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The Spitster Sunflower Seed Cup

Sunday, April 1, 2012
filed under: Marketing/Risk Management

The Spitster is a solution for anyone who has ever said, “I’d eat more sunflower seeds if they weren’t so messy.”

Mary Bjerke, the product creator, sells it as “Two Cups In One, For Your Snack Eating Fun.”

The idea for “The Spitster” can be traced back to 1999. Over the past 13 years, Bjerke has been on the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurism. The Fargo, N.D., resident says that developing a product idea has been trying and rewarding at the same time.

Starting out, she had four kids to raise and a full-time job in the insurance business, allowing little time to work on her product. Then, a cancer diagnosis in 2003 put everything on hold. A few years later, when she was ready to get back at it, she sought help from Reuben Tschritter of the Institute for Business and Industry Development at North Dakota State University. Together, they developed a working prototype and applied for the product patent.

Another setback came when her cancer reoccurred in 2010. But Bjerke says she is now on track, stronger than ever, marketing and promoting her invention. She will retire from her “day job” this summer and focus on bringing the success of her product to a whole new level.

— Sonia Mullally

Can you describe your product and how it works?

The Spitster consists of two cups in one. One fits inside the other for storage when not in use. You simply fill the larger cup with seeds, connect the two cups together by putting the peg into the hole of the smaller cup and closing the lid. For added convenience, the cup fits into most car cup holders. When ready to use, simply pull the two cups apart, spin the smaller bottom cup 180 degrees and put the cups together again (the peg goes into the hole in a piggy back fashion).

Or, the two cups can be used separately. The larger cup can hold about six ounces of seeds. The smaller cup can be used for discarded shells. It’s washable and reusable. The Spitster comes in a variety of colors and can be customized with a private label or logo for company, sports team or small business promotions or giveaways.

Why the focus on sunflower?

I used to travel regularly to and from Minneapolis and eat seeds while driving. I would end up spilling my bag of seeds all over the car or forget to bring an empty cup for the discarded shells. Since I enjoy seeds while I drive but don’t enjoy the mess, I figured there should be a better way.

Explain where you got the idea?

The idea for “The Spitster” started in 1999 out of a personal desire to make eating sunflower seeds easy and mess free. My first prototype consisted of two soup cans connected by a hinge.

Do you get a lot of feedback from sunflower seed eaters?

I hear a lot of comments at the trade shows that I attend. I hear a variety of comments — from a grandmother buying one for each of her 20 grandchildren, to the wife buying it for her husband (or vice versa) with the hopes that the car will stay clean and free of sunflower seeds.

From this face-to-face interaction with my customers, I realize that people use it for more than sunflower seeds. They use it for candy and discarded wrappers, French fries and ketchup, pistachios or peanuts and shells, just to name a few.

Not only do I believe in the product, but what makes selling it enjoyable is that it’s also affordable. I hear so many favorable comments, including the usual, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

The product has also been a popular gift, with many repeat customers.

What were/are some of the ups and downs on the journey marketing the Spitster?

The journey has been long with many trials and tribulations, but it’s all worth it when I encounter enthusiastic buyers and repeat customers. Some of the challenges have been the time restraints (waiting two and a half years for the patent, for example), the cost associated with developing the prototype, and finding the right marketing strategies.

Looking back, I might have done some things differently. But now that we’ve developed the product and the promotion is coming along, it’s turned into a dream come true, owning my own business and loving what I do, selling my own invention.

Where is your product available?

The Spitster is currently manufactured in Minot, N.D. It is on sale at several different retail locations around the Dakotas and Minnesota, at various trade shows throughout the region as scheduled, and on our website at

The product will also soon be available at The Spitster sells for $6 each or two for $10. Multi-packs can also be purchased at five for $20.

For more information on the product, visit It can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
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