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For the Love of Food

Young alumna shapes food world with new products, branding

Alicia Mowder

From The Ichabod - Winter 2019

College students are introduced to many new opportunities; one such opportunity unexpectedly changed Alicia Mowder’s life.

“We didn’t have cable television growing up,” Mowder, ba ’08, said. “The first time I saw the Food Network was when I was living in the Washburn Village, and I fell in love. My roommates and I would watch it and try to recreate recipes, but when you have no money and not a full kitchen, the recipes do not turn out the same way.”

One night, the apartment above her was being very loud and she ran up to tell them to be quieter. She met Christopher Mowder, bba ’07, and the rest is history. He fell in love with her and her baking.

After graduation, she took a job at Payless ShoeSource. She continued baking, often bringing in food for friends at work and soon started taking orders.

“I loved marketing, but I could have cared less about the fashion part with the handbags and the shoes,” she said. “Although I was baking every night, I didn’t want to open a bakery because I didn’t want it to feel like a job.”

Growing up in Pratt, Kansas, Sonic Drive-In was the hub. In fact, she and Christopher stopped at a Sonic Drive-In to get drinks after their wedding ceremony, dragging Payless shoes behind their car advertising “Just Married.” Years later, a marketing position opened at Sonic headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and she took it.

First, she worked on product management, traveling around the country and working with research and product development to pilot new items in the market. She noted that while there is the “Freshman 15” at colleges, there is the “Sonic 20.” To work in the food industry in a position like this, one has to love food. She would often come to work in the morning and immediately go to a food showing, trying 10 to 15 new products at a time.

“We looked at how you tell someone about a new product, how you name it, and price,” she said. “Talking about which cream cheese frosting is the best for this product is definitely a better fit for me than talking about shoes.”

She moved up in the corporation, eventually landing as senior brand director responsible for national promotions such as the introduction of boneless wings, the $5 Boom Box, and most recently, the Sonic Slinger, which blended mushrooms with beef to make the first quick-service blended burger, and at only 340 calories. Her work on the blended burger sent her to present at the Culinary Institute of America and won a MenuMasters Award through Nation’s Restaurant News in 2018.

Memories from a Washburn Transformational Experience still remained with her. As a student, she traveled to the Dominican Republic with the modern languages department and China with the School of Business. It helped fuel her desire to take on a more global role, which is why she recently joined Circle K’s newly created global marketing team in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“While a student at Washburn, Alicia was a trailblazer and chose to travel abroad,” said Maria Stover, professor and chair, mass media. “She always saw value in expanding her worldview and learning about other cultures.”

While Circle K is currently the largest convenience store company in the world, its brand is still largely undefined. Her role as senior director of marketing will give her an opportunity to define a global, multi-billion dollar brand and roll it out. With the expanding food options at convenience stores today, Mowder sees exponential growth in this area.

“Convenience stores are starting to provide more traditional services such as drive-thrus, order ahead and delivery,” she said. “We’ve seen food service be successful with QuikTrip. They have done a great job with that – people are going to QuikTrip for lunch instead of somewhere like Subway because the flexibility within a c-store is more diverse – it isn’t limited to just one brand, such as either Coke or Pepsi. They can have both.”

In addition, she sees opportunities to provide more fresh food opportunities and specialty items depending on where the store is located. Mowder said she is most excited about shaping a large brand, just as she continues to shape recipes and bake at home for her husband and 2-year-old daughter.

“A lot of food has an emotional connection,” she said. “You use it to celebrate and comfort, and some of your best memories are connected to food.”

Marching band member in uniform on cover of The Ichabod winter 2020

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2019-20 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

View past editions


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