ORLANDO, FLA. — Howard Friedman, who was installed as chief executive officer at Utz Brands Inc., Hanover, Pa., just a few months ago, was in the spotlight at SNAXPO 23 as he sat down for a chat with Christine Cochran, president and CEO of SNAC International.

He talked about Utz, the snack industry and some of the challenges facing both. The company’s explosive growth is part of what drew him to Utz.

“If you look today, we’ve blown up,” Mr. Friedman said. “Everything has changed and yet the culture and the people have continued to persist and drive the growth that was there.”

He talked about inflation and supply chain issues and looked down the road when these problems ease.

“What has been interesting about the last couple years is inflationary pressure that has been there is real, and we all rushed to cover our costs,” he said. “One of the things that happened is all these sacred price points — thou shalt not go over $1.50, $2, $4, whatever it was — no one had a choice, we all blew right by them. And the consumer generally responded. When inflation starts to flatten out a little bit, how do you come back off those highs to give the consumer value and reintroduce them to the category if they’ve left?”

The company has experienced a lot of growth — acquiring a number of brands over the past 12 years and going from four manufacturing sites in Hanover to operations in 10 states — which creates challenges for keeping the companies all moving in the same direction. Ms. Cochran asked Mr. Friedman how to do that.

“I think it comes down to a few things,” he said. “No. 1, are you true to who you are? As a company when you’re buying someone else, do you know who you are and what the nonnegotiables are? I think the second is being really clear about what you’re hoping to get from the acquisition, not only financials but from a ‘What is the sauce of this other company that has made them so attractive? How do you bring them into your culture and absorb the best of both?’ That comes with time and effort, getting to know the people and making sure you’re clear on goals and showing the respect the acquired company deserves all the way through.”

Mr. Friedman also talked about the importance of growth for both the industry and for companies.

“I don’t care what industry you’re in, growth solves a lot of problems,” he said. “One of the things this room has been blessed with has been growth over time and maintaining that growth allows for all of the other investments we need to do.”

"The reasons consumers reach for snacks has generally remained the same, and snacks offer consumers both “me and we moments,” he said, whether people are taking a quiet morning break alone to savor exactly what they’re craving or sharing a bowl of chips while watching a movie with the family.

“Whether it has been functional snacking or satiety or ‘I want food in my food’ or weight management — those things really haven’t changed over time,” Mr. Friedman said. “At the end of the day, we’re still looking at a simple affordable convenient indulgence. And if you lose that along the way, you lose what has made this business what it is.”