Natural and organic food companies are revolutionizing more than just the food industry—they’re inspiring new technological growth as well as a massive increase in organic and sustainable farming procedures. As CEO, Jon Kalina is taking Peeled Snacks to the next level through building—and rebuilding—company structures in order to make sure that Peeled is a key part of that wave of change.
When Kalina was first introduced to the natural and organic side of the food industry more than twenty years ago, the first thing that struck him was the sense of purpose displayed by companies passionate about healthy food. “It wasn’t all about dollars and cents but rather the difference that people and companies were trying to make,” Kalina remembers. “We make a difference in people’s lives every single day, which is what makes natural and organic foods such a special industry. People in other industries, like automotive or tech, can’t say the same of the work they do.”
But while Kalina valued the spirit of the natural and organic side of the industry, he could tell right away that those companies still had a long way to go. “Those healthy crackers that were made ten, twenty years ago, they were terrible. The box itself tasted better,” Kalina laughs. “But today, you can’t tell the difference. And oftentimes, the organic product actually tastes better than the conventional one and is also a whole lot better for you.”
According to Kalina, that’s why Peeled’s dried fruits and salty snacks (like their organic pea puffs) are so popular. “Our dried fruit tastes as good as candy, but it’s healthy for you. And it’s great to see that working on the salty side as well,” Kalina says. “Our salty products are such a great alternative to products like Doritos, which parents are always trying to move their kids away from.”
The Peeled Way of Life
When Jon Kalina joined Peeled, he knew that he needed to establish clear guidelines for the new culture he was creating. He and his team came up with fifty culture guidelines, then slowly whittled them down to ten that stood out the most, the ten they knew would take the company into the future.
1 Snack healthy, live well, be happy
2 Be a team player
3 Check your ego at the door
4 Think like a customer
5 Work like an owner
6 Do the right thing, always
7 Honor commitments
8 Be relentless about improvement
9 Create clear expectations
10 Celebrate success
While it may not be in the same league as Coca-Cola or Pepsi, Kalina says, Peeled truly has become an iconic brand. “Like our mango—that vibrant orange. People know the company name, and they especially remember that orange color,” the CEO says. “The iconic nature of the brand was actually what sold me when I was recruited to come ‘fix’ Peeled. Even though the company was pretty small at the time, I just felt like the brand had so much potential.”
Since coming on board as CEO, Kalina has done everything he could to maximize that potential. Before he joined the Peeled team, he says, many employees didn’t have a specialized knowledge of key subjects like marketing or graphic design or operations. “I found that a lot of people were just working as jack-of-all-trades,” Kalina says. “But that made it hard to drive the business forward. It was a radical risk I took, replacing those people with a core team who had the kind of experience I was looking for, but it was a risk that paid off.”
In addition to refreshing the team and establishing new culture guidelines to help them move forward, Kalina rebranded the company itself. He worked with his marketing partners to ensure that there was consistency in how Peeled products looked, whether sweet or salty. He met with all of his key customers and vendors in his first year at the company and told them about his plans for Peeled and how it would affect them. And he made sure to honor any commitments the company had already made.
“As a small company, you have to do all of those things to be successful,” he notes. “Sometimes you have to make tough decisions, whether you’re relocating headquarters or changing staff, and those decisions aren’t popular at first. But in the long run they do pay off, as long as you bring in people who you trust to work just as hard as you are.”
Now, having rebuilt the company culture and structures, Kalina is focused on expanding Peeled even further, growing both the popularity and the distribution of its products. “Our growth has to be well-balanced and our portfolio well-rounded,” Kalina says. “While we have core customers like Target, we need to push for new and different channels of distribution. We want as many folks as possible to be able to access Peeled products, whether that’s at Costco or a convenience store or a Hudson News stand on their way to catch a flight.”