ConnXus Share Your Story Series
I’m Nancy Kam, an artisan sauce manufacturer for Kam’s Kettle Cooked that launched back in early 2014. Shortly after I incorporated, I joined the Specialty Food Association and rolled out at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Meanwhile, we had already received our WBENC Certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise, which I knew may come in handy when trying to get the attention of buyers.
Entering into the grocery game is not an easy thing, especially for a small company such as Kam’s with limited financial resources. Most everyone in the industry warned us that it could take years to gain shelf space in a major grocer, and the best thing was to stick with small local specialty food retailers. Well, that’s not actually how it went, and as for me, I don’t ever do anything half rate, I like to shoot straight for the top, avoiding the path of least resistance and blaze my own trail.
After considerable sales efforts, trade shows and banging on doors of major grocery chains, we got a break, a buyer at The Kroger Co. had received some product information about Kam’s from the Kroger Diversity Division. And, that little push from diversity, in combination with our all-natural product attributes, gave us the boost we needed to get further reviewed by the buyers. Actually, in 2015 we ended up going on the shelves of over 1,425 Kroger Stores nationally, and in total are now in over 1,700 retailers including Safeway.
Recently, we have been looking to expand our products into the food service channel. Of course, being who I am, I had to contact one of the largest restaurant chains in the nation and who did I ask for? The Supplier Diversity Division, and after talking at length with the rep, got a promise for an appointment at corporate headquarters with a buyer. I did get that meeting, and they loved our sauces, as a matter of fact they now want us to return and present to their chefs in product development!
Many of the larger companies these days have committed to continually increasing their diversified vendor base, after all, in our case, we have a higher quality, healthier product, at a competitive price and everything is made in America. In addition, Kam’s is sustainable for the local economy where we buy our produce and are packed. So, every time I attempt a sales call, I ask for Supplier Diversity…I’m proud to have come from such humble beginnings and have the opportunities afforded us. Kam’s Chili Sauce is a comfort food that brings me back to my childhood… harvest season, the aroma of tomatoes and chili’s cooking in a stove-top kettle.
Old fashioned, home-cooked foods tell a story about people and their families, and our products do just that. Kam’s “Authentic American” Chili Sauce started out exactly where it all began at home, in my great grandmother’s kitchen in Buffalo, NY. Now, 100 years later, our recipe is exactly the same with the taste of home-style goodness!