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Tanka Bar signs with three national food distributors

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Kyle, S.D., Sept. 25, 2009 -- Nearly two years after launching its Tanka Bar buffalo and cranberry snack, Native American Natural Foods is fast approaching a big milestone in its short history -- coast-to-coast distribution.

The tiny company, based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, announced today that it has signed agreements with three major national distributors.

The top two national natural foods distributors, UNFI and Tree of Life, and the leading food service distributor, Sysco, will now be distributing Tanka Bars, Tanka Bites and Tanka Dogs. Between them, the three distribution companies represent more than $41 billion in sales in the U.S. food industry.

"This has been an unbelievable two years," CEO Karlene Hunter said. "The way natural foods consumers have embraced our products has been wonderful. Now that we have launched our Spicy Pepper Blend of Tanka Bars and Tanka Bites, as well as the Tanka Dogs, we have a large enough line to attract the major natural foods distributors."

Until now, the company has worked with small regional distributors or distributed its products directly to retailers. As a result, Tanka products are for sale in natural foods stores and groceries in 49 states. West Virginia is the only state without a Tanka retailer.

Tanka Bars and Tanka Bites, which are available nationally at more than 3,000 retail locations and at TankaBar.com, are a modern artisanal take on a traditional Native American recipe for "wasna" or "pemmican." The all-buffalo Tanka Dogs are available to food service establishments, such as restaurants and cafeterias.

According to Mark Tilsen Sr., president of Native American Natural Foods, the past two years have been comprised of a lot of hard work and a large learning curve.

"It took us a long time to figure out how to access the food distribution industry," he said. "Now, we finally have the relationships in place to move our brand to the next level in terms of sales and exposure."

Tilsen said Native American Natural Foods is also working with Natural/Specialty Sales, a division of Acosta that specializes in natural, organic, gourmet and ethnic foods, and with National Sustainable Sales, a national account food service agency that focuses on food service menus and college campus convenience store sets.

Tilsen said the new distribution relationships are anticipated to add about 200 percent in sales growth for the company in 2010.

Hunter said that signing the distribution contracts represents an entirely new chapter for the tiny company.

"It is thrilling to see our products, which we originally envisioned appealing mostly to the Native American community, being embraced by natural foods consumers across the nation," she said.

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Native American Natural Foods, which is based in Kyle, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, provides a category of natural healthy products by adding value to traditional Native food products, using modern scientific methods, the least amount of processing, and the lowest-stress animal handling methods possible.

For more information, photos or a full press kit, please call Linda Crider at 214-789-8642 or e-mail Linda at lindacrider@tankabar.com.