Brent Bumpers Back in the Mix with ‘Wicked Mix'

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 12:00 am  

Brent Bumpers is back in the game, the game being upscale snack foods.

“I guess I’m just a serial entrepreneur, which, unbeknownst to most people, my father was as well before he got into politics,” he said.

Bumpers’ father is, of course, former Sen. Dale Bumpers, and the snack food is Wicked Mix, a combination of pecan halves, cashews and almonds and other “tasty morsels.” The flavor is unique, Bumpers said, salty, sweet and spicy but also buttery. He plans to position it as “a little bit decadent, a little bit healthy,” Bumpers said.

Bumpers, of Little Rock, is leasing “a modest production facility” in the Cajun’s Wharf area, where he employs five part-time workers, though, he said, three of those are nearing full-time status. Production began in mid-summer.

Wicked Mix currently comes in three flavors, in seven-ounce stand-up pouches: spicy original, chocolate-laced and spicy hot chipotle. He and his team are working on a fourth flavor, either garlic, ranch dill or honey mustard.

Bumpers called Wicked Mix a “modest operation.” The enterprise has either broker or distribution coverage in about 18 states, “but we don’t yet have anything close to saturation in any major markets.”

If the past is prologue, that could come fairly soon. Bumpers founded the Brent & Sam’s cookie bakery in 1985. The company was a success, making branded and private label premium cookies at its North Little Rock facility, cookies it sold throughout the United States. Brent & Sam’s was sold to Lance Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., in 2008. Lance closed the bakery, which had employed 72 full-time workers and 20 part-timers, a year later, moving production to Charlotte.

“I never thought I would get back into a perishable food item,” Bumpers told Arkansas Business. So why did he?

“So few people seem able to do or pull off what I did with Brent & Sam’s cookies that I almost felt obligated to do it because it’s something that I have expertise at,” he said. In addition, “I just am plagued by bad genes with needing a constant challenge as well.”

Bumpers also is glad to be employing people again. “I still have a bad taste in my mouth about Lance’s foods moving Brent and Sam’s bakery out of town a year after they bought it,” he said. “In hindsight, I probably could have made them agree to keep it here at least five years. I wish I had done that, because if they had left it for five years, they probably would have stayed forever.”

Bumpers is wary of naming his accounts because “you can’t help but alienate people,” he said. “If you start listing accounts, you’re going to irritate those you didn’t list. It’s around town.” The curious can learn more at WickedMixes.com.

A lot of Wicked Mix shipments are going out of state. “When I sold Brent & Sam’s cookies, Arkansas constituted maybe 1.5 percent of our sales. The majority of our product is going out of state, which always makes me feel good because you’re bringing money into Arkansas from other states when you do that.”

 

 

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