Rising StarOEN Member Spotlight – Karen Bonner, Red Duck Foods

Red Duck Foods is a specialty foods company that currently offers three unique flavors of organic, artisan ketchup: Classic, Spicy, and Curry. www.redduckfoods.com

Q: What does your business do?
Red Duck Foods manufactures and distributes specialty, organic food products. Our initial product line consists of three unique flavors of ketchup: Classic, Spicy, and Curry. Our tagline, “Elevate your food”, expresses our goal: to provide consumers with condiments that improve the quality of their dining experience!

Q: What problem does it solve?
Consumers are flocking to the natural and organic food industries, and there’s an absolute proliferation of artisan condiments (check out the variety of mustard and hot sauce available next time you’re at the store!) but there is a lack of innovation in ketchup. We’re one of the first companies to offer organic ketchup in unique flavors, in clean glass packaging.

Q: How did you come up with this business idea?
My three co-founders and I met while attending the University of Oregon’s MBA program. We were all interested in entrepreneurship, and we discovered a shared passion for food one evening while talking over sweet potato fries and tots at a campus bar. We realized the sub-par ketchup served with the meal was really disappointing. Between the four of us, we’d had great curry ketchup in Germany, and cherry Coke ketchup at a wine bar in Hong Kong. We decided it was time to bring some unique, high-quality ketchup to the States, and Red Duck was born!

Q: What are your biggest challenges?
Although Oregon is a hotbed for food startups, there’s a lack of unification and infrastructure to support early-stage food and beverage businesses. Many key questions (how to get a product from idea-stage to store shelf, how to work with a distributor, safety compliance) were difficult to answer since there’s no “one-stop shop” for food entrepreneurs. We’re happy that OEN is leading the charge to create more support and resources for food and beverage companies like ours.

Q: What are your goals for the company?
Our long-term goal for Red Duck is to achieve national distribution and national brand recognition by 2017. Although ketchup is our first product line, we consider ourselves to be a flavor company. We can’t wait to expand our product lines and add the Red Duck touch to other healthy food products. On a more personal level, we’re an energetic, enthusiastic team, and we want to share our passion and sense of fun with everyone that comes into contact with Red Duck.

Q: Do you have any news to share about your company’s evolution, new products or partnerships?
Our primary focus right now is to increase our retail distribution. We started with one retail account in May 2013, and now Red Duck Ketchup is currently available in 18 grocery stores and retailers in Oregon. We’re specifically focused on gaining traction in the Portland market–both stores and restaurants. We also completed a successful Kickstarter campaign in May that raised 127% of our initial goal (over $25,000) with 604 domestic and international backers.

Q: Have you been an entrepreneur before?
We all studied entrepreneurship at UO, and some of us previously worked for startups, but this is our first time as founders.

Q: What brought you to OEN?
We’re fortunate to have an incredibly knowledgeable and supportive team of mentors and advisors,including John Hull and Shelley Gunton, who introduced us to OEN. We also attended an OEN PubTalk earlier this year, where we learned about crowdfunding, which allowed us to plan our Kickstarter campaign.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?
We were surprised by how helpful other food and beverage entrepreneurs have been in helping us on our journey. Other founders have been generous in sharing information about their financing structures, distribution models, and pricing strategies. Our favorite thing about our business is the friendly vibe of people in the organic and natural food industries.

Q: What has been the best entrepreneurial advice you’ve received?
Strategy is fluid

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