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Get Crazy About Walnuts with Crazy Go Nuts

By Lorrie Baumann

Crazy Go Nuts offers a line of flavorful coated walnuts with front-of-package labeling them as “loaded with Omega 3s.” Walnuts in general have more Omega 3s per ounce than salmon, according to CMO Courtney Carini. They’re coated in all natural foods. “When you see ‘banana,’ that’s actually banana,” she says.

It’s ALA, and it’s the density of Omega 3s that counts. “Flaxseed has more, but nobody eats an ounce of flaxseed,” says David Wolfe, co-Founder and CEO. “Our main thing is clean labels and simple ingredients. More and more consumers are demanding that, and because walnuts are so healthy, we try not to weigh them down with nonsense.”

All Jars_shadow“We try not to ride solely on health benefits,” adds Carini. “Walnuts are so delicious, and we want people to enjoy them.”

There are currently nine flavors of the nuts: Banana, Orange, Coconut, Chocolate Espresso, Oatmeal Cookie, Garlic Parmesan, Buffalo, Rosemary Pink Salt and a plain salted flavor that’s slightly mis-labeled “Boring.”

Banana Walnuts_shadowNuts are packaged in three sizes: 1.5-ounce grab and go, 4.5-ounce and an 8-ounce resealable bag for the pantry. They retail for $6.99 for the 8-ounce bag, $4.49 for the 4.5-ounce bag and $1.99 for the 1.5-ounce bag.

All the same flavors are offered in jarred butters, except that there, the Rosemary Pink Salt becomes Sage and Rosemary. All of the butters are low sugar. “Our goal is always to have the cleanest ingredients and the simplest flavors,” says Wolfe. These are packaged in 9-ounce jars that retail for $6.99.

Both the butters and the packaged nuts will work as an accompaniment for a cheese platter, and most of the butters will work as a smoothie ingredient as well as a spread. They’re currently sold in specialty retailers around the country, with large retailer distribution starting this fall in California and then spreading from there.

The company has been in operation for four years, but expanded into a new production facility in central California late last year. “We’ve been learning and getting better ever since, but we’re still new,” Wolfe says. “We have significant capacity, but we haven’t been in business for 30 years, and we’re just hitting our stride…. There’s a lot of interest in the brand. It’s being described as ‘whimsical.’ It’s not a word that I would use, but it represents us pretty well.”

The company started as “a whim” in Los Angeles, with two people managing it out of an apartment, and has grown from there. “We started going to Walnut Board meetings,” Wolfe says, and “We met with several different companies that were interested in investing in us and helping us grow.” That investment helped them grow from their farmers market cottage industry into the new production facility that has enabled them to scale the business to the point at which they’re ready to venture onto the national market.

For more information, email sales@cgnwalnuts.com or info@cgnwalnuts.com.

Roam, Roam on the Range

By Lorrie Baumann

Jonathan SeppWhen Jonathan Sepp left the Air Force after completing his obligation to Uncle Sam for his U.S. Air Force Academy college education, he rediscovered a dream that had been with him since he first saw bison grazing on South Dakota rangeland during a cross-country vacation trip with his parents. “That animal in particular had a magnetic draw,” he says. “After my commitment was done, I could have stayed in the Air Force, but it’s not what I wanted to do.”

IMG_2993That dream is now being realized as a Montana bison ranch and a brand of bison jerky that he launched in July with a cross-country tour of his own, this time pulling an Airstream trailer that he’s decked out as a kind of tiny museum on wheels. The museum is a small series of multimedia exhibits that explain how bison help regenerate a landscape by trampling down encroaching sagebrush, leaving behind hoof prints that act as small catchment basins that trap small amounts of moisture to water the seeds of the surrounding grasses. Since no museum is really complete without a gift shop, at the end of his line of exhibits, there’s a rack on which he’s offering packages of his Roam Free bison jerky for sale.

While the bison jerky is brand new, the Roam Free ranch, situated on 240 acres on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana, is nearly four years old. “The only place we could afford to start was on the reservation and in a gulch,” he says.

IMG_6422Even though he recognized that the scrubby, overgrazed land he could afford wasn’t the best, he didn’t start out knowing much about how to fix that. “I thought, ‘Oh, it’s just ground. You just turn the animals out,’” he says. He didn’t know how to look at grass; he didn’t know much about water; but he figured out in a hurry that he’d better learn or he wasn’t going to last. “Weed education is where I started,” he says.

He started talking to experts in bioregenerative agriculture – the people who could tell him how to take an overgrazed piece of grassland and increase its productivity. “It’s a science. It really is a science,” he says. “We run into a problem and talk to experts, and they help us fix that – and you get better next year.”

IMG_5948The small successes he’s having on his own ranch made him passionate about sharing what he’s learning with others. Spreading the word is key to ensuring that the market for bison meat stays strong, he believes. The roaming museum in the Airstream is the result of that kind of thinking. It’s been nine months in development. “There has to be education in a simple context, and you have to educate people to understand what they’re eating and why it’s healthier,” Sepp says. “We took every cent we had in the ranch to do this.”

The Roam Free jerky that’s for sale at the end of the row of exhibits is offered in four flavors: Wood-Fired Pizza, Original, Thai Chili Ginger and Moroccan Heat. Another two flavors, Sweet Berry BBQ and Morning Maple, are coming soon. The jerky is made from 100 percent bison meat and organic flavoring ingredients. There’s no artificial nitrates, and it’s sugar free, gluten free and carbohydrate free. “Whether you’re diabetic or just looking for ways to be healthier, we wanted to cater to that with our brand,” Sepp says. A package, which is two servings, provides 24 grams of protein.

The jerky is produced in a family-owned processing facility that’s local to the ranch. It’s USDA-certified under the state of Montana, so the jerky can be sold anywhere in the U.S.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the line will be extended with varieties fortified with medium-chain triglycerides derived from coconut, to appeal to Paleo eaters who are working on their healthy fat intake. The new MCT varieties will be offered in each of the six flavors.

For more information, email info@goroamfree.com, which will reach Sepp whether he’s home on the range or out on the road. “We would love to distribute outside of driving in a trailer,” he says. “But if we don’t get there, we’re not going to be upset.”

 

Culinary Apple Tempts Shoppers to Stay a While

by Micah Cheek

Like many retailers, Mary and David Weldy have felt the pressure of competing with Amazon and other sales sites. But Mary and David aren’t worried about losing money to online markets, because they have made their store everything that Amazon isn’t ― an immersive, informative experience that’s worth traveling for.

Culinary_Apple_061Culinary Apple is located in Chelan, Washington, a tiny resort town in the heart of Apple country and on the edge of Lake Chelan. The store actually got its start from being a gift shop and hub for apple tourism. “We shopped for everything apple! Apple candles, apple teapots and apple aprons, to name a few. That’s how we became the ‘Apple Store,’” says David Weldy, Co-Owner. “We private labeled our apple jams, jelly and butters. We started selling beautiful apple gift baskets with these items including fresh harvested apples. And then we ultimately got into buying a fudge factory and putting it in the store.” After separately opening a kitchenware store as well, the Weldys decided to put their two businesses together. “We took the best of each store and developed that. Look at all that fresh fudge! Roasted glazed nuts! [You come in and] all of a sudden you see so many things that you wouldn’t expect in a kitchen store,” David adds. Dubbed Culinary Apple, the new store has been curated with items for each wave of customers that will come in throughout the year. During the summer, Chelan’s population swells from 7,000 to 25,000 with the influx of tourists and people who own second homes on the edge of the lake. “We’re kicking off our high season now. Our peak time frame is June, July and August,” says Mary, Co-Owner. “We have what’s called ‘Conference Season.’ We do conference gifts and attendee gifts. That’s March, April and May, and again in September, October and November, which is our harvest time for apples. Even though our visitors and tourists have gone back to the other side of the mountains, we still have our conference attendees.”

Lots of Culinary Apple’s kitchenware business comes from the seasonal residents who need to outfit their second home with new tools or something they forgot on the trip. “Obviously kitchen gadgets are a huge part of our business,” says David. For a time, the store was also outfitted with a wide variety of electric appliance options as well. But as time passed, the profits from small electrics began to shrink. “We don’t carry a lot of that product like we used to. We’ve already eliminated Vitamix, they’ve sold their soul to Amazon. We were doing Soda Stream, but all the big box stores got involved in it, so we moved away from Soda Stream,” says David. “We reduced our electric lines, and got a lot of shelf space for things that turn better with higher margins.”

The Weldys have created a strong engagement program for customers both online and in the store itself. “We created our own rewards program,” says Mary. “We have over 6,000 people in our rewards program. We send them an email, and our monthly open rate for that email is about 22 percent.” David adds, “We have so many people coming in for that birthday reward. We send them 10 dollars and they walk out with 100 dollars of merchandise.” Culinary Apple also has a schedule of sales that coincide with tastings and tool demonstrations. “Because it’s Reward Friday, when you let people know they can come into the store and get 20 percent off anything that isn’t excluded, we have a lot of people in the store. And a lot of them go to the Gadget Playdate.” The return from the Gadget Playdate can be substantial. Mary adds, “I would say on average, we have a solid 30 people that purchase, and they purchase on a pretty good volume. We’ll actually have customers come in on Thursday to take a look, and then come in to buy on Friday.”

When the rewards bring them to the store, customers will meet a Culinary Apple team that the Weldys have seriously invested in educating. “We do a phenomenal business in knives, and it’s because our team knows a lot about knives,” says Mary. David adds, “A few weeks ago we had WÜSTHOF do training in store for the staff followed by a sales training trip to Seattle for knife skill training by Shun. Then we went to Progressive [International] and did about a six-hour training with them.” To make sure their staff is as knowledgeable as possible, Mary and David take their team to as many company training programs as they can. “We gave up about $2,500 in sales by closing our store, we spend about $800 to take our team over, but that was so inexpensive compared to the team building, training and brainstorming. Every time we get back to the store we see how enthusiastic everyone is to share what they have learned. It just pays off dividends.”

The experienced staff integrates into a store experience designed to appeal to all the senses. “When you come in you’ll smell nuts roasting, or someone in the back making fudge. We’re still getting lots of baby boomers, so we play that music that appeals to them. It makes them feel good,” says David. “Then they’re greeted with one of our team. ‘Hello, would you like to try a cinnamon-glazed pecan?’ And then they get a taste. It’s about appealing to all the senses.”

store photoCulinary Apple has leveraged its fruit-focus theme to leverage deals with manufacturers. “We just completed an agreement with Dexas. They have a beautiful apple cutting board that we sell in the store. We have a co-op that looks for apple products to give to their growers for their big annual fall harvest party,” says David. “We [also] did that with JK Adams with their apple cutting board. These are the kinds of things we’ve done to grow our business. You’ve got to think outside of the box, not just waiting for that next customer to walk into your store, but reaching out to corporate clients and asking for there business. Like our sign says on our front door, ‘Culinary Apple a store to experience.’”

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