At KLN Family Brands, the story began, and has remained, close to home. After more than 50-years of growth, three generations of family history, and national expansion of three brands, the manufacturer remains committed to their roots and hometown values.
Tucked away in the heart of lakes country, KLN is grateful to call the small town of Perham, Minnesota home. Evident through their community support, the company strives to make the town a better place than it was the day before. Through buying locally, supporting their retailers and rallying around community efforts, KLN is working to ensure that they are making that future a reality.
Formed by a trio of companies, KLN manufacturing consists of: Kenny’s Candy & Confections, Tuffy’s Pet Foods, and Tuffy’s Pet Treats. The companies were founded by father and son entrepreneurial team – Darrell (Tuffy) Nelson and Kenny Nelson. Now, KLN Family Brands is led by third-generation CEO, Charlie Nelson.
Under their leadership, each of these companies has grown to be well respected in their industries. Not only do they produce products for their own national brands, they are also trusted to manufacture goods for the leaders in their markets.
Kenny’s Candy & Confections
Kenny’s Candy & Confections, the candy and snack division of KLN Family Brands, is located in the company’s hometown of Perham, MN. Kenny’s was established in 1987, primarily out of a love for all things sweet. After all, chocolates and candies are the most widely consumed products in the world!
According to candyusa.com, 72 percent of all Americans actually believe that chocolate and candy contribute to their emotional well-being. That belief has lead the industry to account for $37 billion in retail sales each year – helping to drive growth and stimulate the economy.
When Kenny’s Candy launched into the candy industry, it was as a manufacturer of private label licorice twists. From traditional black & red twists, Kenny’s expanded into all varieties of flavors – fruit flavors, cinnamon, and chocolate were among those added. For many years, the small-town manufacturer continued to grow the business – eventually becoming the largest manufacturer of private label licorice in the United States.
In an effort to continue their growth, Kenny’s added a second facility to specialize in popcorn and extruded snacks. Today, the company employs more than 350 individuals and its production facility covers over 215,000 square feet.
Tired of eating licorice that was flavorless and impossible to chew, Kenny knew the company could produce a premium version that would blow away the competition. The team sat down, hatched a plan, and got to work! In 2007, after a year-and-a-half, and 100,000lbs, Wiley Wallaby was born.
Over the last 15 years, Wiley has grown into the brand that consumers trust for incredible tasting, permissibly indulgent candies that are always soft & chewy, delivering a burst of flavor with every bite. “Through fun, delicious products, we bring families and friends together to enjoy a shareable snacking experience,” exclaimed Jadi Anderson, Kenny’s Marketing Director.
As the Wiley Wallaby brand has evolved, it has developed into four sub-categories: (1) Soft & Chewy Licorice, (2) Licorice Candies, (3) Organic Bites, and brand’s newest offering (4) Low Sugar, Gluten-Free Licorice.
Soft & Chewy Licorice is where it all started! Again, the company started with Classic Red and Black, but has expanded to include four more single-flavor offerings including rapidly growing flavors such as Watermelon; and now Blasted Berry, its first ever mixed-flavor bag which includes Huckleberry, Blueberry Pomegranate and Triple Berry pieces.
To accompany the Soft & Chewy Licorice, Wiley expanded to include Licorice Candies: A diverse group of candies that include ever-popular Allsorts. This is also where you’ll find the brand’s newest line additions:
- Sourrageous Drops: sour red licorice centers coated in watermelon, green apple, and lemon sour candy shells.
- Limited Edition – Wild Fruits Sourrageous Drops: sour red licorice centers coated in black cherry, blue raspberry, and lime sour candy shells
- Limited Edition – Fruitrageous Drops: sweet strawberry, watermelon, and green apple licorice centers with crunchy candy shells
The brand has also introduced organic and sugar-free offerings for those consumers looking for better-for-you candy options. “Wiley Wallaby Organic Bites were our first step into better-for-you candies,” shared Marketing Director, Jadi Anderson. “These bites are certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. Our Organic Bites are offered in four flavors: strawberry, black licorice, tropical, and mixed berry.”
Following Organic Bites, the brand introduced its newest Wiley offering – a low sugar and gluten-free soft and chewy candy! Currently available in a ‘Very Berry’ flavor, the product has only 1 gram of sugar per serving and is certified gluten-free by GFCO. It’s sweetened with Allulose and Stevia and contains no sugar alcohols. It’s also lower in calories than the brand’s standard soft and chewy licorice.
Kenny’s Candy & Confections also manufactures their own snack brand. Sweet Chaos is a delightfully disruptive snack for those snack-minded individuals looking for a break from their everyday crazy. “We focus on better-for-you ingredients like non-gmo popcorn and coconut oil, without ever sacrificing taste,” shared Anderson. Whether you are looking for classic popcorn like Movie Theater Butter, and White Cheddar, a unique flavor like Jalapeno Blue Cheese, or sweet drizzles like Black & White or Cold Stone™ Cake Batter, Sweet Chaos has you covered.
Sweet Chaos is the youngest KLN Family brand but, that doesn’t mean its growth has been any less impressive. Over a 5 year span, the brand has gone from a local favorite to a nationally recognized brand. It’s lineup features seven savory popcorns, three drizzled popcorns available everyday, and eight drizzled popcorns available on a seasonal basis.
NutriSource® Pet Foods
Just blocks away from Kenny’s Candy & Confections, across the small town of Perham, MN, you will find Tuffy’s Pet Foods, producer of NutriSource® Pet Foods. Quality and caring are two words you’ll commonly hear when it comes to this brand. In 1964, Tuffy Nelson and his son Kenny started making pet food. They wanted to provide a wholesome source of nutrition for family pets and help farmers in their hometown of Perham, Minnesota. This simple goal quickly grew into NutriSource® Pet Foods, which today provides the highest quality food for pets across the country.
Not only has NutriSource been turing out high-quality products for our furry friends for over 50 years, but it is also driven by the KLN mission to give back. The brand has been fortunate to be able to provide support to pet shelters and pet rescues, and sponsor a hospital facility dog program.
As a family-owned brand, NutriSource®, believes in supporting locally-owned businesses whose owners live, work, and provide jobs in their communities. The company has been long committed to independent pet and neighborhood retailers. They know these retailers are passionate about pet health, pet food, and providing the value added service and knowledge that treats customers with the one-on-one attention and respect they deserve.
Today, NutriSource® offers over 110 different dog and cat food products across their four lines – NutriSource®, NutriSource PureVita®, NutriSource Element Series, and NutriSource Choice. Their product offerings include kibble, cans, and treats.
“Each of our brands have afforded us an incredible level of awareness, and even success, in our respective industries,” shared Anderson. “But when you really boil it down, KLN’s primary focus, or even our reason for existence, extends far beyond those lines of success that can be seen on paper.”
In fact, when KLN elavuates their success they’re actually reviewing how well they answered CEO Charlie Nelson’s question: “What good are we if we aren’t trying to make a difference?”
With that question in hand, the company established both their Core Beliefs and Vision Statement. These have become an anchor, keeping the company moving forward and ensuring that future genearations, both inside and outside of the organization, are set for success.
Vision: “We are a proud, people-first company. We are successful because of trust-based relationships and first-rate products for our families and friends. We better the world by caring for others. We challenge. We grow. We inspire.”
Core Beliefs: Tradition, People, Community, Quality, Spirit & Moxie
KLN is deeply rooted in tradition. When the company was founded in 1964, they did not have all of the bells and whistles to be successful. Instead, it had people with passion and drive. It had a strong work ethic that is still evident in the company every day.
Each day, KLN attempts to move forward with a nod to its history, an appreciation for its current successes, and a commitment to continue forward with the traditional values that started the company more than 50 years ago.
At KLN, employees are treated with the utmost respect, not as machines who mass-produce food. Each employee is believed to have unique strengths and abilities. KLN invests in them because they understand that people who are well cared for ensure both short- and long-term success.
As employees, they are offered continuous training and internal promotions to further their ambitions. As people, they are offered exceptional health care and wellness programs to ensure that they are happy, healthy, and able. This care allows employees to perform to the best of their abilities and enacts a sense of personal responsibility for each job done well.
KLN loves the community of Perham. It is a vibrant place full of amazing people. To some, it’s a little quirky; racing turtles and fishing on the ice. For the company, it’s perfect. At KLN, everyone likes to support each other, both at work and at home – whether through academics or through sports, they want to see their youngest members thrive. Through supporting their local Boys & Girls Club, Empowering Kids, and amazing schools, they are able to do just that.
The company also realizes that their community doesn’t stop with the Perham area. Instead, they extend their focus to the larger community – encouraging the scholars emerging from the University of Minnesota, hundreds of furry friends at shelters all over the U.S. and the small, amazing humans battling cancer with the help of the Pinky Swear Foundation.
Maintaining quality is essential for building consumers’ trust in the brand. From the employees that are hired and the ingredients purchased, to the equipment used and the policies followed, quality is a top priority.
Following the BRC guidelines, KLN Brands challenges itself each year to achieve nothing but the highest ratings. “Proudly, we can say that during every evaluation, we’ve received only A and A+ ratings,” added Anderson.
Commitment to excellence and food safety standards are nothing less than a top priority at KLN. Because of this, their customers trust the company to deliver only the best products.
Spirit and Moxie
KLN prides itself in their company spirit. They do not believe in confining themselves to what is traditional. Instead, they repeatedly push the boundaries – and view limits only as next steps. The company does not follow industry trends; but instead focuses on setting them. They work each and every day to be more progressive than the day before.
The leaders at KLN focus on inspiring their employees to see more, be more, do more. They act as a team; empowered to think and act, not just go through the motions. Innovation and creativity are rewarded, and smart work is expected. Everyone goes to work each day refreshed, with the determination and moxie to be their best.
Bill Gates claims, “The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life.” KLN and it’s family of brands have spent the last number of years taking this concept to heart.
“We all live our day-to-day life – going to work and interacting with the people in our sphere. And then we have this seemingly second life – the one that exists online,” states Anderson. “As we see technology continue to invade all aspects of our lives, it’s more important than ever for companies to embrace and determine how the advanaces fit in with their operations.”
Because of this, the KLN marketing teams have invested significant time and engery toward developing their online presence – specifically on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram – driving brand recognition and an engaging online community.
“These platforms have allowed us to connect directly with our consumers. We are able to share more about our brands and values, as well as communicate with our consumers directly and in real-time,” observes Anderson.
KLN recognizes that the shift to digital has changed they way the world is shopping. Many consumers now find that they are shopping both in stores and online – even for their groceries. While the company acknowledges the need to participate in this space, they also recognize that it is not yet an internal strength.
“Because we want to focus on our core competencies, production, and promotion of our products, we have partnered with a third party to sell our products online. Pairing our skills with theirs has allowed us to more effectively meet the needs of our consumers,” notes Anderson.
Technology at KLN doesn’t stop with the marketing team. Right now, automation and streamlining are key focuses for the Kenny’s Candy & Confections team. Propelled forward by a labor shortage, it is putting in new packaging equipment that will increase capacity on multiple different lines. With these advancements, the company isn’t looking to decrease their headcount. Instead, the goal is to focus on employees working in areas where they can have the most impact.
Tactics for 2022 and Beyond
With brands that are continuing to grow, Kenny’s knows that their footprint must also increase accordingly. Recently the company completed a brand-new warehouse that will allow for additional supply chain and production effeciencies. They also continue to explore new ways to use automation within their production facilities to produce better product on a larger and faster scale.
In regards to 2022 offerings, the KLN remarks that its number one priority is to supply the customers with all of the Wiley and Sweet Chaos products they have come to love! But that doesn’t mean that the company has forgotten about R&D!
Currently, KLN’s team is working on projects like:
- Additional Better-For-You Offerings
- Developing more robust seasonal items
- Sour, Sour, and more Sour!
- What’s next – aka the things kept hidden in its test kitchen for right now!
For more information on KLN, Kenny’s Candy & Confections, Tuffy’s Pet Food, Tuffy’s Pet Treats, or their family of brands, please visit their website www.klnfamilybrands.com or visit any of their branded social media pages.