KLN Family Brands


As a third-generation family company, KLN Family Brands manufactures and supplies pet food, confections and candy to retailers across the United States.

By Stephanie Crets

Now in its third-generation of family ownership, KLN Family Brands is upholding its 50-plus year tradition of producing high-quality products in both the pet food industry, as well as the candy and confections arena.  KLN Family Brands is made up of two distinct companies:  Tuffy’s Pet Foods and Kenny’s Candy & Confections.

Tuffy’s was established in 1964. Throughout the years and today, the company manufactures dry, semi moist dog and cat foods. The innovative products it produces with clean labels can be found in its premium brands including NutriSource, Pure Vita and Natural Planet. In these brands, customers can find grain-free, natural and unique ingredients and premium protein sources such as bison, duck and venison. In addition, it manufactures private label dog food for a handful of prominent companies in the pet food industry.   

Recently, Tuffy’s invested $75 million on a new state-of-the-art extrusion facility. “We were at a place until this past year where we were producing high-quality foods in an aged facility,” President Charlie Nelson explains. “We needed to ask ourselves, ‘Are we going to continue being a serious player in this industry or not?’ If we are in, we need to be the safest, highest-quality facility in the country. That is what we expect from ourselves today and going forward.”

In addition to the company’s $75-million investment, Tuffy’s is in the middle of an upgrade to other areas of the facility to better accommodate changes in diets and other innovative trends in the industry. “The pet food industry is an exciting and ever-changing one,” Nelson says. “We are focused on working hard and investing in having the ability to provide the products that are most demanded. Grain-free diets and unique protein source diets continue seeing substantial growth in our industry. We need to make sure we are set up to efficiently produce high-quality products in the category. We invested in this facility because we love this industry. We greatly enjoy this business and the partners who we work with.” 

Pet foods make up a significant amount of business at KLN Family Brands. The company remains excited about the industry and the opportunity to grow moving forward. By upgrading its facility, the company can capitalize on growth opportunities and should be able to increase capacity by 30 percent.

KLN Family Brands expands from feeding pets to the owners’ sweet tooth with Kenny’s Candy & Confections. Kenny’s was established in 1987 and added confections in 2011. The company manufactures licorice, gummies and fruit snacks, while also producing indulgent drizzled, specialty popcorn, chocolate enrobed and panned items. Wiley Wallaby is the premium gourmet line of licorice products and known for its unique flavor profiles and a soft textured bite, which was created in 2007 after extensive research and development. Kenny’s has also built prominent relationships with national private label partners and have licensing agreements with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and Pearson’s.

In 2013, Kenny’s began manufacturing gummies and fruit snacks, along with valued-added types with natural colors, natural flavors and real fruit juice. Most recently, Kenny’s crafted the Sweet Chaos brand, which consists of a mixture of specialty kettle corn, pretzels and potato chips drizzled in chocolate.  Today, its top products on the market are Sweet Chaos Original and Peanut Butter.

High-Quality Products

Tuffy’s and Kenny’s values safety and produces high-quality products in facilities that are inspected and audited several times a year to maintain their Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certifications.

In 2015, KLN sold its snack food division, which has allowed it to focus on pet food, candy and confections now more than ever. “There aren’t any immediate plans to expand manufacturing outside of Perham, Minn., but both our pet food and candy and confections divisions do sell and ship products throughout the U.S., as well as several other countries,” Nelson notes. The company has built and maintained strong relationships with some of the largest retailers as well as smaller independents across the country.

KLN may not be the largest but Nelson says it does things right.  “I believe we work extremely well with our customers,” he says. “We are strong at doing what we say and saying what we do.” 

Employees are Family

KLN is truly a family business and every employee becomes part of the greater family company. Nelson finds that most employees are long term and stay with the company for many years. KLN employs about 470 people from the community. The facilities are all located in Perham, Minn., within about a mile of each other.  Nelson says the community actually has more job opportunities than people available in the immediate area, and a number of employees commute from surrounding communities.

“The most important thing here is that we care deeply about our employees,” Nelson says. “We pay fair wages, offer free individual health insurance and offer profit sharing. When we make money, our employees do too. We’ve always cared about our employees, but a tight workforce has continued to make us take a look at how we recruit and retain people.”

KLN not only wants to retain its employees, they want to ensure everyone has the opportunity for a life filled with health and wellness. The company has established “KLN Care” to provide opportunities for healthy lifestyles both inside and outside the work environment by encouraging healthy eating, physical activity and educational support among employees. At every facility, a wellness committee assists employees to determine specific needs and helps them lead a healthier lifestyle through personal training, walking groups and wellness coaching.

Giving Back

KLN believes in giving back to its community by supporting a number of organizations, including The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The Mayo Clinic, Perham-Dent Public Schools, Relay for Life and The Boys and Girls Club of the Perham Area. KLN’s latest and most formal addition is the Pinky Swear Foundation, which works to ease the financial impacts experienced for families that have a child with cancer.

“We are quite big on giving back to the community, worthy organizations and foundations,” Nelson says. “A portion of every KLN purchase is put back into the community.

“I’m proud that we remain family owned, of the relationship we have with our community and how we value our employees,” he continues. “We will never stop working towards being an even stronger company and producing great products, while making sure our employees have the best work experience possible.”  

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