Kate’s Real Food is ready for the big time.
To complete a national expansion, CEO Todd Hanna has three main objectives and one trick up his sleeve.
“Our goals,” he said, “are to continue to build off the momentum of becoming a national brand, build and strengthen people, systems, processes and finances, and increase the awareness of and the attraction of the brand as a whole.”
Those are tall orders for a company that started in founder Kate Schade’s kitchen, but Hanna believes his team, which includes two new faces, has the skills and experience to expand while staying true to the company’s origins. Kate’s, he said, can continue creating high-quality, all-natural bars while getting them into the backpacks of more people.
Hanna has turned to Jon Hill and Jessica Spalding for help. Hill is the new vice president of sales and marketing and has expertise in growing emergent companies.
He was a sales executive at Live Soda, an Austin, Texas, company that makes kombucha and other beverages, and Oatmega Bar, which specializes in protein bars. Both went from startup to acquisition under his tutelage.
Hanna said Kate’s isn’t looking to be bought out, but, even so, Hill thinks his experience will make the national transition easier.
“A main reason I wanted to work with Kate’s is they’re basically at the starting line of their opportunity,” Hill said. “I’ve seen so many of the hurdles before.”
Hill will stay in Austin, where he lives, and travel regularly to the company’s home in Victor, Idaho. Spalding, the new marketing director, is a homegrown talent.
“We were fortunate to find Jessica Spalding in our own backyard,” Hanna said. “She brings experience with Wyoming Whiskey, which locally we’ve all admired the success and value of that company.”
The high-level hires can help Hanna turn Kate’s demonstrated strengths into a bevy of new customers. He said the high-quality ingredients and the culture of the company won’t change, so Kate’s will look for markets and retailers that match its ethos.
The outlets that stock the bars in Jackson, resorts like the Four Seasons, outdoor stores and boutique grocery stores like Jackson Whole Grocer, are the same type of places they want to target in newer markets, like Austin and cities in the Pacific Northwest.
“You don’t want to scale into every market,” Hill said. “But anywhere there are like-minded people, I think there’s a place for Kate’s to be.”
Though most things won’t change, other than the scale of Kate’s operation, Hanna has two big changes to make the brand more recognizable and attractive: an overhaul of the packaging and the introduction of a new flavor, the lemon-coconut Bivy Bar.
The new packaging features the main ingredients of the bar at the top and shows Kate’s newly obtained certifications: non-GMO, organic and gluten-free.
“Our current rebranding and repackaging effort will definitely allow us to leverage the brand, grow into bigger markets and be more appealing to the broader audience,” Spalding said in an email.
Hanna sees a bright future, one in which production ramps up, which could spell changes for Kate’s. Right now, each bar is handmade in Victor, but if demand increases, automation may be necessary to make the most popular flavors, while new, experimental bars would still be handmade.
If that vision comes to fruition, it would be similar to how small craft breweries build production facilities to churn out their most popular IPAs and give their head brewers freedom to create new flavors, a comparison Hanna enjoyed.
“I have no problem if Kate’s Real Food is to the bar industry what craft breweries are to the beer industry,” he said.