Doug Renfro is always looking for new places to sell Mrs. Renfro's salsas, but he didn't see this one coming.
At an industry trade show, the president of the Fort Worth food company was approached by the Burlington Coat Factory.
"We're no longer surprised at what happens at food shows anymore, but this surprised us," he said.
It's called alternate channeling, selling to an otherwise incongruous retailer. Doug Renfro calls it an "in-and-out" sale, usually a one-shot deal that might work for sheer novelty's sake and lead a consumer to fall in love with the product and hunt it down later at the local Kroger.
Not only did the deal work, but Burlington placed a special repeat order for 5,000 jars of Mrs. Renfro's Ghost Pepper Salsa, an extreme variety made with bhut jolokia, once certified by Guinness World Records as the world's hottest chile pepper.
A similar arrangement with Big Lots also worked.
They were part of the reason that the 72-year-old firm is not treading water like the rest of the Mexican sauce category but is seeing big growth.
Renfro quoted the research firm IRI as saying that the category, which is mainly salsas, did $1.1 billion for the 12 months ending in October 2011 but showed little expansion. Renfro Foods expects to sell $16 million to $17 million this year, up from about $15 million last year.
Sales to long-standing customers are up, which he attributes to sales reps urging chains to try additional flavors. And exports have been good.
When Doug Renfro returned to the family business 20 years ago, annual sales to Canada were a mere $12,000. Now they're about a quarter of a million dollars and growing at a double-digit clip, he said.
The reason? Mrs. Renfro's is the only top brand made in Texas and the first to introduce flavors like mango habanero and ghost pepper.
"At first, Canadians didn't know what to do with it," he said. Now they do. "Food Network probably single-handedly turned things around."
Farmers National's new office
Omaha-based Farmers National Co., which specializes in land and mineral management and real estate services, has opened an office in Fort Worth to serve its expansion in the Southwest.
The company has leased 4,800 square feet in the Chase Bank Building, 420 Throckmorton St. The office has 12 employees, including farm and ranch property, and oil and gas property managers. The office will oversee operations in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Louisiana.
"Our new territory provides land and mineral management services in an area now covering an additional 900,000 acres," President and CEO Jim Farrell said in a statement.
Farmers National is employee-owned and is among the nation's leading agricultural real estate and farm and ranch management companies. The company said it sold more than 3,000 farms and ranches worth more than $1.7 billion in the past five years. It manages more than 5,300 farms and ranches in 24 states.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552
Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718