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Local company is on a roll

August 01, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

It is either courage or folly to launch a new line of pastries at a time when the Atkins and South Beach diets are sweeping the nation.

That's just what Smithsburg-based wholesale bakery Hadley Farms did two years ago when it test-marketed its 7-ounce cinnamon roll at a supermarket chain in Virginia.

The way Hadley fundraising director Christopher Yeager saw it, dieters are going to cheat, and if they're destined to, they might as well do it with a Hadley Farms cinnamon roll.

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"If somebody's going to cheat, cheat with something gourmet, cheat with this," Yeager said. "We needed a boost in the arm, as most bakeries did. We had something different, we're fighting back."

Hadley Farms does most of its business with large institutions such as schools, and the company reaches out to business across the northeast in states including Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.

About six months ago, the company launched a new fundraising program featuring its cinnamon rolls.

As part of the program, organizations such as Little League clubs can buy cases of the rolls for $1.50 per roll and sell them, individually or by cases of 12, for $3 per roll.

Yeager said the fact that Hadley had been turning some of its product over to fundraising companies contributed to that decision.

Those companies, after adding in their own handling costs, would sell the products to nonprofit groups seeking to earn money for uniforms or defray their own operating costs.

"Over the past five or eight years we've been making products for other fundraising companies," Yeager said. "We never thought too much about it until we took a look at the prices they were charging. That's why there's $20 cheesecakes out there and pizza kits at $18. We decided there's got to be a better way."

The rolls, Yeager said, have sold like hot cakes. Starting out with an initial group of nonprofits including the Waynesboro (Pa.) Historical Society and the Grace Child Care Center, Hadley sold 100 cases in the first month. That figure grew to 300 cases, then to 600, and reached 1,200 cases in month four.

"It has just snowballed beyond our wildest imaginations," Yeager said. "It's the fundraising aspect that's probably going to drive the retail business."

Yeager said the rolls, packaged in individually wrapped, microwavable containers, have a freezer life of about seven months and a counter-top life of about a week.

He said the rolls are as good as gourmet rolls sold in shopping malls, with an added convenience factor. They can be stashed in the freezer and heated up as a midnight snack.

Kurt Schaeffer, director of the boys team for the Smithsburg Area Youth Lacrosse Club, said the boys and girls teams recently sold about 2,000 rolls over a span of about three weeks.

Schaeffer said that during the effort, in which about 60 of the club's 100 members participated, he got calls from people who bought the rolls and wanted to find out where they could buy more.

"We did very well, it was very easy," Schaeffer said. "They're super, super easy because you can sell just one. They're different, they're not out there selling pizzas or candy bars."

Yeager said the company will deliver small orders, as few as 20 cases, to organizations as far as 250 miles away based on the historical knowledge the orders will stimulate at least three or four more requests.

He said word of mouth, more than anything, has generated enough business that Hadley Farms is now thinking about selling the rolls in retail stores.

"It's a really high-end product," Yeager said. "As soon as it hits the general market here, they're going to sell. I would like to see this thing be as well known as Tastykake," the treats made by the Philadelphia-based Tasty Baking Co.

Yeager said Hadley has plans to increase the size of the rolls from 7 ounces to 8.5 ounces.

Schaeffer, who picked up a case of the rolls for himself, said he's not sure whether the morsels will achieve Tastykake status, but said he believes they will do well on the open market.

"I think they have the potential to take off, I think they'll do very well," he said. "I'm on vacation right now, and I have a case of them with me."

Yeager said the company has plans to retail the rolls in Eastern Maryland and is contemplating marketing the rolls locally, although there are no definite plans.

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