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The Wild Dutchman’s Success

By John Andrews

Wayne and Shirley VanderLaan were busy enough running a farm near Mound City that they never thought about jumping into the sunflower seed business. So how have the family’s Wild Dutchman Sunflower Seeds come to be eaten in all 50 states?

It began with a few small batches that Wayne roasted on his kitchen stovetop. He’d bring them when he and his son Tobey traveled for their auto repair business, and shared them with family and friends, all of whom said they were the best seeds they’d ever eaten. To keep up with demand, three additional dehydrators joined the one already busily turning out seeds in the VanderLaans’ kitchen. Eventually Tobey renovated his hunting lodge into a processing plant to accommodate three large homemade dehydrators.

Today the team at Wild Dutchman (a name suggested by VanderLaan’s witty Norwegian neighbor) works seven days a week during the summer, processing about 38,000 pounds of seeds every three weeks. The VanderLaans think a key behind Wild Dutchman’s success is the lower sodium content in their seeds. “We add sugar,” Tobey says. “With the batch roaster we use, the seeds are roasted slower and less continuously compared to other companies.”

Tobey and his daughter, Shellby, largely run the family business, though Wayne and his wife Shirley — who is happy to have her kitchen back — still help.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the November/December 2015 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.

Sunflower seeds roasted in Mound City, South Dakota are gaining a nationwide following.

Sunflower seed competitors in spitting match over slogans

EYMET, FRANCE: A detail view of sunflowers during stage 11 of the 2017 Le Tour de France on July 12, 2017 in Eymet, France.

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FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Two sunflower seed competitors in the Dakotas are accusing each other of false advertising.

Giant Snacks Inc. started the exchange last month by filing a lawsuit against Wild Dutchman Products Inc. and one of its partners, alleging that Wild Dutchman is misleading consumers about the amount of salt in its products. Wild Dutchman came back with a countersuit earlier this week for what it calls bogus claims Giant Snacks is making about its relationship with sunflower farmers.

Each company wants the other to drop packaging claims and pay the other damages to be determined by the court.

Joel Leviton, attorney for Giant Snacks, would not comment about the counterclaim, but said the Wahpeton, North Dakota-based company “looks forward to proving its case and remedying the situation.”

The original complaint filed by Giant Snacks also names Southern Sun LLC, which markets Wild Dutchman seeds. The suit centers on Wild Dutchman’s packaging and a statement that reads: “Half the salt. All the flavor.” Giant Snacks highlights a comment in National Sunflower Association magazine by one of Wild Dutchman’s founders who said the product has “half the salt than other seeds.”

The suit says Wild Dutchman is falsely implying that Giant Snacks’ seeds, which are often sold next to Wild Dutchman’s, have twice as much salt. Giant Snacks cites studies by two laboratories showing that its seeds have less sodium than Wild Dutchman’s.

Wild Dutchman, based in Mound City, South Dakota, responded that it did not intend to compare its seeds to all or more other seeds, but primarily only to one of its “major competitors.” The company says it hasn’t been provided with any independent tests on the amount of salt and the advertisement was “true at the time it was initially made.”

Furthermore, Wild Dutchman adds, it’s not the company that’s making bogus claims. The countersuit criticizes Giant Snacks for saying it’s the “only U.S. company to work directly with our own farmers and fields to ensure you are receiving GREAT GIANTS seeds in every bag.” Giant Snacks calls its seeds “Giants” and that’s what they’re called on their packaging.

Wild Dutchman and its partner work directly with their own farmers and fields, the countersuit says, proving that the Giant Snacks slogan is false or misleading.

Two sunflower seed competitors in the Dakotas are accusing each other of false advertising.