The PUR Co. CEO Jay Klein on PROFIT 500 rankings, starting small and connecting with customers
PUR was ranked no. 10 overall by PROFIT and Canadian Business on the annual PROFIT 500 list.
The gum and mint manufacturer, which sells aspartame-free sweets, made the list with a five-year revenue growth of 5,496 percent. It was also ranked No. 1 in the Manufacturing and Distribution category.
“Companies become a part of the PROFIT 500 through innovative thinking, smart strategy and sheer grit,” says James Cowan, editor-in-chief of PROFIT and Canadian Business. “These firms demonstrate what Canadian entrepreneurs can achieve, both at home and across the globe.”
The PUR Co. focuses on making simple substitutions to eliminate artificial sweeteners without compromising taste or quality, to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Candy Industry Magazine reached out to Jay Klein, founder and ceo of The PUR Co., to chat about the company’s recognition and history.
CI: Congratulations on the PROFIT 500 ranking!
JK: Thank you! Yeah, we were thrilled with No. 10. To be 10th overall over a five-year period was incredible. And then we were No. 1 in manufacturing and distribution, so it was like the “Little Engine That Could.” He's doing it!
The reason this is so exciting is this is a world that's filled with tech and software companies. All the innovation, all the growth headlines and everything that's talked about in our world today is focused on every other sector but food. And in the gum and candy world, where there's been a lot of good traction, we are very encouraged, and we're really happy to be leading not only a section of the market, but a country, in terms of food innovation and growth. That's amazing. That's something we're really pleased about.
CI: So tell me more, how did PUR manage the incredible revenue growth it’s seen over the last five years?
JK: We're very committed to what we're doing, making that simple substitution and eliminating the chemical and artificial sweeteners in everyday products that people enjoy. We have a great team of people, and we've really worked with our retail partners and consumers to deliver them the product that they're looking for.
And, I think today, it's one thing to make a product that meets certain health attributes, dietary sensitivities or dietary demands. But if that product doesn't keep the quality expectation that someone would expect, then they're not going to have it again.
CI: Where did the idea to kick aspartame come from, and what got you started?
JK: I've always loved the candy industry. When I was in the seventh and eighth grade, I would sell candy out of my backpack at school. Candy just makes people happy.
But, I was offering people gum on the airplane once, and some people would say, "I don't want it." And I couldn't figure out why. Who doesn't want gum? And I hear people say, "It has aspartame in it." So I said, "Okay, well, let's see if we can fix that."
That's sort of how it evolved.
CI: And from there, how have you gotten to where you are now? What have you learned, what's changed?
JK: We started small. We really wanted to connect with the retailers and the customers. We invested in the product education and relationship, and all those things. We call it "running for mayor," going from door to door and educating people about what we're doing. Our first year was very small and modest, and then we just kept doing the same thing over and over again. We didn't build our brand on the backs of the one giant retailer, which is usually a very aspirational thing for most small brands. We did it more door-to-door. Each year we grew and we were very persistent, hardworking and humble. And it worked.
We continued to invest in what we were doing. We weren't motivated by one goal. It wasn't about a monetary goal, it was more about providing something that people wanted. And as we were able to connect with that, we kept investing in it. I think that as an entrepreneur, you take so many risks. And the risks only get greater and greater, but we kept doing it, we believe in what we do, so that makes it a win-win for everybody.
CI: So now that you've grown, you've gotten this PROFIT 500 ranking, what else is on the horizon? What goals do you have for the company?
JK: We have a very strong global footprint. We want to strengthen our global footprint, and we want to keep penetrating the existing retailers. I think a big part of the growth will be to expand the PUR brand, to take the same brand values that we are operating by and continue to innovate with new products that match the demand of our customers.
CI: Tell me more about your favorite product.
JK: I've always loved Spearmint, but our new product is the Bubblegum flavor. It's is the classic kids' flavor that reminds you of when you were a kid, when you'd open up a pack of baseball cards and there'd be a stick of gum in it. That's our new item, and it's incredible. We're really enjoying that.
And then our Chocolate Mint flavor is the perfect combination of the chocolate demand that you'd want from a candy bar with the same satisfaction, without feeling full when you're done. So it's the dessert that you can have an endless amount of.
CI: Is gum your favorite kind of candy?
JK: I'm partial to it. So, yes. I chew three pieces at a time.
CI: What else can we look forward to from Pur? Anything new in the works?
JK: Our mints. As we say, our "it's 5 o' clock somewhere" mojito line mints. Our mint line is our first product innovation expansion, and it's also an aspartame-free and sugar-free mint. That's number two, and probably in 2017 we'll have some new announcements for innovations.
A theme about our business is that we are partners with the consumers, and we strive to deliver products that match the expectations of what they're looking for with the health and lifestyle requirements that people want.