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Exploring Life & Business with Erica Humphrey of Neck Nosh

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Humphrey.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
It started when my husband went to the Great American Beer Festival. I was a teacher at the time and at home with our newborn. Sterling sent me pictures while at the festival. Among the first was of him and his two friends in their Denver hotel wearing a neck full of… snack foods?!? I literally laughed out loud.

“What the heck is that?!?” I asked him.

“It’s a pretzel necklace. Many people make them wear them at the festival to help them through all the tastings. We tried to buy them, but nobody sold them. So we spent hours getting the supplies and making them.”

I pondered to myself how these guys had about 48 hours to be in Denver and found these necklaces so important, they spent half a day putting them together. Must be a big deal.

At the next beer festival we attend in our home in Sacramento, we wore homemade pretzel necklaces. People ask us where they can get some too. The answer is, “Sorry, they’re homemade.” This continued for many festivals. We realized people just don’t always have the time to put it together in advance.

A couple of years later, we had our second child and I decided to stay home to have more flexibility with the schedule as Sterling’s was getting increasingly intense (he was training as a cardiothoracic surgeon). That pretzel necklace thing kept bugging me. Why hasn’t someone made these for sale? They are obviously wanted!

So, I started up a cottage food business in 2017 and named it Neck Nosh. Sterling, my husband, helped me develop a special tool for making necklaces. I sold the necklaces primarily at local beer festivals. At my first festival, I sold out in an hour. It was such a hit, I literally had customers profusely thank me for making the necklaces.

Over time, I received email requests for large orders. A beer festival in Florida, an Oktoberfest in Georgia, and orders from entertainment companies and even hotels in Denver. From there I decided to grow into more of a wholesale business, as there are only so many “local” beer festivals for which one can sign up. I enrolled in a food-business program and was later accepted into the Alchemist Kitchen Incubator Program.

Today, Neck Nosh is double-trademarked, fully licensed packaged food. We ship all over the country. And guess who put in a large order this year? The Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Talk about coming full circle!

Today we are also working with Aramark and just fulfilled an order for an NFL game. The future is bright for Neck Nosh!

Additional fun fact: I am a craft beer enthusiast and am a frequent guest on a craft beer podcast.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Childcare was often an issue for events, especially in the early years. Sterling worked at least 80 hours a week while training so we would have to get a sitter (expensive!)

Also, sounds cliche, but during the pandemic, we took quite a hit. The product is social and event-based. Right before the shutdown, we sold a large order to Knotts Berry Farm. As the order was arriving to them, the shutdown ensued.

Needless to say, the necklaces did not get their proper debut at the theme park. I took the time to educate myself more on running a food business; however, it would be false to say that time didn’t impact progress.

As you know, we’re big fans of Neck Nosh. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Neck Nosh are pretzel necklaces packaged and sealed for easy distribution at events such as beer festivals, casinos, and other events where fun is the center. The pretzels cleanse the palate between tastings, keep folks snacking and absorb the alcohol while freeing up the hands for high fives! We are all about foodie fun and proud of being a social-purpose business. In both 2021 and 2022, we contracted with PRIDE Industries (employment for persons with disabilities) to assist in making our necklaces. As a former special education teacher, the social purpose part of the business plays an important role in the mission.

Our packaging allows for individual branding at a very reasonable cost. Additionally, in 2023 we are rolling out a necklace with a customizable center medallion for further promotional marketing potential. Can you think of more fun advertising than a delicious snack folks wear that also displays your brand? One thing is for sure, Neck Nosh is a very fun and fresh way to provide swag for an event-goer!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Neck Nosh at NorCal’s largest beer festival Capitol Beerfest, PRIDE Industries team, and Craft Beer Republic

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