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How sweet it is!


Winnipeg's Krave's Candy Company has one of the hottest sweet snacks in Canada in Clodhoppers. Led by a young dynamic duo, Chris Emery and Larry Finnson, both in their 20s, Krave's earnings have risen from $59,000 to $642,000, a 988 per cent increase in gross income during three years.

The recipe of graham wafers, cashews enrobed in white chocolate and packaged in classy gift box packaging made it to the front of Wal-Mart cash outs this Christmas. No small feat and a tremendous vote of confidence by a major retail chain.

Clodhoppers, made from a family recipe concocted by Emery's grandmother, Edith Baker, was also named Best New Food Product of the Year by the Alberta Food Processors Association in 1997, sponsored by the Western Economic Diversification Canada.

The pair's intent to become a serious player in the candy industry has drawn the interest of CBC's business show, Venture, which will air in the spring. "It was very unnerving because the camera was right on us during a public sampling session at Wal-Mart Unicity in St. James. However, it turned out well because we sold about 50 boxes in an hour an a half," says Emery.

Owners Chris Emery and Larry Finnson have worked hard to get their product noticed, doing their own local in-store product samples, encouraging the national drug store chain, Shoppers Drug Mart, to carry the product nationally where it is doing extremely well against established products.

All the while, they were also perfecting their production changing from a manual 50 lbs per day to a more automated 300 lbs per day. That came with the purchase of some old equipment and a little of Finnson's imagination and ingenuity. Says Finnson, "It was a little temporary insanity."

A year ago the company made a significant move, physically and from an alliance viewpoint when it left behind an old garage on Wellington Avenue for larger new premises in St. Boniface Industrial Park. That included taking on a minority partner, which brought an arrangement with John Conrad, an experienced and successful food distributor. Krave's now has more space and the use of production equipment. The company now has grown from two employees to eight.

The product was originally packaged in jars. Then, the pair tried snack-size bags - to encourage people to munch on them as an impulse buy. Finally, in April, 1998, they revamped the 300 grams format to a stylish establishment-looking black and red girl box. The new packaging was an instant hit and opened doors to major retailers as Wal-Mart, Safeway, Shoppers Drug Mart, Eatons, IGAs and Save-On Foods, etc.

Emery says once the boxes hit the shelves, they sold more product in two months than they had in the entire year previous.

The challenge for Krave's has always been to raise awareness of the product. The pair have worked hard at it by hiring national demonstration companies.

Says Emery, "If we are determined and we set our sights on something, we achieve it. That's just how we are." He and Finnson credit their hard work and determination paired with an exceptional and tasty product for their great success.

But they do have one concern.

The biggest issue for these young entrepreneurs with a product in such growing demand is financing, according to Finnson. "We are currently looking for capital, investors or other options." So far, they have had an offer from an international US-based company. Emery says they will also seriously consider soliciting local interest.

(Liz Katynski is a Winnepeg-based freelance writer.)
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Title Annotation:Krave's Candy Company; Manitoba Business Magazine's 50 Fastest Growing Companies Survey
Author:Katynski, Liz
Publication:Manitoba Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Geographic Code:1CMAN
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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