During the recession, most companies were concerned with shoring up their finances.But Lifeway Foods, America’s largest manufacturer of kefir, took an opposite approach, hiring as much great talent as it could.
And its strategy has paid off. Lifeway has grown from $11 million in sales in 2002 to $100 million today. Half of that growth has come since the financial crisis in 2008.
CEO Julie Smolyansky says “we really did the opposite of what everyone else was doing. … We’ve had our biggest hiring bump through the recession. I’ve been able to hire some incredible talented people that would probably never have looked at Lifeway if there wasn’t a recession, and I was able to get them at much better prices than I would have been able to in a really prosperous time.”
Rather than cutting marketing and ad spending budgets like many other companies, Smolyansky expanded them, telling us that “when no one else is doing it you can make some really good marketing deals, so that’s what we did.”
There were a few reasons the company was in a position to buck conventional wisdom. Since kefir, a cultured milk product, is something of a niche item, Lifeway didn’t have many major competitors, helping that marketing push be even more effective. It’s also in the rapidly-growing natural and health foods segment.
And above all, food is a relatively recession-proof business. Smolyansky says her father, a Russian immigrant who started the business, would always say, “you might not have to buy a TV or buy a car, or go on vacation, but you still always have to buy food.”
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.