Issue Winter 12
When Kinder’s got its start as a family business in Northern California in 1946, it was born as a one-unit meat market. But over the ensuing decades, the company developed strong roots in the region and expanded its footprint. Today, Kinder’s branded products are poised to make an impact on a national level. “We believe we’ll start to become a national player this year,” says Beth McDonald, head of product and brand development. “We have some very strong partnerships and relationships that have developed that are on the cusp of closing for national distribution.”
The Kinder’s story began with the opening of its first location in 1946 in San Pablo, Calif. In 1985, it relocated to Concord, Calif., where it soon became a sought-after meat market, deli and catering company, known for its marinated ball tip steak sandwich. Kinder’s made a name for itself thanks to its grilled sandwiches, deli sandwiches, custom meats and catering services, as well as an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction, quality products, innovation and affordability.
In 1987, it opened a second location in Pleasant Hill, Calif. and soon started selling its own branded barbecue sauce. Eventually, Kinder’s had developed an array of sauces, marinades, rubs and spices. Over the years, Kinder’s has cemented its reputation through an array of awards for quality and taste. Its products have earned top prizes at cook-offs and competitions in California, Nevada and Arizona.
Current CEO Joe Rainero, who had been an avid customer of Kinder’s, got involved in the company in 2001. He helped oversee an expansion from the two stores to 15 restaurant, barbecue and deli locations, using a combination of corporate stores as well as a franchise model.
During the expansion phase, the company entered into partnerships with the Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders franchises, which spawned retail opportunities. In 2008, Rainero purchased the barbecue sauce company from the Kinder family and began distributing the product to independent grocers and Costco. Today, there are still 15 Kinder corporate and franchise locations in California and Nevada. In fact, the patriarch of the family, 90-year-old John Kinder, hasn’t settled down and still can be found cutting meat.
“About a year ago, we began repositioning the brand toward a California barbecue play,” Rainero says. “We currently have six protein and six liquid retail products in our brand’s mix. We just had our first nationwide launch in Safeway stores with one product, and we’re going into many more grocery and wholesale club environments.”
The company is growing the brand recognition of its protein and liquid retail products from the ground up through tie-ins to sports teams, community service and road show teams that head to barbecue events. According to McDonald, the company has found that its best success comes through marketing with its own people.
McDonald says the company’s heritage, thanks to the long-lived efforts of the Kinder family and the historical importance of barbecue to California’s culture, is among its greatest strength. The company’s goal now is to expand that heritage beyond its regional base.
Understanding the Market
Some of the items that are just hitting the market are grilled turkey patties, one with bits of jalapeno and cheddar cheese, and another with turkey bacon, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese. It is important to note that when creating its products, the company tries to source regional supplies as much as possible.
Kinder’s Company understands that today’s consumers are much more concerned about what is in the food they eat. The company isn’t trying to position itself as a diet line, but it wants to be seen as “best in class” in the barbecue category, so it is extremely conscientious about what it puts into its product line.
At the beginning of 2012, Kinder’s will launch the repositioning of its brand and consumer products operations as it starts to ramp up promotion of the California lifestyle barbecue option regionally and nationally. Internally, the company believes that barbecue should be, as Rainero describes it, “a beautiful mess.”