Honey Stinger names new CEO, stays committed to Steamboat Springs
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Mike Keown, who was recently hired as the chief executive of Honey Stinger, said he was drawn by the strength of the company’s brand and even more impressed by the lifestyle he has discovered since arriving in Steamboat Springs.
“Honey Stinger really is an iconic brand. To get to work on that is really exciting both on a professional level, but also a personal level,” Keown said.
Keown said he has been an avid runner going back to his days at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he lettered in cross country and track, and is excited about working for a company that features sports nutrition products with honey as one of the main ingredients.
“We’re just trying to build on the momentum of the brand and do it in a very thoughtful way,” Keown said. “When you look at the growth of sports nutrition coupled with our roots in ‘better for you’ organic-type products, and then overlay that with the broader consumer trends across the country, we really are in a special place and trying to continue to drive it.”
In addition to Keown joining the team, Honey Stinger also announced earlier this week that founder and co-owner Bill Gamber, who previously served as president and CEO for the brand, will continue to serve on the company’s board of directors and continue as CEO of sister company, Big Agnes.
Keown brings a wealth of experience after working for the past 30 years with companies including Procter & Gamble, E&J Gallo Winery and most recently Farmer Brothers.
“I’ve been in food and beverage products in different ways for 25 years,” Keown said. “I’ve worked with Minute Maid in the juice business and also with Odwalla. I was also with WhiteWave, where I spent time on brands like Silk and Horizon Organic, and then the coffee creamer space with brands like International Delight and Land O’Lakes.”
Keown joined Honey Stinger, which was founded by Bill Gamber in 2001, in late August and moved to town with his wife.
Keown said his experience can add value to Honey Stinger, which has built a reputation on making great tasting, convenient sports nutrition using responsibly sourced ingredients.
“The brand is doing well. Growth is a good problem to have, and we’re managing that and expanding while still staying true to all of the great things that Bill (Gamber) put together,” Keown said. “We are dedicated to Steamboat and to the community here. This is where Honey Stinger was born and bred, and that has played a huge role in shaping the brand’s own identity.”
The company rolled out a comprehensive brand refresh last spring, which included all new packaging, and has also added several new sponsorships, including the TCS New York City Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. It is also currently in negations with the city of Steamboat Springs to lease the office building at the airport, currently occupied by Smartwool. That will issue be discussed at the Dec. 3 Steamboat Springs City Council meeting.
Honey Stinger got a big boost in October 2018 when it announced an equity investment by Factory LLC, an operating company with $250 million of investable capital used to acquire meaningful equity stakes in high potential food, beverage and pet health companies.
Keown said Factory organization has additional resources that can be leveraged whenever and wherever they are needed. One example is for new product development.
“We have additional resources if we need them, which is always welcome, especially in an organization of our size and scale. … It’s a very good relationship,” he said.
He added Honey Stinger also has a board with a broad array of interests and experience that helps shape strategy from a management standpoint.
“I am honored to join Honey Stinger and help the brand continue to grow into new markets, increase distribution and add new products,” Keown said. “The passion and devotion of the entire team is inspiring, and I couldn’t be more excited to join the team in Steamboat.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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