Though it might not seem as if the companies selling Brach’s candy marshmallow Easter Hunt Eggs, Jell-O, and seeds for vegetables and plants have much in common, James “Jamie” Mattikow sees many connections.
The 55-year-old, who was formerly the Ferrara Candy Co.’s chief commercial officer and Kraft’s vice president of signature brands, is taking over the W. Atlee Burpee Co. in Warminster. He says his experience in candy and food retail, changing up marketing tactics and reevaluating how products are offered in different regions or stores, will help him as Burpee’s new CEO and president, succeeding George Ball, who bought the company in 1991 and has run it ever since.
Ball, 67, remains chairman of the Burpee board.
Mattikow said he has seen a consistent trend in the food business of consumers seeking fresher, less processed foods, and looking to see where those products came from, and he believes helming the Burpee brand is an opportunity to meet customers where food begins.
Burpee, known for its vegetable and flower seeds, calls itself “the nation’s largest home gardening company.” The company’s core customers, Mattikow said, tend to be homeowners in their 30s to 50s and skew female.
“I’m particularly excited knowing the interest people have with increasingly fresh food,” said Mattikow, who also mentioned that his wife is a home gardener. “People are more and more conscious of what they’re eating and where they come from. This is what I lived in for a while in the food business and it continues to evolve.”
Mattikow has also worked at Mars, Cosi Inc., Seagram, and Hasbro. He graduated from Lafayette College in Easton and holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University. While at Ferrara, Mattikow said, he helped improve Brach’s marketing after there was a bungled attempt to modernize the logo.
“Frankly the brand got lost,” Mattikow explained. So, he said, he successfully brought back the classic packaging in a contemporary way so consumers would remember the brand.
Aside from Mattikow’s experience, Ball said he chose him because “I just like him. I felt comfortable with him.” Ball said he was looking forward to helping Mattikow “get up to speed about what we do and who we are, because he comes from outside our industry.”
The company, which Ball said has about 150 full-time employees and then seasonal workers for busy months, has quadrupled in revenue and sales over the last 27 years. But in the last five years, growth has “tapered off.” Sales are about 55 percent in retail stores and 45 percent through the catalog or online, he said.
Though Ball has noticed more people interested in growing their own vegetables to seek out fresh food, he said he hasn’t seen people “racing to the seed counter. It isn’t quite as big as one would think with all the food scares, but people are going to gardening for vegetables primarily for the taste, but secondarily for the yield. In other words, it’s a really good deal.”