Sep 18, 2016
Salt Lake City, Utah
Industry: Food & Beverage
Main Products: Snack foods
Employees: 15 Full-time
Salt Lake City, Utah
Ownership: Privately Owned
Phil Cox, owner and founder of Silver Fern Brand, understands that people with finance backgrounds shouldn’t wake up one morning and decide to create a healthy gummy bear. But that’s exactly what he’s doing.
“This industry is fascinating to me,” Cox shares. “I struggle with eating healthy and keeping my weight down. Eating healthy is not a talent of mine. So creating healthy food and snacks that I actually like – gummy bears, toffee, chocolate, popcorn – well, this is fun.”
Cox admits he made the shift from financial expert to healthy snacks because it was a challenge. “I’m an entrepreneur,” he says. “I need the challenge of creating and building things. For me, this is completely off my beaten path, but I love this space.”
Silver Fern Brand believes it is hitting the market at the right time. “Obesity is a major problem in the country, and we can help. I have struggled with being husky my whole life. It sucks. The whole country agrees we need to eat better. The goal is to manufacture a product that does not taste healthy but is, a product that can break the sugar addiction. Because sugar is a drug of choice. And you cannot just tell people to stop eating it. It’s like telling a smoker to stop smoking. We can break that craving,” Cox says.
Cox operates what he refers to as a capitalistic business model. Many formulations are created in Midway, Utah, but manufacturing is done where it makes financial sense, from Boise to Ogden to West Valley, Utah. Silver Fern Brand does not keep its manufacturing process under a big tent, choosing to utilize resources it finds across the West.
“The ideal scenario is to have a product manufactured as local as possible because I like to see it,” says Cox. “I do not want to have a distant relationships with my product. I want to have a hands-on approach. We need people who can help us blend, help us package, help us capsule, help us bottle. And we try to find people any way we can.”
Even with Skype and video-conferencing, Cox believes keeping the manufacturing process local is key. “I want to ensure it is right, that it’s meeting expectations. That’s difficult from a distance. If we manufacture locally, we can fix problems quickly. We just drive over and talk about it.”
Challenges: Finding a message that resonates with the consumer. “We can create amazing products, but what message do we focus on? That it’s low sugar? Gluten free? All-natural? High protein?” Cox understands one message might attract one consumer but push away another. He has learned to do small runs on new products until he has found the right message for any new product. “Any amount of research and due diligence will not prepare you for reality,” Cox says. “Whatever you think you’ve created, it’ll be flawed. And we’ll learn in spades what the consumer really wants. We are constantly dabbling to get the right message.”
Opportunities: New markets. Traditionally, Silver Fern Brand products are sold through e-commerce. “But Silver Fern Brand lends itself to retail.” No matter how quickly e-commerce grows, Cox understands there will also be a portion of the public who wants the immediate gratification of buying something at the grocery store. “We are hopeful to have a strong retail presence very soon.”
Needs: Time. “I can find talent,” Cox says, “and I can raise capital. Time is the one thing I cannot make more of.”