A Twist in Licorice: Talking with Natural Vines
American Licorice Company’s secret to a century of success lies in their dedication to producing quality products and emphasis on green manufacturing practices.
Content provided by Lea Green, PGi Social Media Manager
When I was a little girl, black licorice twists were one of my favorite foods. My grandmother, who enjoyed the flavor and chewy texture as much as I, kept some in a glass jar and always offered me “black vines”—as she called them—when I visited. My best friend and I always shared a package when we went to the movies. Somehow, popcorn always seemed to taste better with licorice. Of course, neither of us knew how it was made or where it came from. We just knew it was good.
American Licorice Company, which was founded in 1914, is a family-owned company and one of the oldest U.S. licorice manufacturers still in existence. In 1925, they were commissioned to create a licorice shoe that Charlie Chaplin ate during the legendary scene from the silent film The Gold Rush. The entertainment industry still has a taste for the ALC treat, which has been featured in Friends, Six Feet Under, Monk, Die Hard and Aimee Mann’s song, “Red Vines.”
While consumer tastes and expectations have changed since 1925, licorice remains a popular treat among adults and children alike, as demonstrated by the success of the company and the variety of its licorice candies.
So, what’s the secret of ALC’s century of success in what might be considered a niche market? The answer lies in their philosophies, their dedication to producing quality products, and their emphasis on green manufacturing practices.
American Licorice Company believes in social responsibility. So much so that they have adopted corporate philosophies that champion the consumer through established goals:
- To enrich peoples’ lives by supporting education and personal development and by promoting physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- To enhance the lives of people in our communities through financial contributions and volunteer work.
- To conduct business in a sustainable and socially responsible manner by using resources efficiently and reducing waste.
- To maintain a work environment that improves our employees’ quality of life and helps them grow by promoting wellness, sustainability, and community support.
- To support and promote the well-being of our consumers by encouraging responsible snacking and physical activity.
- To conduct business in an honest, safe, and responsible manner.
In an interview with Mike Kelly from ALC I asked him to elaborate on the above philosophies, which have become integral to the company’s longevity and success. Read more to learn how the American Licorice Company and their organic candy Natural Vines demonstrate the highest quality of standards in business and environmental stewardship.
When I asked Mike to comment on the quality of the company’s product line, I could hear the pride and commitment in his voice: “We manufacture all our products in the United States, and the majority of our suppliers are also domestically based. We ask our suppliers to follow standards of the highest product quality that take environmental, social, and ethical concerns and practices into account.”
ALC uses only natural ingredients in Natural Vines—no artificial flavorings, no preservatives, no polysyllabic additives. The recipe for Natural Vines black licorice twists read like something from my grandmother’s wooden recipe box: molasses, wheat flour, sugar, brown rice syrup, cane syrup, caramel color, licorice extract, palm oil, natural anise flavor, and salt.
For 10 years running, ALC has received national recognition from (WRAP) the Waste Reduction Awards Program and was honored earlier this year by Union City, California for redirecting 92% of its waste from the city landfill during 2011. I asked Mike how ALC makes its products eco-friendly, and he explained that the company recycles all waste, sending production byproducts to farms where they are used for cattle feed. He recommended that our readers take a look at ALC’s environmental achievements, which provides an impressive summary of ALC’s green initiatives. The company also advocates a healthy work-life balance and strives to promote employee well-being.
When Mike and I talked about what he is most passionate about in the green space, his enthusiasm shown through in his response. “Creating products that our consumers enjoy and value. Our passion is our consumers, and by seeking their feedback, our products and processes can better address their concerns. I focus my energies on the things I’m passionate about, but sometimes I get frustrated by the time involved in implementing the feedback and good ideas we receive. But the opportunity to educate our customers and ourselves, to continue to make improvements that are beneficial to the environment, is truly exciting. Ours is an historic company, and we’re truly passionate about telling our story.”
When we discussed how ALC spreads the word about its products, he pinpointed three marketing strategies: social media, videos and in-store sampling. “By utilizing social and mobile marketing strategies, ALC is able to generate earned media, follow conversations and identify brand advocates.” Endorsement by skateboarding legend Andy Macdonald also generates consumer interest and has helped make Red Vines the third most-followed Twitter handle.
In addition to a growing Facebook presence, ALC capitalizes on its information-rich company blog to keep consumers up-to-date on company and brand news and YouTube furnishes ALC with a popular branding venue, featuring videos on how their candies are made and spotlighting select products. “Taking the products to the people is the best way to raise consumer awareness. Sampling is an excellent marketing tool for Natural Vines. We have had tremendous success in our affiliation with Whole Foods. But we also target venues such as outdoor movie theaters, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. We created a short branded film that highlights the attributes of the brand.”
And last but not least, I always enjoy getting to know the people I interview I on a personal level, outside asking my “Favorite Five Questions”:
- What excites you?
Learning who my kids are. My four year-old daugh00ter and one year-old son are a constant source of excitement and inspiration.
- What scares you?
How quickly things are speeding up on the planet and how technology is driving the human race forward. I’m concerned about our ability to manage the planet. I just hope that we can find some kind of equilibrium.
- What new artist are you listening to?
The Alabama Shakes, “Hold On.” If you were to toss Tina Turner, Janis Jopin and Robert Plant in a blender, the result would be this lady’s voice. Seriously, go check it out.
- Who motivates you?
My family and myself. I’ve never hesitated to step forward and make things happen.
- What are you looking forward to most in the future?
Taking more time to be out in the sunshine and less plugged into the internet.
As we wrapped up our conversation, Mike offered some advice to green entrepreneurs just starting out: “Create a well-informed infrastructure for yourself. Figure out who the environmental thought leaders are in your field—who’s doing it right—and become relevant in that conversation. Learn what they have learned, and avoid the mistakes that they have made.” As a century-old company whose vision pioneers environmental stewardship for a new century of thinking, American Licorice Company is a thought leader we can all learn from.
Originally published on PGiGreenBlog.
The content above was provided by PGi and is not subject to MNN Editorial Review. MNN is not responsible for the accuracy, objectivity or balance of this content.