Businesses seek a foothold in growing prepper community
A bathtub installer, an e-bike vendor and a Goldback trader all walk into an event hall.
- This is "Be Prepared," Utah's prepper expo, where businesses that may not have much to do with doomsday are trying to gain a foothold in an off-the-grid market.
Driving the news: The prepper movement, once the domain of religious fundamentalists and anti-government extremists, leaped into the mainstream during pandemic-era shutdowns and shortages, exhibitors told Axios during the weekend expo in Farmington.
- Now, industries from med tech to food prep are developing spin-off products and ad campaigns just for them.
Why it matters: The growth of prepperism is drawing together an improbable cluster of ideological and commercial interests, with a hippie farmer lecturing on permaculture next to a gold currency booth and Flash My Brass Discount Ammo.
- Green innovators displayed solar panels across from a row of Humvees, while alternative health brands advertised THC gummies and lavender oils near a first aid company whose logo features a skull over rifles arrayed as crossbones.
What they're saying: "We've noticed a huge uptick" in prepper business, said Byron Griffith, a sales rep for Bridgford — a California company that developed non-perishable sandwich wraps for the military, expanded to outdoor rec and now is focusing on the "preparedness" market.
- "People come up to me all the time and say, 'I used to think this was crazy talk, movie talk,'" Griffith said.
- Interest has "grown exponentially," he said, since disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2021 Texas grid failure.
Details: Encase, a Houston company that makes heavy-duty emergency storage bags, sprung from a business that sold packaging material to wrap heavy machinery in the aerospace and oil industries, said president Chris DellaValle.
- A few clients asked for smaller bags to store their personal guns, and "one thing leads to another" he said, standing in front of a poster with a mushroom cloud erupting behind a log cabin.
- "Then it was ammo, food, electronics, money" added his wife, Cathy.
Meanwhile, NutriMill, a St. George company that sells in-home grain mills, is considering a manually powered model to meet prepper requests, sales reps Emma and Ethan Park told Axios.
- A row away, American Fork-based marketing consultant Kameron Conley was preparing a presentation on advertising tips, riffing on zombie apocalypse metaphors — even though, he acknowledged, his business has "absolutely nothing" to do with survivalism.
- Sandy-based Sound Sleep brought its jaw positioners to the expo for the second year after discovering the prepper market for non-electronic sleep apnea solutions.
Zoom in: At the Antelope eBikes booth, a man in a "Tracker Survival" T-shirt asked the range of a fully charged backcountry bike. It's 30 to 40 miles, owner Tice Child said.
- "Serious?! I wouldn't need my car no more!" the customer yelped, amplifying a sentiment that would warm urbanists' hearts — in earshot of a booth selling baby onesies emblazoned with the words "Born Sovereign."
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issues detailed instructions to its members encouraging food storage, and local congregations coordinate neighborhood disaster relief plans in much of the state.
Yes, but: Church leaders have signaled concern that some members may take prepperism too far.
- Before a "blood moon" in 2015, the church issued a statement warning members "to avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events," after a popular Mormon author linked the lunar event to the apocalypse.
- Writings by the author, Julie Rowe, appeared on a church list of "spurious materials," and she later said she was excommunicated.
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