Prepared Foods August 23, 2005, enewsletter

Poore Brothers Inc. changed the name of its Boulder Potato Company brand to Boulder Canyon Natural Foods.

August 8, 2005 Daily Camera by Alicia Wallace,CameraBusiness Writer

The expansion of a company's brand into other products had to be done very carefully, so as not to lose a customer base that had grown over 11 years, said Mark Maggio, who founded the natural kettle-cooked potato chip company with his brother in Boulder, Col., in 1994.

"Part of the goal in changing the name was to do it subtly," he said.

The other part of the goal: To create a name that could be an umbrella for other salty snack food offerings.

"The main thing is the Boulder name seems to be synonymous with 'better-for-you' types of products," said Richard Finkbeiner, Poore Brothers' senior vice president and chief financial officer. "People associate Boulder with that, so we decided to use it to expand into different product categories."

Poore Brothers -- which sells and manufactures snack foods under owned and licensed brand names, including T.G.I. Friday's, Cinnabon, Tato Skins, Poore Brothers and Bob's Texas Style -- acquired the Boulder brand in 2000 for about $2.3 million.

During the prior six years, the Maggio brothers built up the company, which initially started selling to a handful of local delis, like Salvaggio's Italian Delicatessen, and then eventually to natural products retailers such as Alfalfa's and Wild Oats Markets. Mark Maggio's brother, John, left the company two years ago.

In the late 1990s, the Maggios registered the name Boulder Natural Foods with the thought of going into other food products. When they sold the company to Poore Brothers, the Goodyear, Ariz.-based company bought the rights to the Boulder Natural Foods name, Maggio said.

Boulder Natural Foods still has three employees, including Maggio, and a warehouse in Boulder. The company currently sells seven chip varieties, including Original, Malt Vinegar and Sea Salt and Hickory Barbeque.

For Boulder Natural Foods' parent company, the expansion is a solid move, said Mark Chekanow, who follows the company for the New York equity research firm Sidoti & Co.

"It's important for (Poore Brothers') overall diversification to emphasize brands outside of their licensed brands," said Chekanow, who does not own any shares of Poore Brothers.

"We have a lot of high hopes for that brand," Finkbeiner said. "We have three potato chips brands ... The Boulder one is the only one we are taking national."

Mark Maggio said the company plans to launch anywhere from eight to 12 new products next month. "They will be salty snacks and not potato chips," he said, and out of those products, a handful will be organic.

Organic snack foods had sales of $484 million, an increase of nearly 30% from the year before, according to the Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association. Only the $75 million meat, fish and poultry category grew faster -- with 78% growth from 2002 to 2003.

Sidoti's Chekanow said the natural and organic category is seeing a boost from both natural and mass-market retailers.

"Obviously, traditional grocers are looking for ways to spark growth, and this is one of the ways in the industry that, overall, is seeing very good growth," Chekanow said.

Come spring and fall of 2006, the company might introduce products outside of the salty snack category, Maggio said. The company has more than 30 products in development and also is not ruling out acquisition possibilities, he said.

Maggio expects the expansion will mean added employees to Boulder Natural Foods, mostly in sales. Eleven years after starting the company, Maggio said he's still not content with how his business has evolved.

"There is a lot of growth ahead," he said. "The best growth years are coming up."