Every once in a
while, something as simple as a phone call can change lives. That is
precisely what happened when Heidi Hall phoned home in the fall of 1994.
Then a senior international
marketing student at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield,
Heidi often called her parents on Sunday afternoons. On this occasion
she mentioned an upcoming class assignment. She and a group of fellow
students were to create a food product that wasnt then on the
market, calculate costs of production, design packaging and devise a
Hall family pictured from left, son Andy and his parents
Rosemary and Dwight Hall produce a flavored soybean snack
called Mighty Mo Munchies in Oregon, Mo. The product is the result
of a college project by the Hall's daughter Heidi.
My dad said,
You ought to do something with soybeans, Heidi recalls.
I said, I dont think so.
The student, now Heidi Rodrick, remembered her father eating soybeans
straight out of the field and how unpalatable they were.
Little did she realize
that her dad was onto something big. That fateful conversation led to
a new soybean snack, sold in health food stores across the country as
Mighty Mo Munchies, which rescued Heidis family from financial
At the time, though,
Heidi couldnt imagine anyone wanting to eat soybeans.
anything appetizing about soy, she says. At that time you
still had the perception of, you know, Ewwh, the hamburgers at
your high school or some substance that was really gross.
But Dwight Hall,
a failed soybean farmer from Oregon, Mo., who eked out a living cleaning
other farmers seeds for replanting, was determined. Dwight and
his wife began experimenting with ways to cook raw soybeans. Rosemary
and I went to the kitchen with little pans and modified barbeque grills
and just tried to think of things, Dwight says.
Their effort led
to a crunchy, nut-like snack.
Although she was
skeptical, Heidi shared her parents snack with her project group.
The other students liked the cooked soybeans and believed the idea held
more promise than a new kind of candy bar, their only other prospect
at the time.
Heidi and her group
sold their professor a flashy, foil-packaged snack called Power Play,
aimed at athletic consumers. The teacher was convinced. He awarded Heidi
an A grade for the class and encouraged her to pursue the idea.
Heidi had other
plans. She traveled to Germany for a year, pursuing a career in international
business. In the meantime her parents worked on the soy snack project.
When I got
back they were ready to start marketing it, Heidi says.
cooking process for Mighty Mo Munchies is secret but the Halls
say it produces a better soy nut.
Although other companies
offered soy products they were not marketed in the Midwest and soybeans
certainly were not widely thought of as a snack. It took a leap of faith
for the Halls to sell their seed-cleaning equipment and stake their
future on bringing this new product to grocers shelves.
But desperate times
call for desperate measures. And the Halls were nothing if not desperate.
The Hall family
had farmed the fertile Missouri River bottoms of northwest Missouri
for generations but Dwight lost everything in the farm credit crisis
of the 1980s.
do bankruptcy but I couldnt have borrowed $50 to feed my family,
he says. It was like a foreclosure. You were just standing there
in the middle of the street with nothing.
It was despair.
It was as low as you can go, Dwight says.
A sympathetic neighbor
helped them get on their feet operating a seed-cleaning business. For
nearly 12 years Dwight worked seven days a week trying to make the operation
pay. The soy nut snack idea offered hope, or at least a way out.
I was just
hoping we could make a living, Dwight says. If it would
pay the bills, which had been very hard to do for a long time, it would
be a wonderful thing.
and Rosemary, members of United Electric Cooperative, believed in the
Theyre a good snack. Theyre crunchy. And theyve
got a real good flavor, he says. Of course, soy is a wonderful
food. Its very high in protein and ours is low in fat.
The Halls perfected
their proprietary method of cooking soybeans and created four distinct
varieties: lightly salted, unsalted, Cajun and ranch. Rosemary and Heidi
began going door to door, calling on health food stores, groceries and
bulk food buyers. The combination of an innovative product and the variety
of flavors made the sale.
foods people had heard of soy nuts but there was very little available,
Rosemary says. And flavors, that was something different. They
were very receptive to the flavors.
Mighty Mo Munchies
practically flew off the shelves. The snack really took off when the
family began using only organic soybeans.
The Halls now buy
about 4,000 bushels of organic soybeans each year. All of their snack
varieties are certified kosher and organic and soon will be classified
100 percent organic, a higher standard.
Their small factory near Forest City has expanded three times since
1996. The company employs 13 people including Dwight, Rosemary and their
son Andy. Heidi lives in Kansas City and describes her involvement as
that of a cheerleader, though she does help with the company Web site.
Mo Munchies are sold unsalted, salted, Cajun and Ranch flavored.
Photo courtesy Mighty Mo Munchies.
The snacks are sold
in a 1-1/2 ounce pouch that retails for about a dollar and an 8-ounce
bag that brings about $4 in health food stores and grocers across the
in about 43 states and probably a little over 400 stores, says
Andy, who left a career in banking to join the business. In the
last three or four months weve gotten involved with some distributors.
Thats going to be a huge step for us.
While a number of
competitive products have entered the market, Mighty Mo Munchies remain
a favorite of customers, the Halls say.
nothing like ours out there, Andy says. Its got a
different taste and texture than whats out there. Most of the
time people like ours better.
The remarkable success
of Mighty Mo Munchies may reflect a case of impeccable timing or the
right marketing approach but the Halls credit a different source for
their good fortune.
like anything that was supposed to happen and thats how we know
the Lord was with us, Rosemary says. On our package we have
Let go, let God. We feel thats definitely what we
have to do.
not fanatics at all. Its not something that were making
a crusade on but thats exactly what we think, he says. Its
not any big deal that I did. Ive just been going for the ride.
Whatever the case,
clearly Heidis college marketing project has turned out well for
the Halls. Its an outcome that she could not possibly have dreamed.
I have never
been so surprised at anything in my life. I just never pictured my parents
as people adventuresome enough to do something like this, says
really proud that they ever took a chance on it.
For more information
write Mighty Mo Munchies,
P. O. Box 335, Oregon, MO 64473; call 1-800-762-1384 or log on to www.mightymomunchies.com.