Though Otis Spunkmeyer was never a real person, there’s nothing fake about the ingredients in the brand’s new thaw-and-serve retail line for instore bakeries, convenience stores and club stores. Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, muffins and loaf cakes are being introduced for the first time into these retail segments, after having built up monumental staying power over four decades as the No. 1 foodservice cookie dough provider.

No Funky Stuff is the tagline for ingredients inside the famous cookies and sweet goods, which contain no high fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oils and no artificial flavors and colors. This messaging follows right in line with the top trend in today’s bakery business: clean label.

“No Funky Stuff makes that much more appealing for customers, and the taste is just as good or better,” says Charice Grace, brand manager for Otis Spunkmeyer, part of Aryzta. “We spent a full year of product development. We don’t want to substitute taste.”

In describing Otis Spunkmeyer’s wildly popular chocolate chunk cookie, the company proclaims, “You know a chocolate chip cookie is serious when it’s made with molasses and dark Swiss chocolate chunks from Barry Callebaut.” 

A history of innovation

The founder of Otis Spunkmeyer was a true entrepreneur, Ken Rawlings, who sadly passed away on May 20, 2017, 40 years after opening his first Otis Spunkmeyer cookie store in Oakland, California. The story goes that Rawlings was always good at smelling an opportunity. Back in 1976 as he walked through the Fox Hills Mall in Los Angeles, the smell of freshly baked cookies struck a note. His 12-year-old daughter suggested a quirky name for his new venture, and it quickly resonated with consumers. By 1979, Rawlings started a cookie dough manufacturing plant in San Leandro, California, and four years later (after the retail business had grown to 20 locations) sold the retail stores and transitioned to strictly wholesale.

By the late 1980s, Otis Spunkmeyer trucks crisscrossed the country, delivering cookie dough to more than 40,000 accounts. Today, Otis Spunkmeyer is the top-selling foodservice cookie dough in America, as well as the top-selling cookie dough in fundraising.

Rawlings was described as an “enthusiastic philanthropist” who supported many great causes, including the Otis Spunkmeyer Student Motivational Program and the Lois Blair Rawlings Foundation Educational Inspiration Award, honoring excellence in education. The founder exhibited a flair for the dramatic, namely in 1988. That’s when Otis Spunkmeyer bought a vintage 1945 DC-3 airplane, hoping to capture the romance of aviation’s golden era by offering hour-long sky tours of the San Francisco Bay area. ‘’We look at it as our Goodyear blimp,’’ Rawlings said at the time, noting that a 95-foot sign bearing the company’s brand name would most certainly grab the attention of big crowds.

“Ken Rawlings was very immersed in the local community, and he always wanted to give back,” Grace says of the company’s founder. “We are very excited to celebrate our 40th anniversary this year. We plan to partner with a lot of vendors and feature online sweepstakes and giveaways.”

Brand power

Otis Spunkmeyer is entering the retail sector at a time when consumers are craving nostalgic memories of food. Top chefs are reinventing classic traditions like macaroni & cheese and meatloaf. In the cookie category, people are wanting a taste of something that reminds them of simpler times, and Otis Spunkmeyer is poised to deliver exactly that.

“It’s such a fun brand, and it just resonates well with people: the flavors, the varieties, the fun,” says Grace, who adds that the brand boasts 54 percent awareness among consumers. “Consumers love the memory of a warm baked cookie.”

The company is starting its retail launch with top-selling cookie varieties, as well as muffins and loaf cakes, with a thaw-and-serve product that makes it extremely convenient for instore bakeries and c-stores. In addition, there will be a Super Cookie in two flavor options (chocolate chip and double chocolate), which comes in a bakeable tray that makes it convenient and shareable. 

Having a powerful brand like Otis Spunkmeyer plays equally to the strength of offering everyday cookies, which account for 51 percent of instore cookie category total sales, to a hungry public. Even with all the attention captured by new products available now at the instore bakery, it is important for bakery managers to remember the importance of heavyweight contributors like cookies.

Cookies contribute 11 percent of total instore bakery sales, making it a $1.7 billion category at supermarket bakeries, and cookie sales at instore bakeries represent one-fourth of supermarket dessert category sales. Cookie sales in the commercial aisle remain relatively flat, and it’s the bakery that is bringing action and excitement to the category.

“When people think of cookies, they think of happiness and joy,” Grace says. “With all the new foods available, people still want cookies.”