Today, The No-Bake Cookie Co. is a stand-alone business with its products sold in more than 6,500 grocery and convenience stores across the country. The Healys — Carol, husband Tom and now their son Eric — hope to grow No-Bake into a nationally recognized brand, said Eric Healy, chief operating officer.
“This style of business is very scalable,” Eric Healy said. “It’s much more interesting than a single brick-and-mortar type business.”
The company is growing so quickly that Healy, a mechanical engineer, left his job in Seattle last fall and moved back to Bend to help his parents manage it. The No-Bake Cookie Co. declined to disclose its revenue, but Healy said it grew 50 percent from 2015 to 2016 and could grow at an even faster pace this year.
The company this month raised $600,000 from investors to help fuel further distribution and increase production at its small plant off American Lane. The No-Bake Cookie Co. has 25 employees and will be adding 10 more in production with the addition of an evening shift, Eric Healy said.
The company’s lead investor is a Fortune 500 CEO who was drawn to the retro product, supported by 1950s-style branding. “He basically has the same story all our customers have,” Healy said. “He instantly remembered having these no-bake cookies as a kid. He couldn’t believe this hadn’t been done yet.”
At least half of consumers in the West recognize no-bake cookies, but the product is even more popular in the Midwest and South, Healy said. Because Bend is not on an interstate, reaching those markets efficiently is one of the The No-Bake Cookie Co.’s main challenges. Currently, the no-bake cookies, which are shipped frozen, often go to Portland before being shipped to points east, Healy said.
The Healys are getting assistance with logistical challenges through another investor, the Bend-based venture capital fund FoundersPad. One of the No-Bake Cookie Co.’s mentors is Heather Howitt, a Portland-based management consultant and co-founder of Oregon Chai, which was sold in 2004 for $75 million.
“We were able to find some food experts and brand experts that were a great fit for No-Bake,” said Luann Abrams, FoundersPad manager.
FoundersPad, which typically invests in tech companies, had never before backed a consumer-product company, Abrams said. FoundersPad’s partners were encouraged by fund manager Jason Moyer, who also works on a contract basis as The No-Bake Cookie Co.’s chief financial officer. Moyer said the company was attractive to investors because it has “substantial traction” with major grocery and convenience chains, and there’s more opportunity to expand in the natural-foods market.
With 252 calories, 10 grams of fat and 27 grams of sugars per serving, The No-Bake Cookie Co.’s “all-natural” cafe mocha cookie is hardly a health food, but that’s not a problem for the convenience stores that are fueling much of the company’s recent growth. “They still want indulgent products,” Healy said.
In May 2016, the company landed distribution with Sheetz, a Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain with 550 locations, and also sells in Circle K stores on the West Coast, Healy said.
There are 150,000 convenience stores, representing one-third of all stores, in the United States, and many of them are looking to sell fresh and healthier food, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores in Alexandria, Virginia.
The challenge is to do that without wasting shelf space on items that only appeal to health nuts, who don’t frequent convenience stores in the first place, he said.
“The biggest opportunity for convenience stores is the customer category called fence-sitters,” he said. “They want to eat healthier, not necessarily all the time.”
Despite The No-Bake Cookie Co.’s origins in a convenience store, Carol and Tom Healy initially focused on selling to grocery chains when they launched the company seven years ago because gluten-free diets were becoming popular, and grocery stores wanted those products, Eric Healy said.
No-bake cookies are traditionally gluten-free because they don’t use flour, but the company took the extra step of certifying its production facility as gluten-free, he said.
No-bake batter, which contains neither eggs nor flour, is cooked on a stove, and then scooped onto sheets to cool. Most recipes call for refrigeration. Also known as preacher cookies and cow patties, the cookies were popular in the 1940s and ’50s because a housewife could whip them up on a hot day without turning on the oven, said Ruth Clark, who blogs about mid-century cooking at midcenturymenu.com.
“They’re a very finicky, difficult cookie to make,” Eric Healy said.
Figuring out how to commercialize a home recipe was one of the Healys’ first challenges. The No-Bake Cookie Co. uses a proprietary kettle to mix and cook the batters, which come in eight different flavors.
The production floor is stocked with ingredients that would be familiar to any home cook, mainly large bags of sugar and bricks of butter. A “clean” label, meaning one where the list of ingredients is recognizable, is part of the company’s appeal, he said.
“We have maintained the traditional no-bake recipe,” he said.
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