Michael F. Finete assumed the role of chief executive officer of Mary’s Gone Crackers in July 2023. Since then, he has been laying the groundwork to propel the company towards growth, transitioning from being a category leader in a niche market to achieving greater scale in snacking and, more specifically, the better-for-you snack sector.

Mary’s Gone Crackers specialises in manufacturing organic and gluten-free snacks, including crackers, cookies, and thins. Established in 2004, the company was acquired by Kameda Seika Co. Ltd., a Japanese firm with a US presence in Torrance, California, in 2013. Finete joined the company following successful stints with SupHerb Farms, Sensient Natural Ingredients, and General Mills, Inc.

“The company is a leader, but has not, in my opinion, been acting like a leader,” he remarked in an interview with Food Business News. “If you look at our category there is still a vacuum in terms of leadership, and I saw there is a real opportunity to take leadership.

“So, that is what everything we have been doing is about. How do we go from where we are now to becoming the real category leader and really be a catalyst for growth in our category.”

To be a catalyst for growth will require Mary’s Gone Crackers to get back on track. Inflation has driven up the prices of most food and beverage products, most notably specialty products like the company’s snacks, and some of its consumer base has been trading down from the category.

“We see them trading down and we can’t blame them,” Finete said. “They are more focused than ever on the out-of-pocket cost and may not be as focused on the cost per ounce. What we are doing is looking at different packaging, coming up with different sizes of product. We don’t want to say it’s a wait-out situation. We want to make sure we have the right product at the right size at the right price point for our consumer.”

New packaging formats and sizes have been a focus of the company’s R&D team. In addition to new price/package architecture, Mary’s Gone Crackers is looking to expand into the convenience store channel. Products in resealable stand-up pouches that may be hung from a pegboard are scheduled to be introduced in the third quarter of this year.

“If you look at what is going on with consumers is they are increasing the frequency of snacking, especially younger generations,” Finete said of consumer and manufacturer interest in the convenience channel. “And, in general, everyone wants to be more mobile, and they are eating more on the road. That is why we think a resealable pouch is a great solution.”

Many of the company’s ingredient suppliers are small farmers, according to Finete, who is committed to devising new solutions to support these suppliers’ growth alongside the company’s own expansion. He emphasised the importance of embracing sustainable practices like regenerative agriculture, while ensuring fairness in the supply chain.

“I have a concern with regenerative agriculture,” he acknowledged. “Over the longer term, as with many other areas of sustainability, it can become diluted, greenwashing can get in and then you have these massive multinational companies controlling everything and the small guys get pushed out.

“What is very important to us is to keep the organic (certification), because organic is what protects smaller family farms. If it just goes to regenerative and regenerative is gradually diluted, then there will be a loser and the loser will be small farmers.”

To support the growth Finete sees in the company’s future, Mary’s Gone Crackers has expanded its manufacturing plant in Reno. A fifth oven was installed in the 435,000-square-foot facility in 2023.

“We have the opportunity to expand a lot more,” he affirmed. “We have plenty of room to incorporate new equipment. But even with the equipment we are receiving and installing, we can double our capacity once more. So, we can grow an awful lot.”


Sam Allcock, a seasoned entrepreneur with over two decades of expertise in Food & Drink Editorial.

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