An Appetite for Growth
Fruitcake, while a much-maligned holiday gift-giving tradition, nonetheless comprises a serious mail-order business in Corsicana, Texas. Fifty miles south of Dallas along Interstate 45 stands the home of the DeLuxe fruitcake and Cryer Creek Kitchens catalog, a wholly owned subsidiary of world-renowned Collin Street Bakery.
In recent years, Cryer Creek Kitchens has taken great strides in testing new concepts that have, in turn, fed the parent company’s appetite for sustained growth. Here’s what actions the food cataloger has taken, some of its results and lessons learned along the way.
Birth of a Catalog
The food-by-mail industry, and Collin Street Bakery with it, enjoyed solid and predictable growth in the 1960s and ‘70s. But by the ‘80s, the market for fruitcakes began to level off.
Marketing Director Robert Means says the company tested expanding its fruitcake production line with additional gourmet desserts, such as cheesecakes, pies and tea breads. To avoid damage to its brand, the company launched its expanded product line under a new brand name: Cryer Creek Kitchens. In this way, says Means, “It would be a ‘safe’ failure if it were going to be a failure.
“We didn’t want to simply broaden the Collin Street Bakery product line, given the amount of corporate infrastructure that had been dedicated to our DeLuxe fruitcake,” he explains. “We can produce 30,000 pecan cakes a day, and we can produce about 1,000 cheesecakes a day. So if we were to simply offer that broad product line to all of our Collin Street Bakery customers, we could have a crippling production issue very quickly,” he says.
Under the management of Bill McNutt III, the Cryer Creek Kitchens catalog launched in 1986. From then until 1990, the catalog was mailed only to select Collin Street Bakery customers, and no mention was made of any association between the two brands.