“You should be very proud of your company’s accomplishments.” Terry Fasel, Oregon Department of Agriculture, had walked up behind me as I was standing in a grocery store surveying the enormous array of Bob’s Red Mill products on display. What made this scene unusual was not the fact that I had discovered a grocery store where Bob’s had more than 100 product varieties on display. You can see that for yourself in most every store in North America. It was the fact that this store was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! And, this very scene had been repeated several times during the previous few days across SE Asia where Terry and I were attending an international trade mission.
Bob’s, it seems, is truly everywhere on earth. While I was very proud to know our firm played a part in the success of Bob’s Red Mill and their incredible domestic and international growth, at the moment, I was more dumbfounded. To be honest, I never could have imagined some 20 years earlier that I would someday be standing in a grocery store halfway around the world viewing the fruits of the Bob’s Red Mill team’s hard work, passion and never-ending belief that whole grains could not only change a consumer’s health, they could change the world.
It was 22 years earlier when my business partner, Ken Koopman, and I walked into the Anaheim Convention Center to attend our very first Natural Products Expo West as guests of our client, Kettle Natural Foods. Having been in business a little over a year we knew very little, if anything, of the natural products business. To call that moment an epiphany in the history of our company would be an understatement of titanic proportions. To say that we were amazed at what we saw, shocked at how large the trade show was, and astounded by the opportunity would only somewhat capture our feelings. Walking through the convention center doors that day exposed us to arguably the greatest and fastest growing trend in the consumer product goods marketplace. It exposed us to hundreds of entrepreneurial trailblazers who were working to make a difference in the health of our planet and our people. It also exposed us to several of Kettle’s friends.
Six of those friends were northwest natural foods companies that met on a quarterly basis to share their budding industry knowledge and to help each other grow. They were: Bob’s Red Mill, Nature’s Path Cereals, Stretch Island Fruit Leather, Yves’s Veggie Cuisine, Pacific Foods and Cascadian Farms. Seemingly overnight, all but one of those companies became a client of KO. We were unexpectedly, profoundly, and proudly in the natural products business and the rest as they say, is history. We always admit that we were never smart enough to see this trend coming. But, when it hit us over the head that fateful day in Anaheim, we were smart enough to know where we were. And it was a place we wanted to stay.
As consumer goods have continued to evolve with the advent of USDA Organic and other certifications, B Corps, Gluten Free and non-GMO products, we too have evolved. In order to serve these clients, we realized we needed to be a one-stop shop. The entrepreneurial brands we wanted to work with couldn’t afford to hire separate branding, advertising, PR, packaging design and web development firms. So, on their behalf, we had to become all the above and more. We were not trying to be all things to all people, but we were certainly attempting to be that for some.
Over the years, we’ve continued to add services to our integrated, full-service model, such as digital advertising and social media engagement. But to this day, we stand on the fact that we are basically channel agnostic. Channel selection is a small part of what we do for them. The greatest work we do on behalf of our clients is in helping them to daily live out their mission and strive to attain their vision. That’s the whole reason we exist – to be the best in the world at helping mission-driven brands truly change the world by influencing and shifting the health habits of the world.
Proud? Yes. But I have to admit that once again, I am even more amazed, shocked, and astounded at the inspiration, influence and impact these incredible brands are having on the health and lives of a global population.