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Survival Food Sales Are Booming, Wise Leads

Survival Food Sales Are Booming, Wise Leads

By    |   Saturday, 25 November 2017 10:04 AM

The prepper phenomenon, combined with a series of large-scale disasters, has meant big business for Wise Co., a Utah company leading the industry in survival food sales.

Wise Co. CEO Aaron Jackson, 42, however, told Bloomberg Businessweek in a recent interview that he's been trying to move his company past the volatile disaster business and more into attracting steady, faithful customers to purchase the survival foods his company offers.

“This is the food equivalent of life insurance—staples that every American household in this age of uncertainty should have,” Jackson told Bloomberg about the freeze-dried meals his company sells.

The Mylar pouches of foods are designed to remain edible on pantry shelves for 25 years. Recently, Jackson said he was hit with a dilemma when FEMA contacted him to find out if his company could sell FEMA at least 2 million of its freeze-dried meals for distribution in Puerto Rico after it was slammed by Hurricane Maria.

FEMA's supplies were low because of meals delivered to hurricane victims in Texas and South Florida, but Maria created an even more difficult situation after knocking out Puerto Rico's infrastructure.

Jackson said his answer was not an easy yes, because the government contract could stretch his supply thinner than he was comfortable with and possibly derail his strategy of marketing freeze-dried meals to everyday citizens.

Wise has filled several last-minute, emergency orders, such as supplies for Ebola victims in Liberia, but after Jackson came on in 2013, he's hoping to shift past such business.

Jackson came to Wise from Post Consumer brands, where he was a vice president for sales and marketing. Before that, he was at Tyson Foods, specializing in frozen cutlet products.

At first, Jackson declined Wise's offer, but after researching said he realized that many Americans are prepared for disasters in their own homes with first-aid kits and flashlights, but not with food.

As part of the shift, Jackson also ordered the food's packaging to be revamped.

“We’d been selling our products in large, black plastic tubs," he told Bloomberg. "We needed something that doesn’t scream doomsday, so we moved to clean white boxes, contemporary fonts, high-quality food images—packaging that makes sense on a Target shelf."

Over the past four months, Wise's business has climbed by 40 percent not only because of the natural disasters, but because of fears growing about nuclear war with North Korea, according to Jackson, and private citizens are also starting to stock their shelves.

Under Jackson, Wise's sales have also more than doubled to $75 million over the past four years. He's used his network of former clients to persuade stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, and Bed Bath and Beyond to sell Wise meals.

The Home Shopping Network has become Wise's biggest distributor, after starting to carry the products in 2014.

However, despite the growth, only about two percent of Americans have bought survival foods, Bloomberg notes, but Jackson thinks the industry is ready to explode.

Wise was founded in Utah in 2006, and initially marketed to the Mormon community and people, particularly male preppers, who were preparing for the end of time, but Jackson, who is not Mormon, said such preppers do not reflect the majority of Wise's customers.

“Five years ago, our market was more than 95 percent men," he said. "Today, we’re reaching about 50 percent women,” Jackson says, “many of them moms — ‘guardian moms,’ we call them — worried about a stable food supply for their kids.”

He said he's also finding that customers are defining the emergencies in a different way.

“If you’re a mother or father of a couple kids and you’re trying to put together a meal before soccer practice — that’s an emergency in its own right," said Jackson. "They’re running short on time, low on groceries, so they grab a pouch of lasagna, add water, and have a rib-sticking dinner for four in minutes.”

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The prepper phenomenon, combined with a series of large-scale disasters, has meant big business for Wise Co., a Utah company leading the industry in survival food sales.
survival, food, wise
Saturday, 25 November 2017 10:04 AM
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