Sometimes you just have to do things yourself. An idea that germinated in 1976 for Bob Quinn of Big Sandy is now the delicious and hard-to-put-down snack, Kracklin Kamut, because he decided to take the project into his own hands.
“This was my first idea of what to do with this ancient grain 40 years ago,” said Quinn who had finished his doctorate in plant biochemistry at the University of California-Davis at that time, and he thought the larger grains of this particular wheat were well-suited for a snack similar to Corn Nuts. When he approached the Corn Nuts company, he was initially greeted with an enthusiastic response. “They wanted 10,000 pounds,” said Quinn.
Although Quinn and his father, Mack Quinn, started with only a jar full of the novelty Khorasan wheat seeds that were originally from Egypt, he returned to the Corn Nuts manufacturer three years later as he was closer to the potential of growing the amount they required. By then, the gentleman he worked with had left the company and no one else showed interest. “That’s where it kind of died,” he said.
Although his initial concept stalled, Quinn continued growing the unique wheat, and by 1990 he and his father trademarked the Kamut Khorasan wheat name and expanded its popularity throughout the world.
Yet, it wasn’t until 5 years ago that Quinn decided to revisit his original idea for a healthy, organic snack. For more than 30 years there was no interest, so he said he decided, “We’ll just to do it ourselves. This is our first retail project.”
With 5 grams of protein and less than 200 calories per 1.4 ounce serving it’s a snack well- tolerated by many of those with wheat sensitivities (although not those with Celiac disease) while offering a satisfying crunch. “It’s healthy, it’s tasty, and it’s not expensive,” said Quinn. “It’s high in protein, and it’s high in fiber.”
Kracklin Kamut production happened in a smaller space for several years, yet Quinn’s crew recently moved to an expanded facility in June to meet the need of the growing demand from customers.
“(The former facility) was a quarter of the size,” said Randy Edwards, production manager at Big Sandy Organics, which handles the production of Kracklin Kamut. “Everything was very cramped. We got into this facility because it was the right time to do it.”
Kracklin Kamut’s ingredients are simple. Made with locally grown Kamut wheat along with the safflower oil from Quinn’s farm, as well as sea salt for flavor, this high-protein snack satisfies
hunger without unnecessary calories or artificial ingredients.
Thomas Dilworth, general manager, said they plan to have a sweet cinnamon and dill flavoring out in early 2018 with a spicy addition later in the year. When the raw grain is brought into the facility, it is boiled to expand and soften the kernels.
“The best smell around is when we boil it because it smells like cinnamon rolls,” said Edwards.
After boiling, the grain is poured into the frying vats of safflower oil, and once properly crisped, it is followed by a spin in the de-oiler to remove any excess oil. To finish, the tumbler seasons the snack with sea salt or flavoring. After processing, everything is packed and labeled to ship to the retail markets. “Right now, in Montana we are in 49 stores,” said Dilworth, including 2Js and North 40 Outfitters in Great Falls.
The challenge, as with any value-added product, is the marketing aspect. For many agricultural producers, growing the wheat or other crop is something they know how to do very well. But to take it from the field to the store shelves is a completely different endeavor achieved through trade shows and making sure samples reach the hands of the decision-makers. While the ingredients and the process are not very complicated, ensuring that the equipment meets their needs is an important piece of the process.
Quinn said when they first began, they had to buy what they could afford. This meant equipment from China. “We put all of this together for less than $25,000. It got us started, but it wasn’t sustainable,” explained Quinn.
The quality wasn’t there, and when the first oil cooker shot out flames at one point, they knew they needed to do something differently.
Dilworth said, “Nobody could speak (or read) Chinese, so we couldn’t find people to work on it.” It had to be replaced.
“We’re going to American-made one piece at a time,” said Quinn.
content used from the Great Falls Tribune