OMG! Pretzels produces a range of pretzels tumbled in various seasonings. While the snack producer has grown from a literal kitchen operation to a brand gaining national recognition, the treats have maintained their homemade feel, and it remains a family-run company. To learn more about the brand’s story and growth trajectory, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery connected with Stephanie Kriebel, OMG! Pretzels CEO and co-founder (the other founder: her mom, Lynn).
Jenni Spinner: Please share how you got started with your pretzels—I understand that the company was founded nine years ago, but that the family started whipping them up in the kitchen long before that.
Stephanie Kriebel: The idea for OMG! Pretzels began with an after-school snack (hint: our Garlic pretzels) that Mom used to make for us when we were growing up. After years of authentic “OMG!” reactions and countless requests from friends and family for their own private supply of pretzels to take home, we knew we had something truly special on our hands and decided to make it a business.
JS: Please tell us about how you grew in those first couple of years—what were some of the key challenges, and how did you overcome them?
SK: In 2014 we co-founded the company as a mother-daughter duo to share the family recipe with others. Lynn, my mom, who created the seasoning recipe and made the pretzel nuggets for us originally, made the pretzels in her kitchen two pans at a time and then packaged them for local retailers. These initial partners were acquired the old-fashioned way: going door to door, sharing samples, and getting on shelves.
As word spread in the Philadelphia area, we scaled up to a commercial kitchen and hired a few people to help Lynn make the pretzels. At this time, Mom was running OMG! Pretzels and I was still working full-time at my day job so that we could continue to invest in the company. A few months after we moved into the commercial kitchen, we met our first distributor and they helped us branch out regionally across Pennsylvania and into New York and New Jersey. This was a huge step for us and we continued to grow incrementally this way for the next three years.
In 2019, I took over as CEO and turned my full attention to OMG! Pretzels. We were getting too big for the commercial kitchen but we didn’t really know what the best next step was. We looked into getting a space and our own equipment, but the machines are huge and very expensive. We also realized that hand-stirring isn’t really a scalable process, so we needed to keep problem-solving.
Ultimately, we turned to a co-manufacturer and that allowed us to scale the business to the next level. This wasn’t a quick process though since we didn’t know any co-manufacturers and the ones we found online usually weren’t the right fit. When we found the right one, it was thanks to an introduction from another relationship we had. This really taught me to be open with my network about challenges we are facing because you never know who knows someone that can help you obtain that next piece of the puzzle you need to make everything work.
In 2019 and 2020, we doubled our sales each of those years and expanded to a nationwide reach, including Alaska and Hawaii. In 2022 I realized we’d need to start looking for a different co-manufacturer who could handle our larger quantities and multiple package sizes. We are in the process of onboarding that partner now, which will give us a lot of flexibility on our offerings outside of retail. We are continuing to scale and hope to be a global brand in three to five years.
JS: Then, could you please share some of the lessons you learned along the way, and what advice you might offer someone considering making the same leap with their own snack creations, from kitchen to retail?
SK: I’d say that scaling and building a strong brand/business is a job that is always evolving. OMG! Pretzels isn’t my first entrepreneurial endeavor. In fact, I’ve had several other businesses over the years and worked full-time as an educator for the first seven years on OMG! Pretzels’ existence. I learned perseverance from my parents who both modeled working for themselves throughout my childhood. I’ve always known there are challenges and rewards to starting and running your own business, but working through the ups and downs of building this brand from the ground up to where it is now while also working another job was a real challenge.
Since I’ve been CEO, I’ve really focused on creating and deepening relationships in the CPG and pretzel industries, which has taught me a lot and created connections for me and OMG! Pretzels that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. My advice to anyone out there struggling—embrace those relationships and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.
JS: Please tell us about your flavors—feel free to share which ones are the bestsellers, and your personal favorites.
SK: Our bestsellers are Garlic, Sweet & Salty, and Cheddar Jalapeno, which is my personal favorite. My mom’s favorite is Sweet Chili. Each of our flavors is bold, innovative, and has a story. Our new elevated culinary- and family memory-inspired seasoning blends take our crunchy sourdough pretzel nuggets to the next level.
Here are a few of our flavors’ stories:
- Our flagship Garlic Pretzels started it all. Mom Lynn created the seasoning blend and baked the pretzels in her oven as an after-school snack for her four children. They loved them so much, she started serving them at parties for friends and family. As they say, the rest is history!
- Our Sweet & Salty Pretzels are reminiscent of the flavor of cinnamon-sugar toast. This is totally intentional since the inspiration for the flavor is just that! Stephanie’s grandfather would come over every day before school to eat cinnamon-sugar toast and play cards with her and her siblings. The flavor pays homage to this special memory.
- Our Chesapeake Pretzels remind us of our annual trips to Pompano Beach, FL. We’d ride bikes, go fishing, and connect as a family. This flavor transports us back to those seaside vacations with every bite.
- Our Salty Butterscotch Pretzels remind us of the creamy butterscotch candies our grandma would give us when we got to her house. It wasn’t a complete visit until you got your little treat. This sweet seasoning blend brings out those warm notes in a crunchy little package.
JS: What’s the dynamic of working as a mother-daughter team like?
SK: It’s been really rewarding and brought us closer in our personal relationship. Not that we never butt heads, but we talk things out and are open in our communication.
Lynn Kriebel: It’s been wonderful getting to know what a special person Stephanie has turned out to be and we love working together. I love her so much. Lots of hugs and love!!
JS: What’s next for OMG! Pretzels—do you have any new products, retail outlets, or other news you could share?
SK: Our new flavor is Buffalo, being introduced to the market in August. Also, each of our packages has been updated for an improved, more elegant look. And, our enhanced culinary-inspired seasoning blends will make seven of our nine 9 varieties non-GMO, including fan-favorite Cheddar Jalapeno which is now all-natural and features a more layered and intense flavor than before. Our entire product line will be kosher-certified and vegan or vegetarian, for an elevated taste and crunch.