How Sweet It Is!
By Bruce Freeman
Like ice cream? Most people do. Ever wonder how they come up with new favors? Let’s follow the story of one of the best flavors around. It’s called Moose Tracks® and the secret recipe is licensed and made by local dairies nationwide and sold in your grocer’s freezer. Moose Tracks is a flavor composed of a heavenly, chewy, fudge swirl, so soft that it melts like velvet on your tongue, and small peanut butter cup “moose tracks”. The combination of flavors is enough to make a grown man groan!
Wally Blume, CEO of Denali Flavors, the company which licenses and markets Moose Tracks, was an inner city kid from Indianapolis who made good, graduating from Purdue University in 1962 with a degree in Industrial Economics. He worked with the Kroger supermarket chain for twenty years, mostly in the dairy foods division. In 1984 he was caught up in a corporate buy-out and let go. After working for the largest dairy in Michigan for a year, he took an opportunity to become an independent sales representative for several companies, one of which manufactured ice cream ingredients. When the ingredient company was bought out by a large conglomerate, Wally and two partners decided to create their own ice cream flavors. A small dairy in Northern Michigan agreed to launch Moose Tracks; and Denali Flavors LLC was formed in 1996.
The original concept was to create an association between the ice cream flavors and the pristine cold and purity of Alaska. (Denali is the Indian word for Alaska’s Mt. McKinley.) Denali named the flavors after Alaskan animals and associated concepts, and developed and copy-righted the cartoon characters on the packaging to complete brand identification. In a happy coincidence, the introduction of Moose Tracks coincided with the re-introduction of wild moose into the state of Michigan.The partners divided the US into two parts – east and west – while the third partner concentrated on the retail business, and each set off to sell the flavor concepts in the way he saw fit. Wally’s business model of licensing the use of the flavor to independent diaries took off and soon, as a minor shareholder, he was generating and taking home 80% of the company’s income. Under the rules of the LLC, arbitration was initiated and the arbitrator suggested one partner buy the others out. Wally Blume believed in the product so much that he put up everything he owned and convinced Bank One to loan him what was needed to buy-out the others. It’s ironic, that after suffering through several buy-outs which left him jobless, it was his own buy-out that paved the way for his success.
Sales skyrocketed, with Moose Tracks even outselling vanilla in some brands. Now, independent dairies sign a royalty contract, which gives them the right to use the formula and packaging, and binds them to using Denali approved ingredient suppliers. Currently, Denali licenses the Moose Tracks flavor formula to over 85 companies. Denali offers broad line of novelty ice cream products, including drumsticks, ice cream bars and cream pies. Wally is investigating expansion into other markets including cheese cakes and cookies are being introduced this month!
Professor Bruce’s Words of Wisdom
Wally Blume’s belief and passion in Moose Tracks extended to putting the value of his home and retirement savings up as collateral for the loan to buy out his partners. He believes that it doesn’t matter how small your beginnings if your product feels right and you are getting good feedback from the market. Denali was started in a basement on a folding table and he didn’t even consider leasing space until his base was large enough to support it. His strategy was to find a great accountant, business and litigating attorney to keep others from stealing his product idea and success. His advice is to plan on working 70 hour weeks and to use off-time to take a class or something else that makes your business go. Once his business reached critical mass, he looked for ways to give back to the community, putting Denali’s future into a trust to fund causes for needy children around the world.
Protect and license an idea for use by others.
Could This Work For Me?
If you have an idea for a product which is showing promise, consider licensing it rather than selling it yourself.