Business Spotlight: KLN Family Brands

Written by: Grant Ayers

KLN Family Brands is a company headquartered in Perham, Minnesota, that manufactures a diverse and expanding range of human and pet food products. Three manufacturing companies are under the KLN Family Brands umbrella: Tuffy’s Pet Foods and Kenny’s Candy & Confections, and Tuffy’s Treats Company, which is located in Delano, Minnesota. Whether the products are intended for people or pets, KLN Family Brands strives to make each and every product exceptional.

Since 1964, KLN Family Brands has focused on bettering the world by caring for others through various products. These products include licorice, popcorn, and pet foods/treats. KLN Family Brands is now run by Charlie Nelson and Chase Rasmussen, CEO and President of the company. Nelson and Rasmussen discussed KLN Family Brands.

What does KLN Family Brands specialize in?

Simply put, KLN Family Brands focuses on bettering the world by caring for others. We do this through the manufacturing of dog and cat foods at Tuffy’s Pet Foods and treats at Tuffy’s Treats Company, as well as producing licorice and popcorn at Kenny’s Candy and Confections. On the candy and confections side of our business, we operate two fantastic brands: Wiley Wallaby and Sweet Chaos. Wiley Wallaby is a national leader in the soft and chewy licorice segment, and Sweet Chaos is a rapidly emerging popcorn brand with both indulgent and savory options. On the pet food side, NutriSource is our flagship brand. Recently, NutriSource celebrated its 20th anniversary with a focus on independent/ neighborhood pet retailers. NutriSource has a long history of providing solutions-based diets to pet parents and their furry family members. Our newest brand, Finley’s, features a high-quality treat line-up that includes biscuits, training treats and benefit bars. The original founders, Angie and Kyle Gallus, continue to further their mission of bringing inclusion to the pet industry by offering employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

The KLN Family Brands Vision Statement

We are a proud, people-first company. We are successful because of trust-based relationships and first-rate products for our families and friends. We better the world by caring for others. We challenge. We grow. We inspire.

Charlie Nelson,
KLN Family Brands CEO
Chase Rasmussen,
KLN Family Brands, President

Caring for the Community

KLN Family Brands is proud to give back to their community. Some of the many organizations they work with include:

  • Pinky Swear Foundation
  • M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital Facility Dog Program
  • Soldiers 6
  • Boys & Girls Club of the Perham Area
  • Make-A-Wish Minnesota

What did KLN Family Brands’ journey look like over the years of growth?

We’ve had an interesting journey over the past 60 years. We have had some ebbs and flows to our overall business based on acquisitions over the years. For example, we started Tuffy’s Pet Foods in 1964 and sold it in 1971. We would then purchase back Tuffy’s Pet Foods in 2001 and have had a good run for the past 20 years. We also sold Barrel O’ Fun roughly eight years ago, which at the time, was our largest division sales-wise. One thing has been constant in our journey; we have made Perham, Minnesota, our main home.

How many employees did KLN Family Brands have at the beginning when launching? How many are there currently working today?

When my father (Kenny Nelson) returned to Perham after graduating from Notre Dame in 1963, he, alongside my grandfather (Tuffy Nelson), launched Tuffy’s Pet Foods. We had just a handful of employees initially when beginning. Now, we have roughly 1,000 employees in Perham and Delano, Minnesota.

What is KLN Family Brands’ strategy for retaining and attracting employees?

The first sentence in our vision statement is, “We are a proud, people-first company.” That means we want to be clear to our team members that they are our number one customers. We don’t have a business if we don’t have good people operating every day. We have gotten more creative and more committed than ever in how we onboard new hires. We have invested heavily in our People Operations department, making sure we remind ourselves that we are in the “taking care of our people” business above all else. Along with that, we are also targeting military veterans, as well as the hard-working Latino community.

How did KLN Family brands face the COVID-19 pandemic?

We have done a nice job of working together to make sure our facilities are as safe as they can be for employees. We still battle supply chain issues today and the workforce is not back to where it needs to be if we honestly want to be a country that is committed to growing business, and the economy as a whole. As an essential business, KLN team members took great pride in coming to work to continue to turn out first-rate products for both humans and pets, but that wasn’t without challenges. Whether it was wearing masks, working behind a plastic shield, social distancing, adjusting to revised schedules or assisting with extra sanitation practices for others, our people meet each challenge with a fantastic attitude in order to keep our business running at full speed.

KLN Family Brands’ pet food products include premium dry and canned pet foods and a variety of treats.
KLN Family Brands offers a wide variety of products; all based out of Perham, MN!

What opportunities came forth from this pandemic?

The pandemic made us better as far as how we communicate as a company with our team members. We also learned that during these difficult times, people still want to enjoy some candy or popcorn, and they certainly want to continue feeding their furry family members. Knowing that, we recognize that we still have a job to do, and that’s to deliver high-quality products at all times. A positive that came out of the pandemic was the ability of our people to change and adapt to how they do their jobs every day. Every person in our organization, at some point or another during the COVID-19 pandemic, was forced to step out of their typical way of thinking to accomplish their job responsibility. The ingenuity and problem-solving displayed daily will serve our organization well as we settle into our new normal.

As a large company, what advice can you give to small and medium-sized companies looking to grow?

For a company to succeed, it’s critical to always make it about the people. It’s essential that you have a strong team of individuals that aren’t afraid of rolling up their sleeves and going the extra mile.

Did You Know?
KLN” are the initials of former CEO Kenny Nelson, one of the founding members of the business! Kenny is the son of Tuffy’s Pet Foods founder, Tuffy Nelson, and the father of KLN’s current CEO, Charlie Nelson.

Support KLN Family Brands

Phone: (218) 347-0525
Facebook: @klnfamilybrands
Address: 109 Lakeside Dr. Perham, MN 56573

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Grant is a Senior Editor at Spotlight Media. Grant writes for Fargo INC! and Bis-Man INC!