Amelia Nielson-Stowell: Sandy inventor tells sandwich eaters to can it

Man wants his Candwich meals to be 'a convenience food like bottled water'

Published: Tuesday, July 20 2010 10:48 p.m. MDT

Candwich comes in Peanut Butter & Grape Jelly and BBQ Chicken flavors. Kirkland plans to release pepperoni pizza and French toast flavors later.

Matt Gillis, Deseret News

SANDY — Move over, Lunchables.

Step aside, Hot Pockets.

There's a new instant snack food in town, and this one has a shelf life.

Introducing the Candwich, a food product that is ... well, just that — a sandwich in a can. Marketed with the slogan "Quick & Tasty, Ready To Eat," the Candwich doesn't need to be refrigerated, comes in a 24-ounce soda-style can and can be stored for up to a year.

It's the brainchild of Mark Kirkland, a Sandy resident who has spent 10 years trying to capitalize on the idea.

"There are 12 billion cans of soda sold in vending machines a year, so if they buy a sandwich, there's a real profit," Kirkland said, surrounded by prototypes of the cans in peanut butter and jelly and barbecue chicken form.

The launch product — peanut butter and jelly — includes a plastic-packaged hot dog bun, individual condiment packets of peanut butter and jelly (grape or strawberry flavor) and a Nestle candy product "for the kids," he said.

"It's actually good. I'm not kidding," Kirkland said as he gobbled down a Candwich. "The bread is the main thing. It's soft and tastes great."

That bread, made locally by Rocky Mountain Bakery (a division of Dunford Bakers), was what won him over. The development of a shelf-stable bread made the Candwich possible. Consultants who perfect such technology for the military helped with the Candwich, Kirkland said.

The meat (barbecue chicken is baked into the bread) also is made locally by Morrison Meat Pies.

Still, the Candwich's development has come with its setbacks. It's been a decade-long process that began when Kirkland thought of the ideas in the '90s as a way to sell cookies. But it took years to secure a patent. He even bought a Candwich warehouse in Florida that was damaged by a hurricane.

The worst blow, though, was a bum investor. Travis Wright, of Draper, signed on to Candwich in 2003, but his commitment was spotty at best. Wright ended up investing a little more than $1 million in Candwich.

But Wright was sued by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission this month after he raised $145 million from 175 investors and only used $6 million of it for promised real estate ventures.

A story published last week in the New York Times about Wright's case — titled "Money in the Bank? No, Sandwich in a Can" — has catapulted the Candwich to fame.

Kirkland is fielding roughly a dozen media calls a day from all over the world. He's been featured in Newsweek, National Public Radio and Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

The father of three is jovial about the attention, most cracking jokes about the product. When watching a clip from "The Colbert Report," Kirkland laughed when host Stephen Colbert says the Candwich uses "the same technology used to store motor oil."

"I'm getting 10 million bucks of free publicity now, but a month later would have been better," Kirkland said.

Wright "ruined" him, he said, but after equipment comes in and samples are sent out, Kirkland anticipates Candwich on stores and in vending machines by August.

New Candwich flavors will roll out monthly, Kirkland said. Pepperoni pizza and French toast are next.

Kirkland, a Utah State University graduate, defends the Candwich's nutritional value (a PB&J is 450 calories but no trans fat) and envisions it for "anyone who is hungry." He thinks it will be a great asset in disaster-relief situations.

"I want it to be more of a convenience food, like bottled water," Kirkland said. "When bottled water first came out, everyone thought, 'Who would pay for that when there's a drinking fountain over there?' Now, I have a bottle of water every day."

Call it brilliant or gag-worthy, this Twinkie of the sandwich is piquing interest. The Candwich website, markonefoods.com, crashed last week with all the coverage, and Kirkland has received hundreds of e-mails, mostly from geek-tech males (blogs at Boing Boing, Gizmodo and Geeks.com have all written about Candwich).

"It's morphed because it's so novel. People have never seen anything like it," Kirkland said.

e-mail: astowell@desnews.com

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