Swapped Stories: With Ryan Krantz of Federal Premium Ammunition
Duluth Pack Interview with Ryan Krantz from Federal Premium
Federal Premium is a world-leading ammunition manufacturer that has been driven by innovation and top-of-the-line technology since its founding in 1922. The company was started and is still headquartered in Anoka, Minnesota. We had an opportunity to sit down with Ryan Krantz from Federal Premium Ammunition, who offered some valuable insights inside the company, including their goals surrounding the future, as well as how their heritage and constant improvement drive their success. We are very eager to share the content we were provided with and are grateful for the opportunity to learn through a meaningful conversation.
Q: Can you give us some background about yourself and your position at the company?
I grew up in Minnesota, actually about 5 miles away from the Federal factory in Anoka. Growing up, Federal in the town of Anoka is one of the bigger employers, so you always knew someone who worked at Federal. I grew up in a family that loved the outdoors, hunting, and fishing, so I always thought about working at Federal. Through college I was working at Gander Mountain selling guns, ammunition, and supplies, where I used to see sales reps come in with their newest products, teaching people about them, and I always thought that would be a dream job. After college I got a job at Federal as a Sales Merchandiser, traveling to different retailers and educating store associates on the products, doing exactly what I thought of as a dream job. Fast forward, I'd been at Federal for almost 20 years, in a variety of roles including sales territory management and international sales. Presently, I lead the Trade Marketing department, assisting our retailers in various channels, with speaking our message to the consumer. That includes in-store merchandising, educational tools, online support, and the development and execution of promotions.
Q: For people just hearing about Federal Premium, what would you tell them?
It’s in our name, in Federal Premium. We're in the same factory that we were in 1922 when we started. And at that time, there weren't a lot of options for shooters and hunters. What was born out of that was the limited availability of unique products that met specific needs. Consumers simply had to make do with what ammunition was produced by big manufacturers. In the '40s and '50s after the war, hunting and shooting participation began to increase, and then in the '70s, Federal was the first manufacturer that developed a premium line of ammunition, utilizing premium quality bullets from a variety of manufacturers to offer quality and performance that was not previously available. This line has been our cornerstone ever since. We want to be on the leading edge of quality, and innovation in manufacturing ammunition for any purpose, with the consumer knowing if they buy from Federal, they are getting the best. We produce ammo for all disciplines and all channels, meaning that if you're a competitive shooter, we have a full line of products for you, if you're a hunter we have a full line of products for you, if you’re law enforcement or military professional we have a full line of products for your needs as well. We are a full-service ammunition manufacturer producing the highest quality and most innovative products for all users.
Q: How important is innovation and technology for the success of your products?
We want to grow our business, but we want to make sure that ultimately, we are providing the best products for any end-user that needs them. Innovation is often born out of a certain need or requirement that is not being met. One of the key spaces that drive innovation and technology for our business is law enforcement and military channels. The sports shooter demands quality, but their requirements are a bit different from the law enforcement and military requirements. In those channels, they are always looking for the highest performing and most consistent products available to ensure the safety of their personnel, the community, and the nation. Their requirements are very strict, and this is where the innovation has come from. And we value our law enforcement and military customers, both from a personal and corporate perspective. The demand for high-quality and performance pushes us to continue innovating and redefining what we previously thought was not possible.
The innovation is a direct result of those requirements, wherein there is a trickle-down effect into the commercial space of ammunition. Those requirements also have a useful application to the sport shooter or hunter. The company was founded on innovation and that still drives business today. Between Federal Premium and Speer, our partner company, in the United States, these two factories supply ammunition to over 70% of law enforcement agencies. This is a great testament to the performance and quality as the law enforcement channel has some of the most stringent requirements for performance in their rigorous testing protocols.
Q: What are some of the current trends happening within the industry?
As of right now, the firearms and ammunition industry is in the middle of the largest demand in the history of our company. Because of the pandemic and some limitations on what people can do, as well as other events, we are seeing more people getting into (or back into) hunting and shooting sports. This is a very good compound effect. 2020 has been the perfect storm for ammunition companies, trying to meet the demands of the market, producing ammo every day and all day, and still not being able to keep up.
One notable trend is new firearm purchasers. Of all the 2020 firearm purchases, 7.7 million of them were new gun owners. To have that number of entrants into the firearm owner category is unlike any other year in history. There is a growing segment of consumers out there, so we don’t feel that this growing demand will soon decline.
Q: Firearm safety is a growing concern for new and existing firearm owners, how is Federal Premium acting on this?
Going into 2021, we are committed to a key initiative surrounding education. This isn't limited to new firearm owners, because there are existing owners that want more information regarding the capabilities and education on the products themselves, as well as how to use them. We're taking a focused effort into providing educational materials on our website and doing a lot of work with our Ambassadors, including videos for different tips and techniques on using our products. We are also working on solutions with our retailers to have those resources available in-store when a person is purchasing so that they can be confident in the product and application.
Q: With that being said, what are some of the other key initiatives for Federal Premium?
We work with organizations across the nation and the world for conservation. Federal Premium is arguably the leader in support of conservation organizations among hunting and shooting companies. This year, hunting participation has gone through the roof, especially when you look at specific game animals. This is great to see because as you get more hunters in the market, they see the need for conservation in both the land and the species that they enjoy pursuing, and Federal is committed to supporting good management and stewardship of the resources that we have.
Q: Could you touch on the relationship between Duluth Pack and Federal Premium Ammunition?
I grew up going to the Boundary Waters with my father. The first trip was around age 10, a true BWCAW portaging experience. My dad and his friends all had the #3 Original packs, and I just thought that was super cool, everyone had these big green packs, and it added to that experience. After that, my dad made a deal with my brother and me, that he would buy us a Duluth Pack for our next trip if we got a B or better in English class (Definitely not one of my better subjects). Well, I worked hard and I got a B-, my dad took a look and said, "Yeah, I'll still buy you one." There are a lot of individuals at Federal who are passionate about high-quality and premium products. A lot of Federal employees pursuing their hobbies extends further than ammo. There's a lot of similarities between Federal and Duluth Pack, emphasizing the utmost quality and durability, we're both making dependable products. Federal as a business has been a supporter of Duluth Pack by gifting premium products to some of our best customers. We've also partnered with Duluth Pack on a line of Range Bags and Gun Cases that are branded Federal and are available on our website. When looking for companies to manufacture gear with our brand name on them; we require the utmost quality and performance much as we do in our products. In that process there was no question who we would partner with, it was always Duluth Pack.
Q: You’re friends with Tom Sega, our CEO, could you describe that relationship?
I remember going to our largest industry trade show “SHOT Show” one year. At these shows you are constantly busy, meetings every hour, and dinners with a different customer every night, trying to set up the business for the coming year. Our assistant emailed me and said that the CEO of Duluth Pack would like to take me out for dinner. At this point, I had never met him before, didn't know who he was, but dinner with him sounded great. So, the first time I met Tom was that dinner. And it was so cool because although it was a business dinner, the business side of the conversation lasted only about 5 minutes. The rest of our time was spent telling hunting and fishing stories. We were like kindred spirits and just got along so well.
What I like about Tom, and what made me even more endearing to the Duluth Pack brand, was seeing the guy that runs it ultimately, and seeing his perspective on running a business as a "get stuff done" kind of guy. He's the true essence of a Minnesotan, hard-working, small business owner, who cares about his employees, cares about his products, and someone who never compromises on quality. That was really cool and refreshing to see.
Over the years, we have gone on a few fishing trips and we were always trying to set up an elk hunt in Idaho where I was previously located. This past September we finally made it happen and made the 21 hour drive out there to hunt for 5 days. We enjoyed our time going up and down the mountain, seeing beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and of course, chasing elk around. We didn't end up flinging an arrow but it was so much fun. Being out in nature, being with somebody who you enjoy spending time with, and the challenge that is archery elk hunting is such a cool experience and something I want to continue doing for many years.
Q: What’s next for Federal Premium Ammunition?
For anyone wondering about the ammunition shortage, Federal wants the consumers to be ensured that we are working tirelessly to meet the demand for ammunition. Yes, we are trying to get everything out the door as quickly as possible but, the number one priority for Federal is the safety of our employees. We are trying to get through the pandemic and be the best company we can be, both now and in the future. Like many manufacturers and businesses in 2020; we have been faced with new and unique challenges and are driving forward to overcome them. Innovation is our lifeblood, and that is what will sustain Federal for years to come. The Federal Premium mission statement sums up who we are and will be. Here it is: "Our Mission is to build better ammunition in America to create community, power defense, and conserve our heritage."
Check out the Federal Premium website here and stay updated on the latest developments of innovation and technology from the world’s leading ammunition company.
A special thank you to Ryan Krantz and the team at Federal for providing us with valuable information about the company and himself, detailing the relationship between Federal and Duluth Pack, and taking the time to have the conversation. It is greatly appreciated.
Until next time, friends.
- Happy Swapped Stories!