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Community Highlights: Meet Ken and Brenda Allen of Kenny Bob’s Foods

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ken and Brenda Allen. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Ken and Brenda founded Kenny Bob’s Foods (KBF) in 2015. Our original goal was to start a barbecue food truck. One of the requirements for food truck operation in Tennessee was access to a commissary or stand-alone kitchen. We located a small building in Greenbrier Tennessee to build our own commissary since the closest commercial operation was in Nashville. While we worked on securing funding for the food truck operation we decided to open as a restaurant. During this time, we began producing our barbecue sauces developed from Ken’s personal recipe. 

After investing our retirement funds, family member investment money, and devoting a year and a half of struggle we were no closer to our food truck goal, and we were out of money. We closed the restaurant in the fall of 2017 and took a few months to regroup. 

Just before Christmas 2018, Ken got an unexpected email from a company in Madison Tennessee; the owner had seen our Facebook page. He asked if we would be interested in commercially bottling our sauce for distribution and sale. After several meetings and tweaking his recipe for mass production they produced the first batch March 1, 2019. Kenny Bob’s Sippin Dippin & Flippin Sauce hit the market. 

In the summer of 2019, we became a vendor at our local farmers’ market and the First Friday Night Markets in Springfield. We also took every opportunity to hand it out to family, friends, and business associates around the country. Our local following grew and our reputation outside of Tennessee was beginning to form. Over the winter months, Ken worked on a plan to establish a production and bottling facility in order to take our sauce business to the next level; one that would allow us to produce our sauces more efficiently, create and produce new products, and develop new, larger markets. 

Ken gathered a group of local business and community leaders to discuss the idea and to determine the feasibility of such an operation. By summer the idea was coming together. We rented space at the former Springfield Skating Center which had been newly renovated into a small business center. We moved our operation there in November of 2020. Our next step was to file for USDA Certification, which we obtained in March of 2021. Our first batch of sauce was produced in April of 2021. We now have 3 employees who are involved in the day-to-day operation and management of our business and have expanded to co-packing other sauces for new entrepreneurs like ourselves. 

We are currently featured in several farm stores across our county and just recently partnered with Express Rx out of Little Rock, AR to sell our products in several of their pharmacies.

Kenny Bob’s Foods is also proud to be a part of the Pick Tennessee program.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The road has been more than a little bumpy. We have had a lot of hurdles to jump over to get approved through the USDA and then finding investors who believed in us. Ken could write a book on what it takes to get each sauce tested for USDA approval, finding the right design for labels as well as the nutritional facts to have our sauce ready for grocery store shelves. It is quite the process. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Kenny Bob’s Foods’ mission is to nurture and mentor new food production businesses by providing necessary tools and services. One of the ways we do that is through co-packing for other entrepreneurs. 

Secondly, to become a leader in the barbecue and grilling markets by creating our own innovative products. 

We are very proud to offer sauces that are as healthy as possible, and we use as many local ingredients as possible when available. 

We have the capability to create our graphic designs and produce professional-quality labels, all in-house. 

Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
Ken: Family get-togethers. Growing up our house was the gathering spot for extended family. Big meals and lots of laughter and good food. 

Brenda: I grew up in a Stuckey’s Pecan Candy Shoppe where I learned at a very young age how to be an entrepreneur. My mom was always finding new ways to make money in our store. Ken and I have both tried different avenues of entrepreneurship over our 28 years of marriage. I started encouraging him from the very beginning to bottle the sauce that he made for family gatherings. It only took him 20+ years to listen. Our newest sauce called “Opal’s Gold” was taken from a recipe that my mom used to make when I was a kid. It is now our family favorite. 

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