Former Wing-Time owner hoping his new venture will take flight
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sitting in his office in Steamboat Springs, surrounded by rock ’n’ roll posters and memorabilia from his days running Wing-Time, Inc., a company that manufactures and distributes gourmet Buffalo wing and barbecue sauces, Terry Brown looks to the future and his next endeavor.
“It was a combination of wanting, needing to do something,” Brown said. “Kind of the joke over the last five years has been that I’m retired. The joke was that I was a stay at home dad — I was never at home between consulting to the specialty food trade, coaching at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and I was really involved at Eliana’s (his daughter’s) school.”
Brown said, because of the sale of Wing-Time, Inc., he was able to spend more time with his daughter. But, now that she is a freshman at Steamboat Mountain School, there is a bit of an opening for a new venture.
“In middle school, I was really involved because they want parent involvement. That was part of the plan. But now she is high school,” Brown said. “I got to take some time off from working, but my family said I’m too young to retire. They said I had to find something to do. The idea of getting a job and working for someone after having my own business for 19 years — I don’t think I would last too long there.”
So, Brown decided the time to get back into the specialty food industry had come. His passion for Buffalo wings inspired him to start Wing-Time, Inc. back in 1994 in Davis, Calif. He relocated the business to Steamboat Springs before selling it to Panorama Foods, Inc. five years ago.
But, he said the wheels started spinning about a year and a half ago when he got the idea of starting a premium snack blend company, called the Steamboat Snack Company, that would produce a line of healthy, tasty snack packs called Altitude Snacks.
Altitude Snacks offers four blends, each with a suggested retail price of $6.99, including Trail Blaze that has cherries, Granny Smith apples, apricots, macadamias and almonds; Alpine Glow which includes peaches, golden berries, cashews and almonds; Mountain Magic which includes pineapple, apples, jumbo raisins, cashews and pecans; and Spring Creek which includes pears, pineapple, currants, pistachios and almonds.
The pouches come with plenty of sweet and salty tastes, but he wanted to make sure the items were top-notch, healthy and had zero added sugar. He enlisted his family, friends and even some of the students he works with as part of the CEO program at the high school developing and refining the blends. He said he used different focus groups to make sure the choices and his blends would be popular with consumers.
“My whole model is a little different than Wing-Time,” Brown said. “It’s not about getting out mass grocery distribution and working with distributors, but going more direct to the consumer and wholesale.”
The company launched in August and is already available at 15 different stores including the Artisans Market of Steamboat, Chief Theater, Drunken Onion, Elevated Olive of Steamboat, Holiday Inn, Love Climbing Adventure, Lyon’s Corner Drug, Ski Haus, Steamboat Meat and Seafood Company, Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare, Straightline Sports, the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, Twisted Trails Running Company, the Space Station and Wild Plum Market. It can also be found at Elevation and Sundance dance studios, and Brown offered the premium blends this summer at the Main Street Farmers Market. Brown said he has worked hard locally to sell his product wholesale, but said he is also hoping to go directly to the consumer. He said the company plans to use social and digital media to drive traffic to his website, altitudesnacks.com, where he offers consumers a chance to buy special packages in bulk. Brown said local buyers may find it more convenient to drop by one of the many stores carrying the product in Steamboat.
“Altitude Snacks is the brand, but the company is Steamboat Snack Company,” Brown said. “I really want to be promoting Steamboat, and this brand embodies the lifestyle of living in Steamboat in the mountains, and it is designed for the outdoor active lifestyle consumer who likes to bike or ski or hike.”
It was that attention to the active lifestyle that inspired Brown to put his product in smaller, durable pouches, so the snack pouches could fit in an extra pocket, or a Camelbak or be tucked away a backpack.
“We just had fun with the names. There is really no rhyme or reason to it. We wanted strong packaging with a lot of differentiation,” he said. They are not huge packs. Some manufactures make pouches that are really big for shelf place presence, and there is a lot of air and fluff in there. I intentionally made our pouches small.”
The packaging uses a topographic map for the background, and the logo, while open to interpretation, can be viewed as the S-shaped tracks left behind by skiers or may conjure up images of a mountain. It also hides the initials “A” and an “S” for Altitude Snacks.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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