After witnessing the racial injustices of 2020, American Licorice Company (ALC) CEO John Kretchmer was deeply disturbed. This compelled Kretchmer to be proactive and find ways he and his company could advocate for diversity and inclusion.
A few years ago, ALC took a step back to analyze its core values, determining both what values were important to them and what values they saw in their co-workers. That is when they determined their “Ice T” core values: integrity, compassion, engagement, and teamwork. They also redefined their brand purposes to promote these ideals.
“We wanted to redefine the purpose for our flagship brands,” said VP of Marketing Kristi Shafer. “The SOUR PUNCH® brand purpose is ‘Embrace Your Punch,’ which is a message about self-love. We know our candy gets into the hands of young people so our goal is to let them know they should love who they are and what makes them unique and special. However, it also means they should appreciate the differences in others; not tolerate, but appreciate. The RED VINES® brand stands for ‘Peace, Love, and Vines.’ This is message of spreading peace, love and kindness to others. Kind of like paying it forward in a way. It seems like a perfect fit because when you open a package of Red Vines, you extend an offer to share with those around you. It’s a way of connecting with this other, sort of like a handshake.”
While ALC repositioned the purpose behind its products to reflect the company’s core values, Kretchmer did not stop there. In accordance with those values and Kretchmer’s newfound commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, ALC established its Diversity & Inclusion Council in July of 2020 led by Shafer and co-chair Rosalyn Wells.
The 12 council members have helped to give a voice to the people within and outside of the company. With this desire to give everyone a voice, one of their notable projects last year centered around support and education regarding the election. Wanting to remove all potential barriers, the council made the decision to give election day off with pay for all ALC employees.
“In addition to getting the day off, we implemented several types of communication leading up to election day to help everyone prepare,” Shafer said. “With signage at our two facilities and within the community, emails, social posts and mailings, we really tried to cover every avenue to communicate and educate those who were interested.
In an effort to tackle the issue of food insecurity, the Diversity & Inclusion Council has donated to two organizations near ALC’s manufacturing facilities. A donation of $75,000 went to Arise & Shine Food and Outreach Center of Michigan City, whose goal is to help the community with food insecurity and well as support those on the path to becoming self-sufficient through a variety of programs. It also donated $100,000 to Tri-City Volunteers, a multi-faceted food bank near the company’s Union City facility, which operates to serve the diverse communities of Freemont, Newark and Union City, California.
In addition, the council has begun laying the ground work for an amazing mentorship program. “We’re trying to build something that is different, where we can walk with students from middle school all the way through high school. Our goal is to remove any obstacles in these young people’s lives so they have the opportunity to develop into the best version of themselves,” Shafer said. “We want to support them every step of the way. We can’t do it alone, but we will have partners in the community to help us every step of the way.”
As Partner and Spokesman for ALC, Olympian Norris Frederick has traveled with Shafer to local schools where he’s shared his story with kids about what it is like to be a bully and get bullied, both of which he said he has experienced. With Frederick already working as a part of ALC’s team to spread the Embrace Your Punch message, and staying committed to helping kids learn the importance of being kind to one another, Shafer and Wells thought he would be a perfect fit for the council. Frederick is excited at the prospect of helping young people at a critical age discover the potential within themselves through lending a helping hand.
“We want these kids to be a product of their potential and not their environment. It’s very hard for someone to see light at the end of the tunnel when no one around them has any light,” Frederick said. “I think us coming in and showing them all the different aspects of what they can potentially be by taking these journeys with them will help. Whether it’s difficult times or times when they need to be praised, we want to be a part of all of it.”
For this mentorship program, the council is looking for more partners as well as connections in the community that will allow them to tap into local resources.
To learn more about American Licorice Company’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, visit https://americanlicorice.com/diversity-inclusion/.