An iconic brand, Otis Spunkmeyer is emerging as a winner in micro markets and vending

June 19, 2024
From a home kitchen to their own cookie shops, the brand started as a competitor to Mrs. Fields but soon evolved into a leading, fresh-baked food service brand. Today, Otis Spunkmeyer is creating profitable treats for convenience services operators.

There are plenty of stories in the retail world about craft products that emerge from a home kitchen — about the baker who turned Grandma’s recipe into a winning retail product. Otis Spunkmeyer is one of those home baking stories, but few home bakers will ever come close to enjoying their level of brand recognition and success. Founded in 1977, this iconic brand is gaining serious traction with micro market and vending operators, driven by an indulgent line of individually wrapped baked snacks.

Food service success

Otis Spunkmeyer was created by Ken Rawlings and his daughter in their San Francisco kitchen. The name was developed by 12-year-old Kimberly as they baked cookies, a tongue-in-cheek takeoff of Orville Redenbacher.  While it has largely been a food service brand for almost 50 years, not typically in supermarkets, vending operators have been successfully selling their individually wrapped muffins for years.

Individually wrapped opportunity

According to Paul Stippich, director of marketing for Otis Spunkmeyer, the company is now focused on leveraging its extremely high level of customer loyalty and brand recognition into convenience store growth, along with vending and micro market sales.

"From day one, the Otis Spunkmeyer brand has never sacrificed quality. We are a premium brand, an indulgent product that resonates with consumers who want to enjoy a quality bakery snack," he said. "It is also important to note that we are priced competitively with other products in the category, and what operators are seeing is a strong response from micro market customers, including steady repeat sales, largely driven by our high quality and a full line of individually wrapped items."

Building the brand for 47 years

That high level of customer loyalty and brand recognition is largely due to the company’s approach over the last five decades. It has been a very visible journey that started with 20 Otis Spunkmeyer retail stores, followed by a move into serving food service locations with small ovens and fresh cookie dough, to direct delivery through a fleet of well-adorned Otis Spunkmeyer trucks. By the company’s 40th anniversary in 2017, Otis Spunkmeyer was selling individually wrapped cookies throughout North America. After becoming a flagship brand for Aspire Bakeries in 2021, along with La Brea Bakery and other well-recognized names, Otis Spunkmeyer began and continues to expand the company’s individually wrapped product line, a perfect fit for micro market and vending operators.

Indulgent product trend

With a clear trend toward high quality, indulgent products in the workplace (as evidenced by the excitement surrounding new ice cream entrants), Otis Spunkmeyer is well positioned to generate significant sales for operators.  “We were well received at the NAMA Show, especially by operators who had experience with our fast-selling muffins in the past. They were thrilled to see the expanded line of individually wrapped products,” Stippich said.

When Stippich describes the defining characteristics of each individually wrapped product, it is easy to understand why Otis Spunkmeyer is trending upward in all segments, including micro markets and vending.

  • Iced Lemon Loaf Cake: “Tangy, sweet citrus, with a homemade, in-the-kitchen flavor.”
  • Double Chocolate Caramel Cookie: “Fantastic afternoon treat with coffee. A true double-chocolate experience with a hint of caramel that you just can’t beat. It’s almost like a sundae and a cookie, but I’m biased.”
  • Chocolate Chunk Cookie: “Classic, traditional chocolate chunk, visible chocolate chunks, real chocolate chunks. No compromise, awesome cookie.”
  • Wild Blueberry Muffin: “Good luck keeping it in stock. Consumers love it. It’s our number one selling item. One of the cool characteristics about our wild blueberry four-ounce muffin is that when you open up the wrapper, you smell blueberries immediately. It’s truly a great breakfast on the go.”
  • Brownie with Real Chocolate Chips: “Huge seller. It is a fudge-like brownie that your grandmother would make. We worked very hard with our R&D team to get that fudgy-like texture. I can’t tell you how we did it, but it is fantastic, with high quality chocolate ingredients and chocolate chips. They melt a little bit through the baking process, but you can see a few of them and you get a hint of that texture in your mouth.”
  • Apple Cinnamon Oat Cookie: “Whether you want to have it for an afternoon snack or a meal replacement for breakfast, you cannot go wrong with the Apple Cinnamon Oat Cookie. It is kind of like a fall orchard experience on the go.”
  • A new product coming soon is a Birthday Cake Cookie: “An individually wrapped celebration. Lots of confetti, so it looks great on display. True birthday cake flavor. A buttery, vanilla, birthday cake experience.”

Something special for pantry service

Stippich noted that while individually wrapped products are a key focus for Otis Spunkmeyer in these channels, the brand’s fresh-baked cookie program (using frozen cookie dough) still exists. “At the NAMA Show, we were taken aback by the interest from pantry service operators, some of whom are in locations with fully attended coffee bars,” he said. “They are envisioning fresh baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, using our familiar, compact ovens, in locations that are looking for something special. Increasingly, customers are asking operators for amenities that will set them apart. Fresh baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies — at least a few days a week, would make quite a powerful impact.”

Bob Tullio’s perspective:
Why Otis Spunkmeyer makes sense for operators

Newstalgia: Otis Spunkmeyer has a distinct advantage over other indulgent baked snacks. Let’s call it “Newstalgia.”  When an iconic brand can capitalize on decades of name recognition and customer loyalty by rolling out a high quality line of products that are perfect for convenience services operators, that’s a winning combination.

Fresh-baked quality: I tasted the samples. Otis Spunkmeyer is the closest thing to fresh baked on the market. The product descriptions are right on target.

Excellent margins: According to Stippich, operators are having sales success at a $3.95 price point. “Nobody is complaining about the profit margins,” he said.

Impressive packaging: Their bright and distinctive packaging is eye-catching — it does a great job of showcasing the product. Additionally, Otis Spunkmeyer offers appealing signage and high impact display materials — perfect for micro market and pantry locations.

Shelf life: Once at room temperature, the individually wrapped products have shelf lives from 30 to 60 days, depending on the product. Although, it is hard to imagine that shelf life would be an issue because the product tends to move quickly in the right locations.

The pantry service angle: The idea of going “old school” in a fully attended pantry location — selling fresh baked cookies from frozen cookie dough, baked in an Otis Spunkmeyer oven — is exciting to consider.

Distribution: Otis Spunkmeyer is widely available through Vistar.

Stippich said that Otis Spunkmeyer is happy to provide samples and support to operators. For more information, contact Chris Jakubek, the director of food service and vending.

 [email protected]

About the Author

Bob Tullio

Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser and He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up. He specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry — coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. He can be reached at 818 261-1758 and [email protected]. Tullio welcomes your feedback.

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser’s new podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, which Tullio hosts. Each episode is designed to make your business more profitable.


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