In a world of great gourmet foods and options, Mark Ramadan discovered that ketchup has always been just ketchup. Mark, and friend Scott Norton, had the idea to make a better ketchup than the standard highly processed brand on the market. While still in college the two cooked up a mess in their apartment (photo) and decided to have a party amongst friends to see if this idea had legs — It did. Over a period of 6 years, they grew their company, Sir Kensington’s — maker of gourmet condiments like ketchup (spiced ketchup is legit), mustard, and mayo — into over 4,000 retail stores and over 350 restaurants/hotels nationwide.
I had the pleasure to talk with Mark (via Skype) from his office in New York, NY to talk about what it really takes to grow a company. If you’re a food entrepreneur, you can’t afford to miss this.
Be sure to get a pen and a pad, his story is jam-packed with ideas and tips to grow your business.
Interview with Mark Ramadan
Sponsored by: Hanley’s Foods — Louisiana-inspired, natural, fresh foods. Enter “docast” at checkout for $4 off.
- What got you guys started with making ketchup? (3:35)
- “It’s as if you went to the cereal aisle, and every single box of cereal was just a copy of Cheerios with a different name on it.”
- The first ketchup party. (5:30)
- The paradox of choice. (book mention) (7:05)
- “Most people, most of the time, go for the classics.” (Tweet this)
- The wait for launch day. (10:45)
- How was the process of finding a co-packer? (12:40)
- “Think of your co-packer as someone you’re going to be married to.” (Tweet this)
- The launch of Sir Kensington’s and pitching a new ketchup. (20:40)
- “There’s not a lot of education that’s as good as just doing it.” (Tweet this)
- Making a firmly premium product. (23:30)
- “Let’s do everything that they [industry] are not doing.” (Tweet this)
- Tell me about the process of scaling up? (27:05)
- “If we wanted to take it to the next level, really any level, we have to raise some money.”
- Designer Alvin Diec
- The old Sir Kensington’s ketchup label VS The new Sir Kensington’s ketchup label (smiling)
- The fictional bio on Sir Kensington — epic.
- How do you market in new areas? (30:40)
- “We started off nationwide.”
- “We had to pull-back and focus on the areas we have and pick the top markets by location.” (Tweet this)
- “75% of ketchup consumed in America is consumed in restaurants.” (Tweet this)
- Focus to where customers experience your product (34:30)
- “Our biggest marking arm is our appearance on the table in hotels or cafés — complete ubiquity.”
- “People are going to buy what they see more often.” (Tweet this)
- “It may not be a lot of revenue, but if it’s a lot of visibility — it’s marketing.” (Tweet this)
- The New direction of media (36:30)
- “The PR model is a 1970s model — PR is unpredictable, they can’t control the editors.”
- “100% of products Dr. OZ recommends have been paid for — if you want to be on TV, you have to pay to play.” (Tweet this)
- “The bigger you get, the more people expect you to pay for a promotion.”
- How do you convince corporate retailers to take you on? (41:15)
- “It was, still is, will always be grassroots distribution.” (Tweet this)
- “You can’t expect a distributor to make a high-risk pitch.” (Tweet this)
- Hustle/pitch stores > store request from distributor > distributor calls you = distribution. (44:30)
- “Do you want to focus on delivering boxes, or do you want to focus on the strategy?” (Tweet this)
- How do you get products off the shelf? (47:55)
- “2 points to demos: 1) Create long-term customers 2) It shows stores you’re trying.”
- “Stores think of shelves as real estate, and they want to put the best houses to sell for the highest prices.” (Tweet this)
- “Any big display that is in addition to your shelf placement, really moves product — people love impulse buys.” (Tweet this)
- What do you like to do outside the office while you’re not consumed in ketchup? (53:30)
- What’s a book, song, and quote that you love? (54:34)
- What’s next and where can people find you? (1:00:00)
Look for their condiments at Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, and Safeway.
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