But he persisted and after testing dozens combinations of ingredients, cooking techniques and packaging he succeeded and the result is a chewy cookie that tastes like it just came out of the oven and is made with only ingredients that are found in most kitchen pantries.
“When you decide you are going to have a clean label, it is tricky. And I am not sure there is anything else in the marketplace that can really get a six month shelf life and still taste like it just came out of the oven, like this cookie,” he told FoodNavigator-USA at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City late last month.
So, how did he do it? He says the secret ingredient is applesauce – which is commonly swapped in home kitchens for butter or oil to help retain moisture, while reducing the fat. The result is a cookie that is a bit more cake-like and that stays soft for longer.
But applesauce is far from the only ingredient that makes Dewey’s soft batch cookies memorable. The line is full of nostalgic yet sophisticated and fun flavors that draw on the bakery’s southern heritage. It includes Banana Pudding that balances comforting banana and pure vanilla, Triple Chocolate Brownie that recalls licking the brownie batter straight from the mixing bowl, Lemon Bar, which is packed with zest and sweetened with brown sugar and for the kid of all ages – birthday cake.
Last but not least in the line-up is Livengood’s favorite: Old Fashioned Glazed Doughnuts, which he says pays homage to his tenure at Krispy Kreme and tastes just like a freshly fried donut once the cookie is briefly reheated.
The unique flavors combinations continue in Dewey’s line of crispy cookies. The crispy cookies include Brown Butter with Sea Salt, Pecan Pralines and Caramel Popcorn, which offers a new twist on an old favorite enjoyed at baseball games and movie theaters.
For those who would rather crunch on something savory, Dewey’s also launched at the Summer Fancy Food Show a line of Southern-themed crackers, including Carolina Style Barbeque, Sharp Aged Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar Cornbread, Low Country Boil and Sweet Potato with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar.
The company continues to play up the southern country charm of the snacks by packing them in brown craft bags with bright color blocks and elegant white scroll that is akin to something at a farm stand or antique store. The treats are sealed a plastic bag inside the paper bag, but for convenient serving they are stored in a white tray with scalloped edges that easily sits flat on a table so there is minimal risk of cookies and crackers spilling across the table.
A long road to launch
For Livengood, the launch is a dream come true, he said, explaining that he always wanted to create his own brand, even when he was at Krispy Kreme, which he describes as a magical brand and a magical experience.
But like so many others who chase a dream, this one was not easy to attain.
While Dewey’s Bakery had served baked goods to patrons in Winston-Salem since 1930s, the capability to make products available at retail really began about 10 years ago when the company built a manufacturing facility in 2007 – at the same time the economy collapsed into a recession.
“You might think, ‘Wow, that is a crummy time to start investing all that money,’ and in some ways it was because we had limited resources,” Livengood said. But, he added, that was also when retailers started stepping-up their game with specialty private label products, which Dewey’s was happy to manufacture while it organized its own launch.
“We were perfectly positioned because we are really nimble and can do short runs,” which ultimately gave it visibility to retailers who would later become early partners in the distribution of the Dewey’s branded cracker and cookies, he explained.
It also allowed Dewey’s to fully immerse itself in the food industry and feel out what the trends were – first for its private label partners and later for its own brand – which helps explain how so many of its flavors are spot on with emerging consumer demands.
Dewey’s will continue to manufacturer private label brands in the coming years, but Livingood says he really wants to see significant growth in Dewey’s own brand.
“We are doing everything we can to see this become a national brand as quickly and as prudently as we can manage,” he said, including working with a public relations firm to build buzz, investing heavily in a strong sales presence across the country and continuing to develop new products that “bring back memories of family holidays and sitting on your front porch on a hot summer day."