Would you put a bucket on your list? Your Christmas list, that is. Yeti thinks you will. And why not? The company that shot to fame, and more than $1 billion in annual sales, on the merits of its over-the-top, $400-to-$1,500 Tundra coolers has gone back to the founders' playbook to introduce LoadOut.

The five-gallon, injection-molded, beyond-industrial-strength bucket came straight from the mindset of co-founders Roy and Ryan Seiders. Frustrated by their own experience as fishermen, they transformed a cheap, unreliable mass-market beverage box into a "10x"-priced, gotta-have cooler--first for hardcore outdoorsmen and increasingly for anyone who wanted to keep their beverages cold and their brand rep cool.

Yeti's 2017 holiday product and marketing push reflects its founders' focus on bringing the extraordinary to the seemingly ordinary--and commanding a premium price for it. The company, which has filed for an IPO, will likely claim the same kind of premium for its stock when issued. In Yeti's view, there's no detail too small to fret over. Even the bottle openers the company makes seem over-engineered. Then again, that's why Yeti can price its LoadOut bucket at $39.99-- pretty big for a bucket although not the leap in faith and cash that a Yeti Tundra required 11 years ago.

"We identified an opportunity in the run-of-the mill, everyday five-gallon plastic bucket," says CEO Matt Reintjes, "it was something that's been cheapened to drive to a price point; it breaks, it doesn't last." So Yeti created one that is indestructible and added versatility. LoadOut is a bucket with accessories, including a plastic lid and an organizing tray insert. The bucket is food safe, so you can keep your lunch in it, the fish you just caught or the duck you just shot. You could probably even put a mop in it, too.

If presenting a loved one with a bucket for Christmas might get you on the wrong kind of list, Yeti has also introduced the Panga. It's a duffle bag made of a high-density nylon core and an EVA molded bottom. Panga can be backpacked, mule-packed, stowed in a canoe, or stuffed in an airline overhead (in its smallest version). More to the point, it's submersible, a quality made possible in part with a zipper, generally used in hazmat suits, that makes the bag impermeable to water.

"We really brought the same Yeti design philosophy ethos," says Reintjes. For a duffle bag, this may sound like going overboard, unless you've ever had to deal with unexpectedly soggy clothing on a camping or boating trip--the worst. The bag comes in three sizes, priced from $300 to $400. River guides using Pangas are already adding to the Yeti legend. They've reported hauling out boats by rolling them over a fully-packed Panga. "Not something we necessarily tested for," says Reintjes, "but we're happy the product helped."

That's the kind of story that has made the Yeti brand such a phenomenon. It's one the company has fed through its ambassadorship program--enlisting endorsers among the elite members of the hunting, fishing, climbing, and even BBQ communities and letting them tell their stories. These outdoor celebrities are extolled through Yeti's social media. The company has also produced a number of videos that feature extraordinary people living what Yeti refers to as the wild life. Check out, for instance, the beautifully cinematic Denali's Raven about Alaskan guide and bush pilot Leighan Falley. Typically, a Yeti product just hangs discreetly in the background in these videos, as if it's a spectator soaking up the scenery.

"The idea is we want to introduce people to the brand. We want to introduce them to what the brand stands for--which is the premium durable performance nature of the products. But really we're trying to drive people to be outside and the enjoyment of being outside," he says. Reintjes, Yeti's first outside CEO, has spent the past two years hauling the Yeti flag into new markets and new channels from its Austin, Texas, base. "The business is born along the Gulf Coast, but what we've really seen over the past almost two years is an expansion into the East Coast and West Coast, the Upper Midwest. And what I would call the more urban populated areas where there's a lot of active outdoor, " he says.

And a lot of drinking. Yeti continues to expand its popular line of Rambler drinkware, and has added flat-bottomed versions of its durable soft-sided Hopper coolers. Yeti has also targeted new groups such as surfers, continuing a strategy of adding outdoor enthusiasts to its core hunting and fishing crowd. That surfing segue might help in Yeti's first transpacific expansion, to Australia.

Published on: Oct 16, 2017