Growing Up in the Business & Getting Bored
Founder Jeff Eckert grew up in the food business. He worked for his dad, a food broker, doing mostly commodities for many years before leaving to work on his own doing commodity trading and some co-manufacturing. He was happy that his family was able to live comfortably, but grew bored with the mundaneness and bothered that he was not building anything with long-term equity.
Oh, the Smell!
At one point, he ventured into “Corporate America,” working for a large food broker representing a jerky manufacturer in the convenience stores. At that point, Jeff had never tried jerky before. On his first day he tentatively opened the free bag at his desk. The first thing he noticed: the unbearable smell. He pulled a piece out, looked at it, pulled some apart and read the label. He was just in awe that people actually ate that kind of snack. So turned off, he quickly closed the bag and never tasted a piece. He quickly grew tired of corporate life and returned to the commodities business just 10 months later, but this time with a different goal in mind:
The “Smell” Tester
Still without having any idea what jerky tasted like, Jeff began working with a company outside Chicago to develop the product. So scarred by his previous experience, he would never try the test samples. Enter the key taste tester: Jeff’s wife, Christine. For nearly a year he passed along the critiques from his wife – “too sweet, too salty, too peppery, too this, too that …” to find the perfect taste (and smell) before they finally hit it on the nose, and Dick Stevens was born. Jeff finally tried his creation during the first production run. Good news: he loved it! Everyone was shocked that he was building his future on the success of this product – one he had never tasted before (but he knew Christine would not steer him wrong). Along with his wife and five kids he said “goodbye” to Chicago and hello to Charlotte, N.C. to get Dick Stevens off the ground.
Reigning Trail Mix in from the Dark Side
“Why jerky and nuts?” people often asked. Why not? Trail mix has taken a terrible turn to the dark side in the last 10 years. What started out as a healthy snack of raw nuts, berries, and seeds has turned into a salty, candy-laden, raisins and peanut blend that is, for the most part, unhealthy. And jerky wasn’t much better: high in sodium, nitrites, nitrates, etc. -- all the things that damage your heart and cause cancer. So Jeff and his wife said, “Let’s make jerky healthy, make trail mix healthy , and make something great by putting them together.” Chocolate and peanut butter are good separately, but luckily someone thought to put them together 50 years ago and make something unexpected and great. (Thanks for the inspiration Reese’s peanut butter cups!)
Who is Dick Stevens?
From the start, the snack was built to fuel activities and inspire adventures, and so it was given a personality instead of just a word to reflect that. The Australian outback hat in the logo is a nod to that lifestyle. The name itself was inspired by a less complicated time when kids’ names were simple and straightforward – like John, Sally and Mike, instead of today’s slicker names such as Kyler, Braden and Rylan. The name Dick Stevens ultimately resembles its contents: simple and uncomplicated. Just back to the basics.