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Tastykake: Philadelphia's Tastiest Cake

Spring 2009
Tastykake Factory
Tastykake Baking Company, located in the Nicetown-Tioga area of Philadelphia.

Nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake." This jingle is not only easy to remember but is a treasured rhyme for any Tastykake fan. However, this favorite "tasty" cake did not get its start until 1914 when a baker from Pittsburgh, Phillip J. Baur, and an egg salesman from Boston, Herbert T. Morris, came together in Philadelphia to create the Tasty Baking Company. Their revolutionary idea began in response to the usually stale cake received at bakeries. During the early twentieth century, it was customary for cake to be left sitting out on a cutting board all day. When a customer wanted to buy a piece, they would receive the next chunk due to be served, which more often than not tended to be stale. Baur and Morris had an idea that would eliminate the staleness and capture the freshness of the cake by selling small cakes individually pre-wrapped at the bakery.

Baur developed the final recipe for their product while Morris worked out a slogan and a name for their new company. The partners decided to name their product "Tastykake" after Morris' wife said their cakes were "tasty." After finalizing the product, name, and slogan, they bought a building on Sedgley Avenue in the Nicetown-Tioga area of Philadelphia and began production. Baur managed to produce about 100 cakes in the first day. Morris then took the cakes and went to the local markets to persuade grocers to buy their revolutionizing cakes. His valiant efforts sent him back to Sedgley Avenue that night with $28.32 in sales. Five-cent packages containing two pre-wrapped cakes were completely innovative in 1914 and they began to sell rapidly. At the end of the first year the partners had sold over $300,000 worth of their cakes (To put that in perspective, every $1 in 1914 would equal $20 today).

Despite periodic economic challenges, including food shortages and the Great Depression, Tastykake continued to thrive in an often unstable economy. For instance, in 1918, there was a severe shortage of food in the area. Sugar and bread were rationed, and the price of eggs, butter, milk, and other commodities went through the roof. However, Tastykake managed to keep its prices stable and as a result, stores were selling the snacks as fast as the company could supply them. This success in a shaky economy helped Tastykake to reach $1 million sales in 1918 and led them to double their sales a year later. In 1922, the partners decided to upgrade the bakery by moving from Sedgley Avenue to its present location a few blocks west on Hunting Park Avenue, since their lucrative profits made the expansion feasible.

Tastykake Delivery Truck
Harry P. Hunt
Tastykake delivery truck on its delivery route in Philadelphia.

Tastykake's growth continued throughout the "Roaring Twenties" and in 1928 the company reached over $6 million in sales. Even during the Great Depression, Tastykake continued to prosper throughout the 1930's by making adjustments accordingly. They added a third cupcake to a package, but still held the price constant at five cents. They also introduced the first personal individual pie during this period, an asset of their company that still contributes to a large portion of their sales today. In 1934, the government released a "Bakers' Code" as part of the National Recovery Act, which set a minimum wage and maximum weekly hours that employers could make their employees work. Tastykake, unlike other bakeries, had been operating almost exactly according to this code and was even paying their employees much higher wages than the code required.

The company that had already survived the Great Depression and two world wars faced its toughest battle yet in 1951. After sales had reached its peak at over $16 million, the growth began to plateau and earnings started to decrease. Production was not meeting demand and consequently Tastykake made a huge decision to change their factory to an automated production model to keep competitive. Every aspect of production had to be reengineered to fit an automated, continuously flowing production line. Ninety percent of the manufacturing process became fully automated, and the production cycle from mixing to packaging was cut from 12 hours to 45 minutes. These complete renovations cost the company $8 million, but ten years later their sales had increased over 60%, profits doubled, and the value of the machines they invested in had increased by 500%.

With the installation of machines covering almost the entire baking process, the owners of Tastykake had the opportunity to expand their business and marketing their product in different ways. The company bought into numerous other endeavors and in 2004 began its partnerships around the Philadelphia Area. They joined forces with the Philadelphia Zoo to open up the Tastykake Children's Zoo. "We're thrilled to join Philadelphia's own Tasty Baking Company on one sweet partnership — the Tastykake Children's Zoo," said Pete Hoskins, the president of the Philadelphia Zoo. The Children's Zoo is aimed at educating children about animals with their new theatre and petting zoo. The theatre will perform shows with various animals and let children from the audience participate. The petting zoo project funded by Tastykake will allow children to pet various farm animals and gain a unique hands-on experience.

In 2005, they opened up their Tastykake Thrift Outlet Store in partnership with PNC Bank and the Allegheny West Foundation to give high school students an opportunity to work and learn how to operate a successful business. All products at the outlet are sold at a discount and profits go to the Allegheny West Foundation to continually help kids in the area. Tastykake also partnered with radio stations around the area to help promote numerous events focused towards helping kids and launching new products.

Tastykake Factory
(c) Tasty Baking Co.
Tastykake teamed up with Alex’s Lemonade Stand in the battle against childhood cancer.

A few years later Tastykake introduced one of their most popular products, the Lemon Krimpet, by entering into a partnership with Alex's Lemonade Stand in 2007, one of the nation's leading foundations supporting the fight against childhood cancer. "Alex's Lemonade Stand was delighted to learn that Tastykake wanted to be a part of what the foundation is trying to accomplish," said Liz Scott, Alex's mother and Vice President of Development for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Tastykake donates $.50 from every box of Lemon Krimpets to the foundation and incorporates the foundation's logo on the packaging.

Tastykake also recently made a strong business move by partnering with the Philadelphia Eagles in a new marketing campaign. "The Eagles and Tastykake represent two brands that share a powerful connection with our fans," said Eagles Senior Vice President of Business Operations, Mark Donovan. They have a comprehensive marketing approach that includes integrated billboards and sponsored Philadelphia Eagles Kids' Club events. The company is dedicated to the advancement of young people and the thriving success of its beloved Philadelphia area.

These swift and innovative business practices are still an integral asset of Tastykake today. The baking factory pumps out over 4.8 million cakes, donuts, cookies, and pies every day. The processes are almost completely automated and nearly flawless. These snacks are produced in a facility that has ovens approximately 150 feet long, and devours over 135,000 lbs of sugar daily. The scrumptious ingredients of Tastykakes come from all over the world, including sugar cane and cocoa from Africa, vanilla from Madagascar, cinnamon from Indonesia, nutmeg from the East and West Indies, and banana puree from Ecuador. Some of their products include Krimpets, Kandy Kakes, Cookie Bars, Koffee Kakes, Juniors, Creamies, cupcakes, pies, and donuts. The most popular selling item is Tastykake's Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes, of which they make about 500,000 a day and over 130 million a year.

Tastykake Peanut Butter Kandy Kake
Tastykake’s best selling product, the Peanut Butter Kandy Kake. They produce and sell over 130 million Kandy Kakes per year.

Today the Tasty Baking Company has become a true Philadelphia success story as their products are sold up and down the East Coast and they gross over $250 million in sales annually. The company announced another expansion on May 9, 2007, stating they will be moving their location to the Old Navy Yard. The new bakery will be completely state-of-the-art and their headquarters will follow "green" policies, signifying a new milestone for the company. They are currently still in the process of relocation. Tastykake has come a long way since its conception in 1914 and they plan to continue to expand further only in ways that will maximize benefits for their consumers. For those who have ever eaten a Tastykake, most would concur they are delicious little snacks and it is easy to see how the Tastykake gets its name.