Home » Market Profile: KLN Family Brands Exemplifies Adage ‘Treat People Like Family’

Market Profile: KLN Family Brands Exemplifies Adage ‘Treat People Like Family’

KLN Family Brands

Last updated on June 13th, 2024 at 06:09 pm

Candy, snacks company has roots in pet food

by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer

Perham, Minnesota-based KLN Family Brands, the parent company of Kenny’s Candy & Confections, produces various kinds of licorice and popcorn snacks, both branded and private label. 

These include Wiley Wallaby licorice and Sweet Chaos popcorn brands, which can be found nationwide in Bernard’s, Ace Hardware, Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and Dollar Tree, among others.

KLN Family Brands

The company has evolved from its roots in the pet food business in 1964, yet no product line has changed the family atmosphere. 

Kenny Nelson, who started the candy company, was the second-generation owner, following his father, Tuffy. KLN is onto its third-generation owner with Nelson’s son, Charlie, who runs the day-to-day operations.

But Kenny Nelson still pops in every once in a while, maintaining a strong family presence, said Jadi Anderson, the company’s marketing director.

“We treat people like family, and we really live that out every single day,” Anderson said.

“For me, I have young kids, and especially right now during the pandemic, it looks very different parenting than it did a year ago. [The company has] been very supportive of changes that need to be made.

“They make sure we have great benefits. We talk about that all the time internally. It’s great to get a nice wage. And it’s great to feel like you are part of a company that’s doing something, but also to know that I have good health insurance should I need it.”

Providing support through wage and benefits isn’t the end of it. Anderson said the company cares about employees as people.

“The project that I’m working on right now…Charlie’s office is 50 feet away from us, and you feel very comfortable walking in and talking to him,” she said. “Or he’ll pop over and just ask like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ and genuinely ask that.”

A nice reminder of this company culture hangs on a wall in the conference room, with a quote that encompasses how KLN has operated – “What good are we if we aren’t trying to make a difference?”

As Anderson noted, “We produce all these products, and it’s great and good, and we’re obviously in it to run a successful business, but donations and giving back – that’s all a huge part of who we are…we’ve lived this motto of, we’re going to do well by doing good.”

According to Anderson, the COVID-19 pandemic timeline was interesting for KLN Family Brands, which is located in a rural part of the state.

“When it hit in March…all of our office employees went home, and our production workers stayed here,” she said. “We got them all masks and made sure that we adjusted their jobs so that they could socially distance.

“We’re very fortunate that we have very highly regulated bodies that we work with, so the cleaning didn’t change a lot. We added a lot of hand sanitizer just like everyone else and added more washing breaks, but that part really didn’t affect us.”

The numbers didn’t spike then. In fact, they didn’t have very many cases in the area until the second wave came in the fall.

“We’ve been fortunate not to have a major outbreak, but that’s the biggest shift for us operationally – just adjusting to the lack of employees,” she said.

Sales-wise, though, KLN has seen “a nice uptick,” connecting with grocers and retail partners who weren’t able to fill their shelves with enough products.

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