MIGHTY SPARK CARVES SPACE FOR CHICKEN-BASED SNACKS AND ENTREES
Original article can be found at: Nosh.com
What is Mighty Spark?
Founded in 2008 as Man Cave Meats (and later renamed Man Cave Eats), in 2018 the company rebranded to Mighty Spark. Since then, it has continued to build out a portfolio of chicken and turkey based meat sticks and fresh, raw ingredients like chicken burgers or marinated poultry cuts. The company’s products are sold in thousands of stores including Kroger, Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Bristol Farms, Walmart, Harris Teeter and more.
Roughly a month ago, the company was acquired by private equity firm Swander Pace Capital through its Branch Brook Holdings group, which includes distributor United Natural Foods, Inc (UNFI) and Jefferson Capital Partners as partners. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but along with the acquisition the company brought on three CPG veterans to its board of directors, including: Kerry Collins (formerly CEO of Applegate Farms), Eric Eddings (CEO of Oregon Ice Cream) and
Diane Kull (VP of technical services at Bragg Live Food Products).
The company also announced a new CEO in Sean Reid, a 30 year food industry veteran who most recently served as EVP of sales at Jack Link’s and formerly was the chief consumer officer at Hillshire Brands.
What’s the Plan for Growth?
In the near term, Reid wants to focus on what’s working — expanding distribution for the brand’s products, particularly in the natural channel where the brand has less representation despite its all-natural marketing alignment. Though Mighty Spark had originally shied away from including the term “meat” in its name, its products are clearly animal proteins.
“I think we’ve found a place where we want to build that awareness with the current offerings that we have and, and really continue to drive that distribution,” Reid said. ”We want to stick to what we’re good at right now.”
The company’s meat sticks will also be a key focus area. Reid said the line has high return purchase rates, but needs to also expand distribution to see greater success. One point of discussion with retailers, he said, is where to merchandise the line — in the fresh meat case where Mighty Spark’s other products can be found, or in the meat snack set.
What’s the Opportunity for the Company?
Mighty Spark’s strength is that it offers shoppers convenient meal solutions while saving retailers the labor of preparing marinated meats or patties in-house. During the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers staying at home, shoppers began cooking more and experimented with new global flavors. Reid said the brand helps shoppers explore their culinary passions while still getting dinner on the table quickly through options such as Bruschetta Chicken Patties or Thai Style Ground Chicken,
The meat section in particular has become highly commoditized, with the few branded items sold focused more on their nutritional attributes then the brand itself. Reid says by developing a strong point of view, and with its unique packaging, Mighty Spark can bring more excitement to the category, which has seen shoppers head to buzzy plant-based options in recent years.
In the past year brands such as Bilinsky’s and Seemore’s have also launched their own branded products into the set, but largely have focused on the sausage section. Meanwhile, in meat snacks, many of the top brands have looked to beef or pork options for their meat sticks, leaving Mighty Spark to focus solely on leaner proteins.
The company also has a focus on giving back, donating the equivalent of one meal to a non-profit partner for every product sold. Reid said the program offers Mighty Spark an advantage in driving consumer loyalty among shoppers who are looking for sustainable, mission-driven brands.
“Brands are hard to build, whether you’re a large established organization or small,” Reid said. “People are reimagining what’s expected from food, and that they expect more than just great flavor…[And] not just more from the product itself, but also from the company that provides those products.”