As Mommy pushes her shopping cart down the snack aisle at Meijer, Junior stretches out his hand from his perch in the cart as if drawn by an unseen force. He has succumbed to the invisible grasp of Cheeze Kurls, a Grand Rapids-made snack.
Junior is drawn by the iconic “Krisp” orange package and fried curls inside, thanks to a marketing plan devised by Bob Franzak and company to put a 1 ounce package of Cheeze Kurls in the treat-or-treat bags of tots throughout the metro area on Halloween. But the plan isn’t diabolical -- it’s just smart marketing that will help keep the company in business for the next 50 years.
“When kids go to the store, we want them to recognize the brand just like their parents and grandparents do,” said Bob, co-owner of Cheeze Kurls Inc. “So about 8 years ago, we started selling bulk quantities of our product to parents at Halloween to give out as treats.
“We may have sold 20 cases our first year: we sell about 2,000 cases now.”
As the only time of the year that the company sells directly to the public, anyone can drive up to the factory at 2915 Walkent Dr. NW from the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. now and walk away with a box of 100 individual 1-ounce packages of Cheeze Kurls for $15. At 15 cents a bag, the treats are comparably priced to other bite-sized giveaways at Halloween.
While the Nutrition Facts label shows they consist of carbos, fat and sodium with about 150 calories per 1-ounce serving, Cheeze Kurls aren’t that different nutritionally than treats made by the Hershey Co., Mars or the other candy conglomerates. And how can you argue with getting your snacks fresh from the 140,000-square-foot factory that employs about 90 people locally?
“Cheese Kurls are the finger lickin' equivalent of Wonka Bars,” one customer wrote on the Cheeze Kurls Facebook page. “And I expect nothing less than whimsical factory tours on boats made of Kurls down a river of molten cheddar. They are THAT good.”
The Halloween promotion is a sideline for the company that makes scores of other products such as flavored popcorns, onion rings, hot fries and other salted snacks that are sold coast to coast under private label or the Cheeze Kurls brand, Bob said. The Cheeze Kurls brand is known mainly in the Midwest, while 80 percent of its products are private label in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Until Cheeze Kurls gets its river of molten cheddar flowing, the public will have to settle for the promotion that will continue to Halloween or while supplies last.