A Success Story of Collaboration and Mutual Support in West Michigan's Food Industry
West Michigan's food industry is known for its remarkable culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among businesses. One example that stands out is between Fry Daddy's and Koeze Co., which successfully blends tradition and innovation. Fry Daddy's is a promising start-up that specializes in party mixes and breading, while Koeze Co. is a respected company with over 100 years of producing quality nuts and treats. Their relationship is built on mutual support and a shared commitment to excellence.
In 2021, Fry Daddy's was officially launched by husband-and-wife duo Morgan and Dan Buehler. Their party mixes received enthusiastic reviews from friends and family during holiday gatherings, which made them recognize their untapped business potential. The woman-owned company quickly grew from producing small batches in a church kitchen to utilizing space in the Food, Agriculture, Research, and Manufacturing Center (FARM) at Muskegon Community College. Their small team started selling directly at the Muskegon Farmers Market and, in less than three years, has expanded to Meijer stores across the region.
Selling at the farmers' market provided Fry Daddy's with valuable direct customer feedback. "We were at the Muskegon Farmers Market and selling out every week,” Dan shared. “Customers kept coming back and started suggesting flavors or variations." This type of direct consumer feedback was not readily available to Koeze Co., as they were well-established and did not sell at farmers' markets to test new ideas. Jeff Koeze, President of Koeze Co., expressed, "Working with Fry Daddy's has given us insight into practices that could benefit Koeze Co.” Dan added, “When I get a chance to help or share something that benefits Koeze, it brings a big smile to my face.”
Through the mentorship and guidance provided by Koeze Co., Fry Daddy's has learned how to navigate the food industry’s complexities, ensuring sustainable growth while upholding the integrity of their products. This reciprocal learning process between a start-up and an established company highlights the open-mindedness and collaborative nature of West Michigan's food industry.
"The food industry is incredibly complex, with allergens and regulatory issues that need to be understood. The bigger you grow, the more complex it becomes," Jeff explained. Understanding these barriers and challenges has given Fry Daddy's an advantage in expanding their product lines.
"Customers are increasingly interested in gluten-free options, and our sales figures confirm that,” Dan shared.” “Jeff's coaching and investment helped us navigate that regulatory learning curve with fewer late nights spent searching for information online."
Finding the right partners encourages the exchange of ideas and builds expertise. In addition to Koeze Co’s support, Fry Daddy's also collaborates with Serve U Success for distribution. Moreover, they pay it forward by sharing their knowledge and experiences with other entrepreneurs starting their businesses.
"Along the way, I received support from Pop Daddy, Dot's Pretzels and others. They asked me to share what I know and help others just starting out,” Dan said. “I learned how to do things the right way because someone helped me. I'll do what I can to assist others because we all face the same challenges."
The relationship between Fry Daddy's and Koeze Co. shows the important exchange of wisdom and support in West Michigan's food industry. By embracing each other's strengths and knowledge, these companies foster an environment where businesses of all sizes can thrive and contribute to the region's reputation as a hub of culinary excellence.