The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 25, 2010

Angie's Kettle Corn staying in the game

Contracts with pro sports teams help business grow

NORTH MANKATO — When the Minnesota Twins played their first game at Target Field this spring, Angie’s Kettle Corn was there. They’ll also be at the Minnesota Vikings first home game at the Metrodome next fall, and at every Minnesota Timberwolves basketball game held in the Target Center as well.

There’s only one professional sports franchise the North Mankato-based manufacturer of sweet-and-salty kettle corn doesn’t currently have a contract with.

“We’ve got everything but the Wild,” says Dan Bastian, who owns and operates Angie’s Kettle Corn with his wife, Angie. “We’re just taking it one sports team at a time.”

Angie’s Kettle Corn started with the Mankato MoonDogs, back in the summer of 2002. At that time, the Bastians were primarily popping their corn at street fairs and neighborhood gatherings and other local events. But then they set up a tent at Vikings Training Camp and sent 120 complimentary bags of their corn to Gage Hall, for the players and coaches. Before long, a marketing executive had stopped by their tent and initiated contract talks that would make their snack available during regular season games as well.

That, they agree, was the turning point for their business.

“That was a catalyst for us,” Dan says. “It opened doors for us. Before that contract, we were really just an outdoor, mobile kettle corn popper. Working with the Vikings allowed us to reach more people with our product.

The exposure they received from their presence at Vikings games helped expand their market and gave their business immediate credibility. It also opened their minds to new business possibilities. “Customers at the Dome would often ask us where else they could get our kettle corn,” Angie Bastian says. “We just said, ‘Send us an e-mail, and we’ll send some to you.’ It

wasn’t available anywhere else.”

Now it is. Angie’s Kettle Corn is available in almost every major Minnesota grocery outlet, including Cub Foods, the Lunds/Byerlys and Kowalski’s chains in the Twin Cities, and all co-ops in the state. It is available nationally in Costco stores and in all SuperValu-owned grocery stores. And by June, it will also be available in SuperTarget stores all across the country.

The packaged kettle corn sold in those stores is definitely the biggest revenue stream for Angie’s Kettle Corn. But Dan and Angie still see great value in being involved with sporting events both locally and statewide. “It’s our marketing arm,” Dan says. “It’s the best way to get our product in front of more people.”

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