Dauphin County snack maker, former Hershey exec launch new company
A Dauphin County snack maker and its founder are moving to Wisconsin to help steer a new holding company focused on growing healthy snack brands.
Cindy Poiesz, the founder of Lower Paxton Township-based Smart Fuels LLC, which does business as Supernola, is transferring ownership of her midstate company to newly created Evolve Brands LLC, based in Madison, Wis.
Poiesz is a partner in Evolve, along with Frank Jimenez, a former sales and marketing executive from The Hershey Co.
Evolve plans to move Supernola operations to Jackson, Wis., where it will be manufactured alongside new sister brand Gorilly Goods, an organic snack maker that Evolve is buying for an undisclosed sum.
The deal is expected to close in February.
Jimenez, who lives in Wisconsin, said the two brands complement each other nicely at a time when consumers are flocking toward healthier snack options. Large food companies like Hershey also are moving more into the space through acquisitions of growing snack brands.
Gorilly targets younger men with crunchy savory and sweet products, while Supernola is geared more toward women with soft and chewy products. Jimenez called it a "match made in heaven" and said sharing an 8,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Wisconsin gives both brands more economies of scale.
"This facility is a core piece for both brands," he said.
Jimenez left Hershey in 2015 after nearly two decades in various roles to start a consulting and marketing agency.
Through his agency, which specializes in the consumer packaged goods industry, he met Poiesz. Over the last six months, the two have discussed ways to grow her company, including rebranding efforts and where to find "clean" food manufacturing facilities that can make products free of gluten, grain, dairy and peanuts.
Their conversations and research into facilities, Jimenez said, led them to Gorilly. The Wisconsin company was founded in 2012 by Stephen and Chris McDiarmid. Jimenez said Gorilly officials will remain with the company after the deal closes because they know the operations and the facility.
There is a lot of capacity there to boost productions for both brands while potentially taking on co-manufacturing contracts for other companies.
"We are not swooping in and changing (Gorilly)," Jimenez said. "This is more of a coalition."
Evolve plans to rebrand Supernola, which was founded in 2016, and sell its products alongside Gorilly. Currently, products are sold in about 1,500 stores in the U.S. and Canada, mostly in small natural and specialty grocery stores and coffee shops.
Jimenez said the goal is to get these brands into big mainstream retailers such as Wal-Mart as well as large supermarket and drugstore chains that want to carry more natural and organic food options.
"We believe this is where the industry is going," he said.
He also is talking to airlines who are looking to move away from peanut-based snacks to more allergen-free options. The professional sports market is another area of potential growth for Evolve.
Expanding the product line, staff
Supernola snacks are currently available in four flavors. Gorilly makes six. Evolve is planning to expand both lines over the next 12 to 18 months, Jimenez said.
Over time, he said, Evolve is hoping to add other production sites across the country, including on the East Coast, to better serve regional demands for its products. The company also is open to buying other healthy brands, he added.
"Our idea is to build a business that is sustainable and can stand on its own," he said. "We are active in trend spotting and we keep close tabs on companies that fit our mantra."
With sales growth, more employees could be soon added. The two brands under Evolve currently employ about 10 to 15 people.