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Ferndale dessert company experiencing sweet growth

Devin Rodriguez frosts a red velvet cheesecake at Chuckanut Bay Foods in Ferndale on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The company is building a new facility.
Devin Rodriguez frosts a red velvet cheesecake at Chuckanut Bay Foods in Ferndale on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The company is building a new facility. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Finding that sweet spot in terms of serving size is paying big dividends for a local food company.

Chuckanut Bay Foods is in the permitting stage to build a new, larger facility after reaching capacity at its current 6,000-square-foot location at 5501 Hovander Road.

The new building will be nearby its current facility on three acres of land on Nielsen Avenue, near the Hempler’s Food Group. The new building initially will have 15,000 square feet of space but is designed to grow to 30,000 square feet, said co-owner Matt Roth. It’s expected to be completed in spring 2017.

40,000 Number of single-serving cheesecakes Chuckanut Bay Foods can produce in a day

When Roth, his wife Julie, and David and Sharon Loeppky purchased the business in the fall of 2008, it had two employees. Today it has around 50 employees and has its products in 3,000 stores across North America.

The company sells a variety of handmade food products in different sizes but is known for its cheesecakes. Particularly popular is the single-serving cheesecakes; at capacity, the company can make 40,000 a day.

“We’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but the single-serve product was a very good idea,” Roth said.

The idea of a single serving of cheesecake came to them from the pizza industry. Roth said they learned that when pizza restaurants would switch from selling by the slice to a round single-size serving, overall sales went up.

Observing customers in grocery stores confirmed they were heading in the right direction. Roth recalls a mother with several children going down an aisle. As what often happens, the children were lobbying hard for their favorite dessert for the week. Once that was settled, the mother picked out a single-size cheesecake separately.

“For that mom, it was that special treat just for herself,” Roth said, noting that’s when they realized they had found an opportunity.

One other benefit to the single-serve model is that because it is a smaller investment than a regular size cheesecake, customers are more willing to try out different flavors. With that in mind, the company makes a variety of flavors and can customize products for different parts of the country. Chuckanut Bay Foods also focuses on local vendors for ingredients, including Edaleen Dairy, Chocolate Necessities and BelleWood Acres.

“We’re proud of being a Northwest brand,” Roth said. “We’re here because we like to live here.”

The four owners use their strengths to handle different aspects of the business. Julie handles the accounting and product development; Matt focuses on sales; Dave manages the operations side and Sharon handles some projects. Matt said the divide-and-conquer approach has led to steady growth in sales while still being able to quickly adapt to market changes.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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