"I could've done that," or "Why didn't I think of that," are common responses by those who hear about Jeff Yarbrough's food business.
After all, anybody can whip up a batch of Rice Crispie marshmallow treats. But, credit Yarbrough with finding a way to mass produce the goodies at a plant in Clearfield and putting them on the shelves of convenience stores across the country.Making a living off common commodities isn't uncommon for Yarbrough. A traveling salesman by trade, the 32-year-old entrepreneur began his career peddling padlocks, door knobs and sunglasses to small stores and gas stations in the region.
"I wanted to add more products and was always looking for something convenience stores didn't carry," he said, recalling how he came up with the idea of selling the crunchy marshmallow snack.
While making his rounds through Montana, he visited a gas station-market and noticed the goodies stacked on the counter and wrapped in cellophane. The proprietor said his wife made the marshmallow treats and they sold well.
Yarbrough didn't know anyone who mass-produced the treats, so he started giving the idea some thought himself. His friends told him it wouldn't be worth the work, that no one would buy Rice Crispie marshmallow squares because they can easily make them at home. But Yarbrough decided to try it anyway. He arranged for the use of a restaurant kitchen in Ogden to make them and tested the product on his sales route.
Within four months, demand for the Marshmallow Munchie forced him to lease a production facility in Roy and move his inventory of Rice Crispie cereal and marshmallows out of his garage and into a larger storage area.
"My main problem has been keeping up with the growth."
Today, Angela Marie's Inc. - named after his 9-year-old daughter and quality control expert - is housed in a 32,000-square-foot facility in the Freeport Center, employing 40-50 people.
Yarbrough doesn't disclose sales figures, but he said his enterprise is profitable, making an average 100,000 munchies a day with annual sales growing at a 32 percent rate over five years.
His product is distributed to convenience stores in 50 states, and efforts are under way to stock vending machines, supermarkets and even export them.
Yarbrough said competing marshmallow treat makers exist. But it doesn't bother him. "It's a huge market out there. We have only penetrated 20 percent of the convenience stores. We've just scratched the surface."
Although most people inquiring about Angela Marie's believe they could've, or should've, come up with the same idea, Yarbrough said it's not as easy as it appears.
"These things are a mess to make at home and it's even more difficult to make them on a mass scale," he said, referring to baking and cooling at just the right temperatures to avoid a too gooey or to crunchy product.
"We throw out more than we would like to."