By Colin Hogan
With the one-year anniversary of its operations approaching, the leadership at K&N’s Foods USA in Fulton is feeling optimistic about where the company is headed.
Located in the former Birds Eye Foods plant on Phillips Street, K&N’s began setting up shop in Fulton — its flagship operation in the United States — in 2013, and started commercial production on Aug. 4, 2014. By the end of September 2014, it had completed its first sale, and has continued lining up new distributors since.
At its earliest stage it only had two employees and now is up to about 60, with plenty of room in its facilities to continue growing.
The company prides itself on the food it produces, saying its products are “purely different.” Not only does it make foods that are unique to the North American market, but produces them under high quality standards with locally sourced ingredients, which company officials say sets them apart from most other frozen foods.
“Our product is a whole food. We buy ingredients, like for instance chicken, whole. It isn’t mechanically separated meat — it’s an actual chicken leg when we start with it,” said Jon McDonald, the company’s finance director. “One of the things that I, and I think a lot of people, really like about working here is that you can stand behind our food.”
K&N’s line of foods is mostly themed along the cuisine of Pakistan, where the global company is headquartered. K&N’s products are considered to be the frozen foods of choice for millions of people in that region and around the globe.
Company officials in Fulton boast the “premium edge” their foods carry. McDonald said all the chicken the company uses comes from a farm in Fallsburg, N.Y., and a lot of the produce that goes into the food comes from C’s Farm Market in Oswego. The company uses Vermont-based Cabot brand cheese for its cheese-stuffed products, and there is no MSG, no nitrates or nitrites, no preservatives and no trans fat to be found in any of their products. Most of their non-breaded foods are gluten free, as well.
“It all has a premium edge to it, and we won’t compromise on that,” McDonald said. “Any idea that has ever been brought up that would compromise the quality has been shot down immediately.”
The products — which K&N’s sells locally out of its cash and carry outlet at 28 Lakeview Avenue in Fulton — provide an interesting spin on the usual American frozen fare. Its lineup includes everything from seekh kabobs and kofta meatballs to skinless frankfurters (some stuffed with cheese) to not-so-basic chicken nuggets that come packed with a little extra spice and some cilantro. Company officials say that this day and age — with a popular culture growing increasingly interested in both exotic and quality foods — marks an ideal time to be growing K&N’s presence in the North American market.
“It’s an interesting taste, it’s a good taste, and I think America is ready to try something like this,” McDonald said.
According to warehouse and logistics manager Stephen Dean, K&N’s has already begun selling its products through 10 distributors in the U.S. and another two in Canada.
“We’re trying to really branch out in a smart way to ensure the kind of growth we want,” Dean said.
A big part of the company’s growing success, Dean said, is its employees. He said K&N’s places a premium on talented workers, and often looks to its staff for the next great idea.
“Working here isn’t just moving a box — it’s thinking outside the box,” Dean said.
Dean said ideas like opening a cash and carry outlet for the local market, and offering samples at places like the Fulton Speedway and Oswego Harborfest were both ideas that came from the bottom up.
“It was one of our team members who came up with the idea for the cash and carry store, so we sat down and came up with a spot and plan to launch,” Dean said.
Dean stressed that the company sees its employees as a vital investment, and knows the Fulton area has no shortage of talented workers who can help the company grow.
If you haven’t tried any of the fare from K&N’s, you’ll get your chance at Oswego Harborfest today. Officials from the company will have a table set up along Riverwalk East near Alex’s on the Water where they are offering samples of their foods. Samples include their Jumbo Franks filled with Cabot cheese; gluten-free Kofta meatballs in fresh tomato sauce; and their popcorn-sized chicken nuggets filled with Cabot cheese, called Croquettes.