Branching out: FUNacho expands with new brands

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FUNacho has come to be known as a company that produces quality nacho products, acquiring loyal customers along the way. But they are growing into something more. They are listening to their client base and becoming more of a product development company. For well over 15 years, FUNacho has focused on building a solid nacho product company and they have created a foundation that can support diversification.

Mike Grause joined an investment-banking firm out of college and probably didn’t foresee his future in the concession industry. But as many incidents in life alter our course, Grause stumbled across the opportunity to purchase FUNacho in 1996 and he took a chance. The company was, and still is, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.

It proved to be a challenge to successfully break into the theatre industry with well-established companies already in the nacho space, but that is what markets are all about: competition and growth. Grause has worked hard to create a space for FUNacho and he has been successful by developing close relationships with his clients. To separate themselves from other like products, FUNacho has focused on reinventing and upgrading the packaging of the nacho product line to create a refreshed look and added convenience for the customer. They will be adding the FUNacho FUN Pack to the next industry tradeshow goody bag.

Grause’s success led him to begin working with a new company in 2008, PretzelHaus Bakery, and yet another in 2009, Crispy Critters. All three companies are independent entities, but Grause is a part of the business development of all three. His team is working hard to grow the pretzel and cookie brand products, and finding success with both of them.

PretzelHaus sells a unique shelf-stable pretzel in a variety of flavors and Crispy Critters are high-quality mini-cookies that are kept in warmers and sold in cup portions. They are being sold across the country in theatre chains and quick-service restaurants and you can easily find a witness to their success as a new concession item. But both of these opportunities were introduced to Grause through customers, and Grause has come to see the future of FUNacho as a company that not only produces great products but also develops and introduces them.

Grause affirms, “We are very flexible with our customers and work very hard to achieve their goals. We consider product development to be our specialty. We got involved with pretzels and cookies by customer request and are working on new products that are specifically guided by our client demands.

“We are more than cheese sauce and cheese cups,” Grause adds. “We have the ‘me too’ items, but we are expanding our breadth of product offerings and we are developing products that are out of the mainstream. Our experience with Crispy Critters is changing how we view ourselves. Our ability and desire to invest in product research and new product development has never been greater.”

Grause is surrounded by a team of people who have helped him get out of the comfort zone and really push company growth. Brian Biehn, executive VP, has been a tremendous asset to FUNacho’s development and growth and continues to be the face of the company in the industry. And two new team members are helping Grause achieve his vision: Kelley McCahon is now director of sales and marketing to help expand brand recognition and growth, and Michelle Cano-Proctor, president of Fun World Foods, has been recruited to help Grause expand his international reach. FUNacho has been distributing products internationally for several years but “the opportunities abound to really grow,” notes Grause.

They have also expanded into other industries including many military channels and mass retail. Now that Grause has come to see the vision of the company as being more opportunity than just your same old nacho product, the products, the markets and the client partnerships are driving the company to diversify.

Their timing could not be better, as theatre concession stands are in fast-change mode. Theatre companies across the country are trying new products and new concession operations at an increased pace, to truly enhance the cinemagoing experience. Trends are by nature cyclical things, and we have seen the “back to basics” trend as many times as we have seen the “new product” trend. But no one can dispute the desire in our marketplace at the moment to really diversify and get new ideas in front of customers. It’s an exciting time to be a product development company or even a broker or agent for operating principals or manufacturers, because concession operators have open minds and hearts right now to try new things, fail or succeed.

Grause is being challenged by his clients to think outside the box, and he is having a lot of fun doing it. You aren’t interested in cheese sauce today? No problem, Grause says, let’s talk cookies. Keep an eye on FUNacho; they have many more surprises in store for you. For an industry that is in full explorer mode, this is welcome news.

For more information on FUNacho, please visit their website at www.funacho.com.

Client Testimonials
"Best cookies I have ever sold! Sales are 10 times what we sold before."
—Dennis Redmer, VP of Operations, MJR Theatres

"Our patrons comment often that the PretzelHaus Pretzel has the best texture of any they have consumed: ‘They are real pretzels, not bread.’ We have reduced our damaged product by 97% and that has reduced our cost of goods emphatically. Any time I can improve the quality and reduce my cost, I have a real winner. The PretzelHaus pretzel is a real winner."
—Larry Etter, Senior VP, Malco Theatres