Kisko Products Inc.

A family business producing innovative freeze pop products in Ontario
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Forrest Lancaster

Leslie and Glenor Josephs introduced Kisko Pop, a small frozen treat beverage in Jamaica, in the late 1960s. In 1975, the family pulled up roots and moved to Ontario. Faced with negative stereotypical views of immigrants, the husband and wife partners overcame all odds and eventually formed a new company, Kisko Products Inc. (KP). The first frozen treats produced by the family were more of a frozen beverage product with a straw. As competition grew between the Josephs’ family business and larger brands, KP adopted the classic freeze pop tube format.

Over the years, KP has surpassed competitors in both market share and innovation. The company has developed new and exciting products through strong partnerships with licensors, such as Tetley Tea, Canada Dry Motts Inc. and more recently Pepsico. In 2005, gaining strength and popularity, KP eventually acquired the national brand Mr. Freeze, which was owned by Hershey at the time. Between these partnerships and acquisitions, the company has established a large and growing customer base in Canada and the United States.

After more than 35 years of business in Canada, KP has entered the second generation of family ownership and operation. Leslie and Glenor’s sons, Mark, Randy and Peter Josephs, run the company as president, vice president of operation and manager, respectively. Leslie passed away in 2007, but Glenor remains active in the business as secretary and treasurer.

Frozen delights

“What sets us apart,” Mark explains, “Is customer service, quality and innovation. We have 65 full time employees and our staff shoots up to around 200 in the busy season. There are key people on our sales staff and management team driving the business. At the same time, the guys on the floor, from supervisors to our line people, apply great attention to detail. Our mindset makes it easy for the company to adapt to new changes.”

Changes are frequent with the business. The team is constantly working to keep up with changing demand and food trends. The business releases a consistent stream of new products and innovations on existing lines.

“We recently introduced our Mr. Freeze Electroice Sport Jumbo freeze pop for the 2014 spring and summer season,” says Mark. “This product is aimed at the active consumer, specifically teens and young adults who play sports. The pops contain potassium and sodium for optimum electrolyte replacement and better rehydration. Consumers have been asking us to develop some type of Gatorade freeze pop, knowing that a lot of parents bring regular Freezies to distribute to the team players as an after game snack. Mr. Freeze Electroice Sport will be available in all the major grocery chains across Canada.”

Another fast growing product line has been the all-natural juice pops. KP first partnered with Mott’s in 2008 and built another partnership with Welch’s in 2011. “Our affiliation with these well-known licensed brands has contributed significantly to their growth in the market,” Mark says. “Our juice items are made with all juice and no artificial colours or flavours. That area of our business has grown tremendously, seeing that consumers are now looking for better quality, healthier, more natural products.”

Cool runnings

As the business grows, KP has had to make upgrades to its facility to increase the company’s overall capacity to produce a larger variety of product lines. The company moved into a new space about six years ago and while the operation is running smoothly now, Mark says he and his team faced some challenges while adjusting in the new space.

“The first two years were a nightmare,” he explains. “The move placed a lot of stress on our staff and the result was poor production efficiency. Since then, we have worked on, and invested in, lean manufacturing skills. We are doing a lot with tracking of waste and production. It took some time, but we have found that when you can demonstrate success, people jump on board. This hasn’t been the effort of just one person. We have put the right people in the right places to make it happen.”

A huge contributing factor to improving the operation has been the strong relationships the company shares with its suppliers. For ingredients, Mark and his team try to keep it local. “We use sweeteners, water, flavours and gums, film and cartons,” he elaborates. “We have tried to maintain North American sources at all costs. We need local suppliers who can turn product around quickly in an emergency. All of our juice comes from the United States, Argentina and Ontario. Our cartons and film are all local. Few companies in North America consider the negative long-term effects of moving business overseas.”

KP tries to do its part in being conscientious in helping not to contribute to escalating unemployment rates and economic decline. “We could save money using overseas suppliers but it’s not a choice that works with our company initiatives,” Mark continues.

Above all, however, Mark and his family take pride in the relationships developed with staff members. “My father respected all his employees and treating them like family was quintessential,” he explains. “Valuing people and having integrity are the foundations of our business. Even our seasonal employees who may work anywhere from one to three months are respected highly and made to feel valued for their time with us.”

With systems and a company culture in place that promote integrity and community, KP is looking ahead to steady growth. The business is a brand leader in Canada for its freeze pops and continues to build its reputation as a caring, conscious minded manufacturer. Mark and his team continue to look for opportunities to market other products through the company’s distribution system and he hopes to see a larger market presence in the United States moving forward. “Keeping it cool not only references the product but also the professional and ethical mindset of the family,” says Mark proudly. With a strong network of loyal customers and suppliers, Kisko Products Inc. continues to provide wholesome, locally sourced products for its huge fan base.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Garrard Ovalstrapping