Archway Cookies

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Archway Bakeries
FounderHarold and Ruth Swanson

Archway Cookies is an American cookie manufacturer, founded in 1936 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Since December 2008, it has been a subsidiary of Lance Inc., a snack-food company, who in turn merged with Snyder's of Hanover to form Snyder's-Lance. Archway is best known for its variations of oatmeal cookies.


Swanson Home Style Cookies[edit]

In 1936, Harold and Ruth Swanson began baking soft oatmeal cookies and doughnuts out of their home's garage in Battle Creek. By the late 1940s, they had discontinued baking donuts and just concentrated on cookies. They had fifteen different varieties of cookies by 1949. In the 1950s they licensed their cookie recipes and begin selling baking franchises in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Canada.

Change of name to Archway Cookies and expansion[edit]

In 1954, Swanson, a maker of frozen dinners, sued Swanson cookies for name infringement. As part of a settlement, the Swansons agreed to change the name of their bakery company to Archway Cookies. The name 'Archway' was chosen by Harold and Ruth because the original Swanson cookie labels featured an arch above the name ... and the same arch design was retained on the first generation Archway cookie label designs.

Throughout the 1950s, Archway continued to grow and sell more franchises. At the height of its franchise expansion, Archway Cookies were being manufactured nationally by thirty-three separate bakeries, whose territories were generally drawn along state boundaries.

Archway's flagship varieties were Oatmeal, Date-Filled Oatmeal, Frosty Lemon, Molasses and Pecan Ice Box, with Oatmeal varieties accounting for thirty percent of product sales. The company emphasized its home-made and freshness approach to baking cookies, and often used the term 'Archway Homestyle Cookies'. Most varieties were packaged in two stacks of six large cookies, and wrapped in clear cellophane with a freshness code printed on the front label. Many varieties, such as Ruth's Golden Oatmeal, were 'state fair winning' recipes, selected from among entries of company-sponsored baking competitions. Archway's product line quickly expanded to several dozen varieties, including many classic and unique selections; Peanut Jumble, Rocky Road, Mississippi Mud Cake, Fudge Nut Bar, German Chocolate, Black Walnut Ice Box, Date Nut Bar, Iced Spice, New Orleans Cake, Pineapple Filled, Sour Cream, Soft Sugar, and Cookie Jar Hermit.

Development of the National Brand[edit]

In 1962, Archway was sold to bakery employee (and Swanson son-in-law) George Markham, who bought back several of the franchises over the next two years, rolling the production into two corporate cookie-manufacturing plants in Ohio and Iowa.[1] This marked the beginning of the development of Archway Cookies as a cohesive national brand as well as a period of rapid growth for the company.[2]

In 1983, Markham sold Archway Cookies, Incorporated to Thomas F. Olin (vice president - Ohio bakery operations) and Eugene McKay (vice president - corporate office), with Olin taking the position of Chairman of the Board and McKay named as President.[3] Going forward, one of the primary goals of the parent company (Archway Cookies, Inc.) was to establish a more consistent national brand, in order to meet the merchandising, pricing, and promotional requirements of newly-emerging national retail grocery chains. This was achieved, in part, by gaining tighter control of product and pricing.[4] Cooperative marketing agreements were made with a handful of franchises while others were purchased and rolled into the national corporate structure. These changes enabled Archway to participate in national retail promotions and gain stronger shelf position with emerging super-store grocery operators, such as Walmart and Target.[5][6] In addition, Archway Cookies, Inc. began to implement national marketing positioning strategies with the development of television, radio, and print campaigns ... such as 'Big Cookie Time', 'The Good Food Cookie', and 'Cookies For Kids' (charity fund-raiser for Children's Miracle Network hospitals).[7]

Another factor in Archway's accelerated sales growth was the popularity of the Archway Holiday Cookie line, that eventually expanded to more than twenty-three varieties, including Nutty Nougat, Pfeffernusse, Almond Crescents, Coconut Macaroons, Wedding Cake, and Bells, Trees and Stars. By the late 1980s, Archway had become the largest manufacturer of holiday cookies in the world. Retail stores would often feature huge promotional Archway 'Cookie House' displays, built with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of packages of holiday cookies. By the early 1990s, holiday cookies represented more than ten percent of total brand cookie sales.[8][9]

Product Developments - 'The Good Food Cookie'[edit]

Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Archway began to take advantage of the 'healthful' nature of their cookies, focusing on natural ingredients, no preservatives, and no saturated fat.[10] A strategic key to this was that Archway delivered its product using DSD (Direct Store Delivery) distributors, and was able to manage the product on the shelf more effectively than warehoused cookies. Most Archway varieties had shelf-lives of six to eight weeks, enabling the cookies to stay soft and fresh. Archway Cookies, Incorporated developed a marketing theme, trademarking the phrase 'The Good Food Cookie', to exploit these competitive advantages with consumers and the retail trade.[11] Commensurate with the development of low and non-fat ingredient technologies, Archway introduced a very successful 'fat-free' line of cookies, as well as gingersnaps. As a result, Archway Cookies had become a favorite of health-conscious cookie-eaters across the country, driving low-fat and fat-free sales increases of more than 170 percent in 1994.[12][13]

The company achieved annual unit and dollar sales increases every year between 1990 and 1998,[14] and the brand doubled national retail market share; expanding from three percent to six percent (IRI and Neilsen), and establishing Archway as the third-largest retail cookie brand in the United States.[15] The company also maintained its position as the number one oatmeal and holiday cookie brands in the United States; number two in fat free, fruit filled and gingersnap share.[16] ranking behind Nabisco and Keebler.[17][18] By the late 1990s, Archway brand sales were exceeding 125,000,000 packages per year.

Changes in ownership - Specialty Foods Corporation / Parmalat / Catterton Partners[edit]

On October 30, 1996, Archway Chairman Thomas Olin died suddenly,[19] eventually precipitating the sale of Archway Cookies, Incorporated in 1998 to Specialty Foods Corporation for US$100+ million. This purchase by SFC occurred in conjunction with its purchase of the Mother's Cookies brand, and continued an ongoing trend of consolidation within the industry.[20][21]

In 2000, Specialty sold the Mother's and Archway brands to Parmalat Finanziaria, a division of Parmalat, for a reported US$250 million. In 2005, Parmalat (plagued by scandals and bankruptcy unrelated to Archway) sold — for an undisclosed amount — what was by then called Archway & Mother's Cookie Co. to Catterton Partners,[22] a private-equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations and growth capital investments in middle-market companies. Catterton, in turn, hired Insight Holdings to manage the company, but three Catterton executives were appointed to Archway's board of directors. Former Archway employees[weasel words] claim that Insight largely managed the company through telephone and videoconference calls. Archway had a bank line of credit from Wachovia, a financial-services company, that was dependent on certain financial targets being met. In order to meet these targets and to obtain cash from Wachovia, Archway engaged in an alleged fraud.[23] Specifically, it allegedly began to report bogus sales numbers by booking "virtual sales" which were, in fact, non-existent. Throughout the year[clarification needed] cookie sales began to drop with sales falling to US$152 million. Archway's outside auditors, Ernst & Young threatened to issue a going-concern qualification on Archway's financial statements. In 2008, Specialty Foods filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A series of lawsuits have since been filed against Catterton, Insight Holdings, Archway, and various executives and former executives of each of these companies. In one of the lawsuits, Catterton is accused by a group of creditors that the alleged accounting fraud continued for as long as it did because of the "control, participation and acquiescence" of Catterton.[24]

Lance buys the Archway brand[edit]

In December 2008, Lance won the bankruptcy auction for Archway Cookies. Lance reopened the plant in Ashland, Ohio, and Archway again began producing cookies. Following its acquisition of Archway, Lance has trimmed Archway's product line from nearly 100 to 21. Archway still manufactures its popular varieties of oatmeal cookies, and several of the popular products that were exclusive to Mother's Cookies prior to their merger, including frosted Animal crackers.


  1. ^ "Ashland plant Archway's third" Ashland Times Gazette, March 16, 1988, p. 3a.
  2. ^ "Miles of cookies roll out of bakery", Mansfield News Journal, February 4, 1973.
  3. ^ "Olin becomes co-owner of Archway Cookies Inc." Ashland Times Gazette, March 30, 1983, p. 1.
  4. ^ ”Success Is Sweet For Local Cookie Company” Battle Creek Enquirer, November 1, 1995.
  5. ^ "Archway Cookies Meets Increased Product Demand," Industrial Engineering, September 1, 1992, p. 18.
  6. ^ Chairman Thomas Olin Introductory Remarks - Archway Annual Sales Meeting 1993:
  7. ^ Archway Big Cookie Time Commercial:
  8. ^ "1987 a great year for Archway" Ashland Times Gazette, March 16, 1988, p. 3a.
  9. ^ Archway Holiday Cookie Commercial:
  10. ^ "The Good Food Cookie - Future looks healthy for Archway" Battle Creek Enquirer, July 8, 1990, p. c1.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-10-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Fat-free fervor helps Archway: Local cookie company could get used to being No. 3 in the U.S." Battle Creek Enquirer Business Journal, November 1, 1995.
  13. ^ "Second generation takes the wheel at Archway", Battle Creek Enquirer, March 26, 1995, p. 10g.
  14. ^ "Archway Cookies Meets Increased Product Demand," Industrial Engineering, September 1, 1992, p. 18.
  15. ^ "Archway Bakes Into No. 3 After Introducing Low-Fat Treats," Associated Press, August 29, 1995.
  16. ^ "Fat-free fervor helps Archway: Local cookie company could get used to being No. 3 in the U.S." Battle Creek Enquirer Business Journal, November 1, 1995.
  17. ^ "Archway Bakes Into No. 3 After Introducing Low-Fat Treats," Associated Press, August 29, 1995.
  18. ^ "Fat-free fervor helps Archway: Local cookie company could get used to being No. 3 in the U.S." Battle Creek Enquirer Business Journal, November 1, 1995.
  19. ^ "Archway Cookies patriarch dies of heart attack - Olin called dynamic family man and leader", Battle Creek Enquirer, October 31, 1996. p. 1 and p. 4.
  20. ^ 1998 SEC Filing Report (1998):
  21. ^ 1998 SFC / Archway Stock Purchase Agreement (SEC):
  22. ^ Abate, Tom (2006-04-04). "Mother's Cookies Crumbling — Oakland Bakery Abandoning Area Where It Was Born" San Francisco Chronicle. Accessed 2009-09-28.
  23. ^ Article access requires website registration.
  24. ^ Article access requires website registration.

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