Chickamauga's Old Mill Kettle Corn To Go National In Partnership With McKee's Heartland Brands

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - by Mike O'Neal

Chickamauga's Old Mill Kettle Corn has formed a strategic partnership with Heartland brands, a subsidiary of Collegedale-based McKee Foods Corporation.

Heartland brands, makers of America’s original granola cereal, will contribute sales and distribution resources through its natural and specialty foods network, which is a natural fit, according to Nancy Plemons, national sales manager for Heartland brands.

“Old Mill Kettle Corn, besides being free of genetically-modified organisms and gluten, is simply the best tasting kettle corn on the planet,” Ms. Plemons said. “We are excited to be partnering with a brand that complements our national distribution of Heartland granola cereals and a company with values that closely align with ours.”

Established in 2002, Chickamauga-based Old Mill Kettle Corn first popped and sold its products at festivals, fairs and the Chattanooga Market. By 2009, recipes were perfected and Old Mill Kettle Corn became available at the McCallie School bookstore and several area groceries, according to CEO Mike Proctor.

Three years ago the company moved from a small space inside the Old Mill General Store in downtown Chickamauga to Industrial Drive and completed a $1 million expansion that allowed the company to begin producing its sweet and savory popcorn snacks in every greater volume.

“Three years ago, we at Old Mill started on a mission to make our snack a household name brand, just like Heartland brands cereals and Little Debbie snacks,” Mr. Proctor said. “Now, with this sales and distribution contract with Heartland brands, that vision will become a reality.”

The alliance with Heartland brands “lets the little guy compete” because it “removes the barrier of entry” into larger markets, he said.

“This is a natural fit,” Mr. Proctor said. “It can be a shot in the arm for both companies — Heartland gains a new product and we gain wide distribution.”

Company officials predict production will increase from roughly 800,000 units of product to about 6.5 million units annually, something that will require further expansion at the plant and the hiring of 10-15 additional workers during the coming year.

Heartland brands began producing granola cereals in 1968. Today, cereal varieties include Original, Raisin, Low Fat and Low Fat Raisin. Heartland® brands also produces Granola, Graham and Chocolate Graham varieties of ready-to-use pie crusts.

Like Heartland brands granola cereals, Old Mill Kettle Corn comes in a variety of flavors, including Original, Kickin’ Korn, Apple Cinnamon and Blue Raspberry, as well as chocolate drizzle and other flavors.

Mr. Proctor said Earth Fair stores, like the one on Gunbarrel Road near Hamilton Place, are the first national retailer to carry Old Mill Kettle Corn products since the alliance with Heartland brands was announced last Friday.

“The Southeast is our initial market,” Mr. Proctor said.

Many more outlets, possibly including Ingles, Whole Foods, BiLo, Harris Teeter, Shop-Rite and others will soon carry the flavored popcorn snacks, he said.

The company is also co-branding it snacks with regional collegiate powerhouses that at present include the universities of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee as well as Clemson and Florida State.

“This is a recipe for success,” Mr. Proctor said. “In two or three years, we hope to be as widely recognized as Heartland cereal or Little Debbie snack cakes.”

Many Photos Of Fairyland Development Featured In New Hiener Photo Book

Many photos of the Fairyland development on Lookout Mountain are featured in the new historic photo book being published by Garnet and Frieda Carter carried out the fanciful development in the 1920s. It was during the construction that the game of miniature golf was invented when a golf ball was hit through a drain pipe at the job site. It was first called ... (click for more)

Lookout Mountain, Ga., Holds Hearing On Property Rate Issue; Compromise Sought On Short Term Vacation Rentals

All property in Walker County, Georgia was reassessed this year, including that in the Town of Lookout Mountain, Ga. where some increased in value, some decreased and others stayed the same. The city council encouraged the property owners with increased assessments to appeal the change. Not knowing if the property values, in the end, would be up or down, the council made a decision ... (click for more)

Literacy Is Critical

Government spending is often portrayed as a freight train "quickly running out of track." And there is some truth to that statement. There is not an endless supply of money to fund every good idea that comes along, and we must acknowledge that problem. Fiscal responsibility is a must.  That is why spending on priority issues like public education is important. You can spend ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Prayer Over Despair

As a strong proponent of early voting, I joined hundreds at the Hamilton County Election Commission headquarters on Amnicola Highway yesterday to exercise what I consider one of our greatest freedoms – “for the people, by the people.” Candidly, I have never been as upset or as disappointed over my choices for President in my life. Locally I am fine with our candidates but to pick ... (click for more)

Baylor Bounces Back To Earn Finals Berth Against Briarcrest

MURFREESBORO – There’s good news and bad news concerning the Baylor volleyball team. The good news is that they will be playing Briarcrest on Friday morning at MTSU’s Murphy Center for the Division II-AA state volleyball title. The bad news is that they’ll be facing that monumental challenge without the services of their best player and team leader Gabby Gray. The x-rays ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Advances To Class AA State Final

MURFREESBORO – Never accuse the Signal Mountain volleyball team of ever doing anything the easy way. The Lady Eagles, who entered the TSSAA state tournament here as a possible favorite to win the Class AA division, started off the tournament on the wrong foot Wednesday as they lost to defending champ Sullivan South in their first match. They staved off elimination with a 3-0 ... (click for more)