like the pandemic, where we ordered all of this stuff online, when we got the opportunity to get out and about the first thing people wanted to do was do experiences, they wanted to go to their main streets, they wanted to shop, you know, people are, are impacted by their local communities. And it’s like a fine balance as a shopper, and I’m sure as a company to, to try to support that ecosystem that makes you money. But also you want to support your community, you want to support your main street, you want to support your local, then I guess the answer to it is you have to do it. All right.

Jadi Anderson 39:10
Yeah, you have to be everything to everyone as much as possible. And I think you’re right when we saw consumers be able to get back into stores. They didn’t go back to stores. And obviously some did, but we saw you know, we still see curbside pickup is so huge, right? So I can order my groceries now I can leave my kids in the car and someone will bring them to me. It’s it’s fantastic. But you’re right. When you start looking at some of the smaller businesses, it’s very impactful for them and probably not in a positive way. So like I said, we’re seeing more regional grocers go online and so you can purchase from them. And I think it’s really just educating the consumer in a partnership with these retailers to say, you know, we know you have to go buy your milk and it might be cheaper at Walmart and we get it like that makes a lot of sense. But don’t forget like purchase from these people as well. So maybe there’s things that they’re doing better, or maybe, you know, there’s some way to incorporate them into your everyday purchase. So you’re still supporting those people in your community, whether it’s a big store like Target where you know that money staying in the Twin Cities, or it’s your mom and pop brochure down the street, just trying to find that balance of being supportive for everyone and maintaining your own sanity in the process.

Stephanie Hansen 40:24
I wonder if you know, it’d be really cool. And this is something in the marketplace that I felt been lacking. So let’s say I want to buy Wiley, wallabies, very mixed bag of licorice. And you’re a big enough company and powerful enough and have it all figured out that I can go and I can order that on Amazon. But it would be awesome. If like in an Instagram post, I could order that like grayish. And maybe it comes through like an Amazon shopping cart, but that that transaction actually gets to you. And that I could order hot sauce from crybaby, Craig’s hot sauce. And I could put a whole cart of ingredients together or things together. And then Amazon would figure out where to point those orders. And they would all ship as one thing. Because makers, you know, part of what prevents them from getting into Amazon or part of what is the opportunity is for them to do larger packaging, larger runs, ordering, you know pallets, it would be so cool if at some point, Amazon could not necessarily be the distribution, but be the pointer and the arrow and the shopping cart that figures out where all that money goes. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Jadi Anderson 41:36
Yeah, kind of like a link? Yeah. And and I don’t know if we’ll get there, I don’t know if the world is set up or ready for that. And hopefully they are because I think that’s you know, that sounds great to be able to whether it’s benefit the manufacturer who’s actually making that and drive cost down that way, or even just pick from here’s a local retailer in your area, and it’s cheaper for them to ship than it is for us. So let’s work with them. In part, yeah.

Stephanie Hansen 42:00
And it would give Amazon a piece of every transaction, really, because right now they’re only getting transactions from the bigger folks are the people that can operate in the Amazon ecosystem. But there are all kinds of other makers and brands and clothing manufacturers that are smaller, that, you know, could then be introduced to that Amazon ecosystem. And they could see what sells and help them get to that next level maybe. But I guess these are first world ideas that maybe someday Mr. Jeff Bezos will come to my house. And I can tell him what I want.

Jadi Anderson 42:33
Yeah, he’ll be able to help you with that. I do think you know, in that, whenever there’s a demand for something, you see some sort of solution arise, right. And we’ve said, we’re a manufacturer, we don’t ship product to individuals, that is not our specialty. It just doesn’t go as well for us. And so we’ve been fortunate and gone out and found a third party who’s like, hey, we can do that for you. And so even for a manufacturer of our size, it was easier to say, we’re going to partner with someone who can help manage this piece, and who specifically works on shipping individual packages and mixed packages of mixed flavors, and really taking that off of our plate and pushing it to Amazon. And so that’s been very beneficial. For us. It was very beneficial when we first started on Amazon and our orders were much smaller. And we’re seeing many more of those types of businesses kind of pop up. And so I think that’ll start to help solve exactly what you’re talking about, too.

Stephanie Hansen 43:25
Yeah, cuz shipping and logistics is no joke if you’ve ever had to nightmare be involved in that we had a printing company and everything delivered in 24 or 48 hours and we were only as good as the packaging and the shipping, both on our end up getting it done. And then the receivers end of that process of getting it to their home so well. It’s been super great to talk to you. It’s JD Anderson, Director of Marketing Kailyn brands, sweet cast popcorn Wiley, wallabies, licorice, and thanks for being a guest on the makers of Minnesota. I can’t wait to connect with you and follow you guys on and stuff.

Jadi Anderson 44:01
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Stephanie Hansen 44:02
Thank you. Bye. Bye bye

Transcribed by https://otter.ai