Second Nature Brands combining scale, innovation and agility | 2021-02-23

MADISON HEIGHTS, MICH. – Three brands are becoming one platform company with the debut of Second Nature Brands, a combination of Kar’s Nuts, Second Nature Snacks and Sanders Chocolates, which were doing business as Kar’s Nuts. Under the Second Nature Brand platform, management plans to accelerate innovation and the company’s position in the burgeoning snack market.

“These businesses have grown significantly over the last several years, and we see many opportunities for expanding our new platform both through brand innovation, strategic investments and acquisitions,” said Victor Mehren, chief executive officer. “Under the Second Nature Brands umbrella, our market-leading brands are positioned for accelerated growth.”

Mr. Mehren took the helm of the company in October 2019. Before joining Kar’s, he had worked at Mars Wrigley Confectionery for 17 years.

He said walking in the door he thought such a platform needed to be built but was not sure what form it was going to take.

“The new platform better articulates who we are and allows us to use the Second Nature name to more clearly communicate with our partners, stakeholders and team members,” Mr. Mehren said. “Any time things are easier to understand it builds momentum. The Second Nature name better represents what we are doing now.”

Victor Mehren, Second Nature BrandsSanders Chocolates was founded in 1875 and the Kar’s Nuts business began in 1933. Mr. Mehren’s vision is for Second Nature Brands to find balance between its legacy, scale and the need to be agile when it comes to innovation and acquisitions.

“We’re taking brands that have been around for 100 years and leveraging the benefits of a high scale business with deep supply chain and operations excellence and balancing it with a front-end that is more like an emerging brand,” he said. “We think that makes us different in the marketplace.”

That front end includes strong positions in retail, vending and, more recently, direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce.

“We plan to double-down on the shift to DTC consumption,” Mr. Mehren said. “Sanders already had a DTC business and Second Nature just launched on Friday (Feb. 19), so it’s pretty new. We see this as becoming a very important part of our business.”

Second Nature Brands’ product portfolio is mostly snack-centric, featuring nut mixes, single-nut packs and confectionery items ranging from caramels, chocolates and toppings to cakes. The company employs approximately 350 and operates two production plants in the Detroit region.

A priority for the reorganized company is innovation, Mr. Mehren said.

“We are investing over 50% of our resources toward innovation, new product development and production infrastructure, which will significantly increase our capacity in the coming years,” he said. “Even as we expect our core product lines to continue to grow, we are investing heavily in exciting new products and formulations, which we expect to account for a significant amount of revenues in the coming years.”

In 2021, the company will bring more than 25 new products to market at retail and through the company’s direct consumer e-commerce channels. New products will include Second Nature Smart Mixes, Sanders organic dairy-free sea salt caramels and Sanders sea salt caramel thins. Kar’s Nuts also will introduce Kar’s Snack Max line, a savory, flavor-forward better snack mix, according to the company.

Second Nature Brands new productsSecond Nature also has begun construction on an innovation center at the Sanders Chocolates plant in Clinton Township, Mich. The new facility will include recipe development and consumer testing functions.

Another top-of-mind topic for Mr. Mehren is acquisitions.

“We very much will stay focused on treats and snacks,” he said. “We’re looking at new businesses with new formats, sub-categories or with new capabilities we don’t have today. But they will have to fit with our platforms.”

The company also has added to its snack industry and emerging brands experience with the appointment of Edmond Sanctis as its new chairman of the board. Mr. Sanctis was the co-founder, CEO and chairman of Sahale Snacks, Inc., a maker of nut and fruit mixes that was sold to The J.M. Smucker Co. in 2014.

“We see tremendous opportunity to expand the Second Nature Brand’s platform and accelerate the growth of our brands,” Mr. Sanctis said. “This company is perfectly positioned at the intersection of snacks and treats, a fast-growing market segment that increasingly reflects the nutritional and lifestyle choices of today’s consumers. We see a significant opportunity to bring innovative products to serve this growing market.”

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