Before starting Kinnikinnick Foods, the founder of the company, Ted Wolf von Selzam was involved in environmental education and teaching programs. In teaching school groups about local flora and fauna, Ted found the story students remembered from year to year was the Kinnikinnick Story.

Historically, Kinnikinnick or Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva ursi) has been an important plant for both wildlife and humans alike. The berries from this ground hugging bush last through winter when other fruits are gone and are especially important to black bears in the early spring when food is scarce. Native Americans used the leaves alone or with tobacco and other herbs. When it was mixed with tobacco, it was referred to as Kinnikinnick, from the Algonquin for mixture. When smoked in a sacred pipe, it is reputed to carry the smoker's prayers to the Great Spirit. A tea made from the leaves was used to treat urinary tract diseases, the leaves were powdered and applied to sores and the berries were made into a tea that was used to ward off obesity. The berries, which are very nutritious and high in vitamin C, were used during the winter months as an important supplement to their diet. They were fried or dried and used in pemmican.

In searching for a name for a new business a number of objectives stand out. It should distinguish the company from other companies and be recognizable as different from the ordinary. It should be easy to remember (although not necessarily easy to spell). It should cause people to stop and think and to generate questions about the company. People are always inquiring about the origin of the name and this helps to strengthen our name and brand recognition. It should also have a symbolic meaning. The staples, like bread, are the leaves of the bush. The treats, like donuts, cookies, bagels and muffins, are the berries of the bush. And finally, the roots are the medicinal value since for the first time in their lives many of our clients have a variety of food that they know will contribute to their improved health. Kinnikinnick provides them with nutritious foods after their long cold winters of misdiagnosis and unsafe foods.

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