CEO and Founder Mike Schultz is driving tasty growth with his eponymous line of sauces and spices.
Nine years ago, Schultz left his successful high tech executive career for "more flavorful" pastures. With a goal to develop and market family-recipe gourmet sauces and seasonings, he launched Sedulous Foods, the maker of the Schultz's Gourmet line of products.
Joined by his three sons -- initially around a kitchen table -- Schultz pulled together a business-savvy management team that has privately financed company growth from day one. Sales have increased exponentially since the operation's initial test batches were introduced in 2006.
"We've grown by raising our own capital," says Schultz, "but we're now out talking to financial folks based on our expected growth."
The company's flagship Schultz Gourmet Spicy Original Hot Sauce has been on the market since day one, along with Sweet Heat Hot Sauce and Premium Seasoning and Rub. Last spring, Sedulous Foods added a new line of seasoned, spicy cashew and almond snack nuts. Schultz's Gourmet products are now available from Georgia to Hawaii.
The entire Schultz's Gourmet product line is designed to enhance food's flavor. All are low in sodium and free of preservatives, trans fats, MSG and high fructose corn syrup, and include only quality natural ingredients. Schultz dubs the products "Health Helpful," noting that they were developed specifically with Baby Boomers and busy Millennials in mind.
Today there are almost 30,000 food production companies in the U.S. -- most of which rely heavily on supply chain partners. Sedulous Foods is no exception. Key partners include co-packers, farmers and regional distributors.
To ensure quality, the company buys only natural or locally sourced ingredients -- often purchased from growers and suppliers in Colorado and California. Actual product manufacturing is handled by commercial co-packers that have been a valuable behind-the-scenes partner since the launch. They test, process, blend, and package raw ingredients. These specialized companies often run shifts that are based on specific bottle sizes and are designed for batch preparation to fill and label seasoning bottles or containers.
Other key supply chain partners include distributors like UNFI, KeHE, and DPI. Each is affiliated with specific grocery retailers. Schultz learned early on that it helps to identify each of the grocery chain's number one distribution suppliers and to work closely with them.
"It's absolutely crucial to understand how each grocer works with a preferred distributor," Schultz explains. That understanding of the importance of good working relationships has enabled the company to penetrate the highly competitive food marketplace.
Rocky Mountain region Whole Foods stores were among the first grocers to sell Schultz's Gourmet products, followed by Costco, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, King Soopers, and Safeway stores. In fact Whole Foods not only sells Schultz Gourmet sauces, seasoning and snacks, but is purchasing in bulk. "They're cooking with them in their delis, using them as a marinade in meat departments, and using the rub in their smokehouses," Schultz says.
With the company's gourmet seasonings and snacks starting to fill the shelves in Rocky Mountain King Soopers, Safeway, Albertson's and Costco stores , Schultz's Gourmet is gearing up for continued growth. Among the company's targets are independents and regional grocers throughout the West, the South and the Midwest.
"We're looking at national distribution into several large chains in 2015 and 2016," Schultz forecasts.
Challenges: "Managing and controlling growth so we don't expand so fast that it causes problems," Schultz says. "Planning for the infrastructure we'll need is a constant scramble. We recognize that and are always adjusting."
Opportunities: "Positioning our company to take advantage of the opportunities our retailers and distributors present us," explains Schultz. "If we think it through, and plan accordingly, it can make all the difference in the world."
Needs: Industry expertise. "Access to industry experts is vital to our business,” says Schultz. "We've had success getting on the radar of people who have done what we're doing many times over. I like talking with them. Their experience is invaluable."