Tower Treats is passionate about gifting. “We believe even a single cookie can change someone's day, so why not a half-pound one?” says Kerry Anna Lemasters, founder of Atlanta-based Tower Treats, which has a very creative system of distribution.
Individually packaged for maximum share-ability, Tower Treats are tall, irresistibly addictive peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, scooped like ice cream. This local treat is shipped nationwide.
“I started Tower Treats living in New York during the pandemic. I was inspired by New York cookie culture,” Lemasters explains. “Our cookies are 3 inches wide, and I am 6 feet, 2 inches tall.”
New York plays a key role in her story. The cookie culture inspired the love for oversized treats, while the energy and drive of the city provided the ambition. With a background in food and beverage public relations, a love for everything chocolate/peanut butter and an entrepreneurial dream, Lemasters brought all her favorite pieces of NYC back home to Atlanta to create Tower Treats.
And as the effects of the global pandemic began to slow down, her cookie sales heated up thanks to the popularity of the unique sweet treats and efficient new business model. For one, Tower Treats works with Roam, an Atlanta-based client business similar to WeWork. Roam assists clients with meetings and deliver to their cafes.
Her next question was how to get cookies into more hands – and mouths – of customers nationwide. “We have done very well with corporate gifting,” she explains. “We work out of a commercial kitchen in Atlanta, and we hired Laura Cunningham as our chief operating officer. Once she joined, we got in the business of falling in love with selling. We are doing a lot of business-to-consumer sales now. We sell one variety of cookie now, and I would love to diversify. But we have learned we need to get streamlined, and one of our main goals now is new cookie packaging.”
The Original Crumbs is launching a comeback under the guidance of the company’s original owners. Mia and Jason Bauer, original founders of Crumbs Bakeshop, are back to relaunch the iconic brand that pioneered the gourmet cupcake nearly 20 years ago in 2003, and later helped spawn the cupcake craze that spread across the globe.
But a rapid growth plan under different management as a publicly traded company turned sour for Crumbs Bakeshop, which in 2014 announced that it was closing its nearly 50 remaining stores nationwide, according to published reports. Crumbs Bakeshop, which opened its first location in 2003, had grown to dozens of stores, and analysts remarked that the speed of growth proved too much to handle profitably.
When an opportunity presented itself to recapture and relaunch the brand, Mia and Jason Bauer did not hesitate. They knew Crumbs’ fans would rejoice at the chance to enjoy these beloved cupcakes, along with a delicious new line of cookies inspired by Crumbs cupcakes.
Beginning in late 2022, Crumbs fans will be able to buy Crumbs signature products at supermarkets and grocery stores across the country.
“It’s a much better model now,” commented Mia Bauer at the IDDBA convention, where Crumbs exhibited. “We want to maintain that feeling of fresh baked – with a product that is shipped flash frozen. Now that we are flash freezing our product, it is pretty phenomenal.”
Ingredients for success
Famous Amos, in partnership with the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), announces the second cycle of the Famous Amos Ingredients for Success Entrepreneurs Initiative, a grant and mentorship program that aims to provide the necessary tools and resources to help Black business owners thrive.
The program features a pitch contest, in which prospective recipients submit an application that includes a videotaped elevator pitch and a written statement sharing the nature of their business, why it has the makings of a successful enterprise, and how they plan on using the funds to build a lasting operation. In sum, three business owners will receive $50,000 in unrestricted capital from Famous Amos, totaling $150,000 in cash awards. In addition, a full suite of mentoring and coaching resources will be provided by the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
"We established the Famous Amos Ingredients for Success Entrepreneurs Initiative to support Black businesses and to honor the legacy of the brand's founder, Mr. Wally Amos," said Rachna Patel, senior director of marketing for Famous Amos. "In addition to the grants Famous Amos awards, we feel it is equally important to offer resources such as mentorship, coaching, and networking, which are provided by our community partner, the National Black Chamber of Commerce."
The challenges Black businesses face on the road to sustainability are steep and plenty. According to a report from the Brookings Institution, Black people comprise approximately 14% of the U.S. population, but only 2.3% of owners of employer firms. Findings from the Federal Reserve System's 2021 Small Business Credit Survey showed that most small business owners reported experiencing financial hardship during the early stages of the pandemic, but the highest rate was reported by Black business owners: 92%. The same survey also pointed to challenges for Black businesses getting capital they needed to survive the pandemic, with only 43% of Black firms receiving the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans they applied for, compared to a 79% of White-owned firms.
Lower personal wealth among Black entrepreneurs also inhibits business creation, the report noted, underscoring the need for programs like the Famous Amos Ingredients for Success Entrepreneurs Initiative to provide business capital that Black businesses need to invigorate their operations.
In addition, according to a recent story by CNBC, nearly 8 out of 10 Black-owned companies usually do not survive the first 18 months. Famous Amos strongly believes that pairing these entrepreneurs early on with financial resources and mentorship is a key ingredient to contribute to a more positive direction.
Flavors of the season
Pete Thomson, senior director of sales and strategy for Sugar Bowl Bakery, America’s largest minority-owned bakery, shares a key strategy for success in today’s complex marketplace, commenting about the future of freshly baked cookies and other fresh bakery products.
“We want to bring in the flavor of the season to customers, rather than just the color of the season,” Thomson says.
A veteran of the food industry, Thomson exclaims that you must be distinctive in your approach to every retail customer. After all, the purpose of the category is to bring joy to the customers.
“The perimeter of the store is like a movie theater,” he says. “The biggest challenge for bakery is for customers to pay for the experience. Get out of the mindset that the best price is the lowest price.”
Notable food industry analysts agree.
“Having a moment of joy is vital to the success of the bakery,” says Ann-Marie Roarink of 210 Analytics. “Cookie kits are a perfect example. Hybrids are bigger in bakery. I am convinced there is still some growth ahead.”
Fellow panelist Jonna Parker of IRI exemplifies this point when she adds that in today’s marketplace, “the concept of time saved is big. This is what we should do – but we’ve never trained the consumer to know that this is what we have.”
Now that is changing.
Sugar Bowl Bakery recently announced its final stage of a branding overhaul: new packaging. The new design is fresh and modern and pays homage to Sugar Bowl Bakery’s joyful persona via fun illustrations and vibrant colors. The bakery, known for its madeleines and palmiers for over 35 years, unveiled a new website last fall and its newly revamped packaging completes its design update.
“Sugar Bowl was founded in the mid-1980s, and since then, the founders--five immigrant brothers from Vietnam--have remained focused on their mission of bringing consumers the most delicious baked goods imaginable,” said Robyn Defina, vice president of sales and marketing, Sugar Bowl Bakery. “While the brand’s core values have remained, it was time to give this beloved brand a fresh new look. The packaging now embodies all that we strive to be – a fun, creative and inspired baked goods company that pays attention to every detail -- and every bite.”
The new packaging is rolling out to stores nationwide and can already be spotted on shelves in select Costco stores.
Sugar Bowl Bakery creates delicious, perfectly portioned baked goods with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Its tasty, premium treats are available at a price point that is accessible to the everyday consumer, and with ingredients you can pronounce, Sugar Bowl Bakery’s products are a sweet, guilt-free treat with less than 150 calories each and less than 10/g sugar per serving. Its core offerings include madeleines, palmiers, brownie bites, Duet Bites® (half brownie bite, half madeleine), and fritters. Seasonally, the company offers festive items like pumpkin madeleines, gingerbread bites, tropical pineapple cake bites and more.
Pop and fizz
The ICEE Company, a subsidiary of J&J Snack Foods Corp., recently announced its newest sweet treat, ICEE Sandwich Crème Filled Cookies, exhibiting the fresh packaging options at the IDDBA show.
Fans can now enjoy the classic pop and fizz of their favorite carbonated beverage in a delicious crème filled cookie. Sandwiched between two vanilla wafers, cookies feature either cherry or blue raspberry ICEE flavored crème – the same iconic flavors fans have loved for over 53 years.
“We are continually innovating at ICEE and are beyond excited to bring fans their beloved frozen beverage flavors in a new, fun cookie format," says Natalie Peterson, vice president of marketing for The ICEE Company. "We have no doubt that these new crème filled cookies will be a hit among fans. It's a completely different experience – perfect for snacking on the go – with our beloved cherry and blue raspberry flavors that evoke nostalgia and make you feel like a kid again!"
Since 1967, ICEE has been a household name, forming its own category in the food and beverage market and becoming the number one brand in frozen beverages. The new crème filled cookies join the iconic ICEE portfolio, helping fans to relive their childhood and create new memories with the ones they love. ICEE Sandwich Crème Filled Cookies are now available at Kroger stores nationwide, for an SRP $3.29.