From dry beans to popcorn: CoJACK Snack & Pack finding success

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – An annual open call over the summer allowed CoJACK Snack & Pack to shine in more ways than one. 

CoJACK Snack & Pack officially opened in 2019.

More than 1,000 businesses from across the country pitched products made, grown or assembled in the United States to Walmart and Sam's Club merchants during Walmart's ninth annual open call on June 30. More than 300 products were subsequently chosen to be sold in Walmart stores, online or through Walmart's Marketplace. 

Located in Devils Lake, CoJACK Snack & Pack found success during the buyer meeting when they pitched their black beans during the open call. 

Such an honor helps illustrate where the company wishes to go and, perhaps more significantly, how the company looks to expand in the future. 

Chace Austvold, who works in marketing and sales for CoJACK Snack & Pack, understands the company's growth well. After all, her father and grandfather – Brian and James Engstrom, respectively – helped plant the seeds in the company's inception. Literally. As farmers, the family knew a thing or two about wheat, corn, barley and, more importantly, dry beans. After starting a processing facility in Leeds in 2000, the family expanded to Devils Lake Industrial Park. 

Such a move helped give the business more flexibility in how they wished to market their dry bean product.  

"We completely renovated it, and now, instead of selling our dry beans in bulk product, we are able to package into a one and two-pound bag," Austvold said. "So, all the beans that we condition and polish at the farm, come to CoJACK to get packaged. CoJACK currently does a lot of government loads." 

However, the business doesn't start and end with dry beans. 

CoJACK Snack & Pack is located in Devils Lake.

When Brian was initially looking for a way to package the dry beans, an opportunity to purchase a plant in Holyoke, Colorado, came into being. However, the plant in Holyoke is not only conditioned and polished for dry beans. The plant is also geared toward popcorn. 

And so, the second facet of the business – Colorado Jack Popcorn – was born. Six popcorn flavors currently exist within the company, including caramel, white cheddar jalapeno and Colorado mix, which incorporates caramel and white cheddar jalapeno into one. 

CoJACK Snack & Pack officially opened in 2019. While COVID-19 delayed progress (the company turned on the popcorn poppers the day the pandemic officially hit), the company has started to regain momentum. 

To Austvold, it all revolves back to maintaining a steady group of individuals wishing to see the family business thrive. 

"We have a really strong core group of people that are very intertwined in our family business and really want to see it succeed for themselves," Austvold said. 

With marketing exposure already in Save A Lot and Dollar Tree, CoJACK Snack & Pack wishes to expand further business ventures for the business's dry bean and popcorn side. In due time, perhaps more private label business to more prominent companies – including Walmart and Target – can be in the cards. 

Or, in the company's case, beans and kernels. 

"We really just want to get this going and moving because we have the capabilities, and we are probably going to provide better customer service and quality than really anyone can," Austvold said. "Because we are at ground zero with the dry beans, and nobody really has to ship them to us to package."

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com), Instagram (johnbcranesports) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.