The Big E is not usually associated with healthy food options. It’s nicknamed “The Big Eat” for a reason. If you look closely, though, you’ll find a locally-made healthy snack item. Somewhere in between the donut burgers and deep-fried Oreos lies SuperSeedz, dry roasted and shelled gourmet pumpkin seeds.
The snacks are sold in 6oz bags, in an array of different colors representing their current line of eight varieties. Flavors include Sea Salt, Somewhat Spicy, Sugar & Cinnamon, Tomato Italiano and Coco Joe. SuperSeedz are a high-protein snack food that is gluten free, peanut free, soy free, dairy free, and tree nut free. They are also extremely tasty.
SuperSeedz are produced by Kathie’s Kitchen, a company run by the husband-and-wife team of Kathie and Joe Pelliccio. Working their booth in the Connecticut House during the full seventeen days of the Big E, they sold over 15,000 bags (up 40% from the year before). “Healthy snacks are showing the most explosive growth in grocery stores today,” notes Joe. “I wanted to let people know there is a healthy snack out there that doesn’t taste like tree bark,” jokes Kathie.
I ran into Joe and Kathie on November 11th at the Holiday Craft Festival, held at the Church of St. Peter Claver in West Hartford. Joe was behind a table that displayed the varieties of SuperSeedz with free samples available in each flavor. He was actively soliciting eye contact and discussion with anyone who walked by. Joe is an affable guy who is clearly passionate about his pumpkin seeds, ready and able to discuss their various health benefits.
I mention this because approachability at fairs and festivals seems to be a point that salespeople often overlook. Studies have shown that consumers are not entirely rational with their purchasing decisions. Personally, I often buy a product I’m not excited about because I like person selling it, and I practically refuse to buy a product from a person I don’t connect with. I’m human, and humans are emotional beings (and emotions aren’t always rational). I’m constantly surprised by people selling items at festivals that seem standoffish when you enter their booth. Given that it is my money they are trying to entice from my wallet, I am allowed to be as utterly irrational as I’d like. In the case of SuperSeedz, I was impressed by both the product and the people behind the product.
Kathie and Joe have been crisscrossing the country promoting SuperSeedz. The idea came about when Kathie started roasted pumpkin seeds in her kitchen to provide a healthy snack option for her children. Kathie and Joe started going to area fairs and sell their seeds. Joe envisioned the product as a national brand with tremendous growth potential. Last year they doubled their previous sales, and Kathie’s Kitchen is now a $1.5 million dollar company with plans and projections to double over the next year. They just moved into a new office and warehouse space in North Haven. “Our roasting facility is awesome and allows us to be peanut free, tree nut free, gluten free, soy free and MSG free,” says Joe.
SuperSeedz is carried locally in stores such as Big Y, Stew Leonard’s, Stop & Shop, Mashall’s, and TJ Maxx. It's also sold through their website and through Amazon. Distributed nationally, Kathie’s Kitchen would like to have an additional 2500 stores carry its product in 2013, along with having increased exposure on the West Coast. On their agenda for 2013 is to have 2500 additional stores carry SuperSeedz. Kathie’s Kitchen will also soon be releasing a grab-and-go 1oz bag. Kathie would also like to go back on QVC, an experience that gave great exposure to the product.
Having such massive growth obviously doesn’t come easy. “The only real thing you have to do to be successful is work at it 15 hours a day, 7 days a week,” jokes Joe. Their stated goal on their website is to be America’s #1 healthy snack, so they will be busy talking to distributers, handing out samples, and trying to get the word out online for the foreseeable future. Kathie’s Kitchen has recently added a team to help with the day-to-day operations, and they soon will be adding a PR firm.
“The most rewarding part is to have created something and sharing that with the world,” says Kathie. “As the brand continues to grow it gets increasingly difficult…but I love it!”
The secret to their success so far, besides long hours, friendliness, and hard work, is to create a health conscious product that tastes as good as unhealthy food. It should be able to complete with the food fighting for our attention at places like the Big E. One of the company’s slogans is: “Finally, a health food that tastes so good, you’d swear it’s junk food.” This is echoed in one of their favorite reactions that people have when first trying SuperSeedz: “Goodbye Doritos.”
The author can be reached at dpolgar [at] gmail.com