Dewey's started as a small, regional bakery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1930, which is still operational today.
"I like to talk about us as being a 90-year-old startup," Dewey's chief marketing officer, Ellen Howse, told FoodNavigator-USA.
The company started to expand beyond its regional, small-town fame when Scott Livengood, former president and CEO of Krispy Kreme purchased the company in 2006. Livengood had a vision of expanding the Dewey's name beyond retail.
"He was very focused on e-commerce and on branded products. We started making inroads into retail over the past five years," said Howse.
This past year is when things have really started to pick up for the brand with a national launch at 2,000+ Safeway Albertsons stores and other retailers including Schnucks and Stop & Shop.
"That gives us a true national presence, and I think that will be a game-changer for us," noted Howse, who added that many retailers are looking for ways to expand their cookie set.
"Retailers are really looking for new and different and relevant offerings for their consumers. I think at the end of the day, especially for cookies, it’s about unique flavors and textures. If it doesn’t taste good, nothing else really matters," she said.
The fact that Dewey's thin crispy cookie recipe hasn't deviated much from its early bakery days (containing no artificial preservatives or other additives) has served as a huge draw for consumers and retailers alike, claimed Howse.
The power of permissible indulgence
Part of Dewey's main appeal is that consumers feel like they are still indulging without all the guilt that usually comes with eating a handful of cookies.
Howse noted that even the most health-forward consumers are looking for small ways to indulge as part of a balanced approach to eating. Mondelēz International's 2021 State of Snacking report found that eight in ten consumers agreed that some snacks should be just for enjoyment or satisfaction without worrying too much about the nutrition.
"You can have eight cookies, and it's only about 15-16 calories per cookie. So it's something you don't feel guilty about eating," said Howse, who clarified that the brand is not positioning itself as a healthy cookie by any means.
"We talk about our cookies as a permissible indulgence. There are a lot of 'healthy cookies' out there and certainly keto has had a major impact on the category, but I wouldn’t say we’re trying to be a healthy cookie," she said.
TikTok, an unexpected partnership
Some may not expect a 92-year-old brand to lean heavily into TikTok trends, but a recent partnership with popular country mashup artist, influencer, and North Carolina native Cooper Alan is giving Dewey's the authentic modern boost it needs, explained Howse.
With over 7.5 million followers on TikTok, Alan created a video promoting Dewey's cookies to the tune of rap artist Nelly's "Ride With Me" song and is leveraging the duet feature on the app to encourage other users to create their own Dewey's videos.
"I couldn’t come up with a better partner at this time. It gives us a new way to reach consumers without just throwing an ad at them," she said.
Sticking with its approach of balancing its local bakery heritage and modern marketing messaging, Dewey's rebranded its entire line of cookies this year with a refreshed but still authentic look and feel, which according to Howse, is resonating well with consumers.
The road ahead
As for its next steps as a brand, Howse explained that the company is most focused on expanding its presence in grocery and club (where it currently has a regional presence with Costco in the Southeast) and entering new channels with differentiated product offerings.
"We recently introduced minis, which are in a resealable on-the-go pouch. That really opened the door for new distribution in c-store, specialty, and airport accounts. It gives us a nice ability to find new consumers in new channels," said Howse, who added that the Q4 will be key for the brand as it rolls out a whole slew of limited-time offerings of seasonal flavors and gifting options.
"We have to get as many samples into as many hands as possible," added Howse.
TUNE INTO FOODNAVIGATOR-USA'S HEALTHY SNACKING TRENDS WEBINAR
Where does permissible indulgence sit on the healthy snacking spectrum? Find out during FoodNavigator-USA's Healthy Snacking Trends webinar next Tuesday, Sept. 27th at 11 a.m. CST.