Lucky Country licorice company was founded in 2000 in Australia, where it capitalized on the growing popularity of soft licorice in the nation.
But after five years of developing an international customer base, Lucky Country founder Lenka Dransfield uprooted the company and moved the headquarters about 10,000 miles away – to an industrial park in Lincolnton, about 35 miles northwest of uptown Charlotte.
The new location was a turning point that made all the difference for the small company. Once stateside, the “Aussie-style” soft licorice company was closer to its largest customers, the big-box stores headquartered in the U.S. The licorice is sold to retailers including Harris Teeter, Costco, Kroger, The Dollar Tree, and Wal-Mart, its biggest client.
Though the licorice company does not disclose revenues, it has 44 employees at its Lincolnton headquarters and manufacturers the weight of eight fully loaded Boeing 747 jumbo jets in licorice annually.
Chairman and CEO Billy Henry spoke on why the move was so pivotal:
Faster turn-around times: Before the move, Lucky Country was shipping to the U.S. frequently, and the turnaround was slow. “The decision to (move) ... was to be able to turn around, in a very prompt way, a very fresh, high-quality product,” Henry said.
Lincolnton was attractive because of the affordable cost of living, access to major thoroughfares and proximity to the ports of Charleston and Savannah, Henry said.
Making licorice on-site: In the early years, Lucky Country outsourced its manufacturing. But when Dransfield decided to move the company to the U.S., she opted to manufacture the licorice in-house. Henry, who spent most of his career at Nabisco Foods, said that’s the natural progression for most growing companies, as doing your own manufacturing allows you to better manage the quality.
Speedier production brought success: Before signing a contract with a large-scale retailer, Lucky Country leaders made sure they had the infrastructure and manpower to handle the large orders.
Henry’s recommendation: Have a five-year growth plan in place. “Be prepared to produce that product and replenish that product on a very consistent basis.”
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