Mother's Cookies

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Mother's Cookies
TypePrivate (1914–1998)
Founded1914; 108 years ago (1914)
FounderN.M. Wheatley
FateDeclared bankruptcy in 2008, becoming a brand

Mother's Cookies is a food brand currently owned by Italian conglomerate Ferrero Group. Mother Cookies originally started as a bakery based in Oakland, California, that operated from 1914 to 2008.[1][2] A sister company, Archway Cookies of Battle Creek, Michigan, was founded in 1936. Both Mother's Cookies and Archway declared bankruptcy in 2008.[3] At its height, the company distributed cookies throughout the United States, and was one of the leading cookie makers in the country.[4] The Kellogg Company acquired the Mother's Cookies trademark and recipes in December 2008 and brought the brand back to West Coast grocery store shelves on May 14, 2009.[5][6]


Mother's was founded in 1914[7] when N.M. Wheatley, a newspaper vendor, purchased the rights to a cookie recipe from a customer. A year later, Wheatley opened a one-person operation on 12th Avenue in Oakland.[1][8][9] On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson had issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother's Day[10][11]

Archway was founded in 1936 by the Swansons, a husband-and-wife team who baked soft-batch cookies in their garage. The Swansons expanded their company nationwide in the 1940s, changing its name to Archway to avoid conflict with Swanson, a maker of frozen dinners. In 1962 the founders sold the company to their vice president, George Markham, who bought most of the franchises back over the next several years.[4] Markham in turn sold the company to two employees, who operated it from 1983 to 1998. The company was sold to Specialty Foods in 1998, reportedly for $100 million.[12][13] The transaction made Specialty Foods the third largest cookie maker in the United States[4][14] after Keebler and Nabisco.[15]

Mother's Cookies factory in
Oakland, California, in 2006

The two companies then went through a succession of owners. Mother's was sold to Artal NV, a Belgian company, then bought by Specialty Foods Corp., a conglomerate formed by Robert Bass, who sold Mother's Cake & Cookie Co. and Archway Cookies to Parmalat S.p.A.[16] Specialty Foods sold Mother's and Archway to an Italian firm, Parmalat Finanziaria in 2000 for $250 million.[17] As of 2002 Mother's was baking 17.5 million cookies per day.[18] Cookie sales began to decline after 2000 due to low-fat and low carb diet trends, although sales improved when the company introduced low fat cookies, and accounted for 10% of the United States cookie market as of late 2004.[14] Parmalat filed for bankruptcy[14] amidst a scandal involving illegal sale of corporate bonds. Parmalat in turn sold the companies to Catterton Partners, a private equity firm in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 2005,[1] The new operators closed the Oakland factory in 2006, laid off all 230 workers,[19] and moved baking operations to Ohio and Canada. The company suffered an accounting scandal in 2008[20] and in October 2008, the company became a victim of the financial crisis of 2007–2010 when the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and laid off all of its workers.[1]

Brand and product returns[edit]

In December, 2008, Lance Inc. bought the assets of Archway,[21] and soon reopened the former Archway factory in Ashland, Ohio.[22] Also, the same month Kellogg Company was approved to buy the assets of Mother's Cookies with plans to return the products to the shelves in mid-2009. In May 2009, Mother's Cookies returned to store shelves, including Kellogg's launch of a website for the product.[23] After the return of the Mother's Cookies product line, customers noted changes in the recipes, most notably to the Taffy cookie.[24]

In April 2019, Kellogg's announced the sale of Mother's Cookies, among other brands, to Italian confectioner Ferrero SpA, creators of Nutella.[25]


"Holiday" version of Mother's Circus Animal Cookies

Mother's is known for pink and white iced "Circus Animal Cookies", "Taffy Sandwich Cookies" (original recipe), "Peanut Butter Gauchos", and iced oatmeal cookies.[26][27] Archway's most popular product was Ruth's Oatmeal Cookies, based on a recipe found by one of its franchisees at a county fair, which made up 40% of all sales.[4]


The company included collectable baseball cards in their packs of cookies, featuring the Pacific Coast League (1952–53) and several west-coast Major League Baseball teams (1983-2002).[8] Many of those cards were distributed by the teams themselves as promotional stadium giveaways. In the presidential election year of 1992, the company also produced collectable cards featuring the Presidents of the United States.


  1. ^ a b c d George Raine (2008-10-09). "Mother's Cookies abruptly shut down". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearts.
  2. ^ "Mother's Cookies, O'Boisie Corporation sign distribution agreement". Business Wire (press release). 1996-05-13.
  3. ^ Mike Nolan (2008-10-09). "Operations Halted:Michigan company has distribution center in Mokena". Chicago Sun Times. Sun-Times.
  4. ^ a b c d "Archway Cookies, Inc". Funding Universe.
  5. ^ Kellogg Company Acquiring Trademarks and Recipes of Mother's Cake & Cookie Co. Retrieved Dec 3, 2008
  6. ^ Mother's Cookies After Kellogg's Purchase
  7. ^ Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office: Trademarks. U.S. Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office. 2007. p. 1203. MOTHER'S COOKIES CALIFORNIA ORIGINAL SINCE 1914
  8. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 July 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Linda Civitello (2007). Cuisine and Culture. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-471-74172-5.
  10. ^ Today in History: May 9 Library of Congress
  11. ^ Rice, Susan Tracey and Robert Haven Schauffler (1915). Mother's day: its history, origin, celebration, spirit, and significance as related in prose and verse. Moffat, Yard & company. pp. 3–5. in 1914 Congress passed a law, which Wilson signed on May 8, 1914, 'designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day', and authorizing and requesting that Wilson issue a proclamation 'calling upon the government officials to display the United States flag on all buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.'
  12. ^ "Archway Cookies closing in Battle Creek". WOOD TV 8. 2008-10-03.
  13. ^ "Specialty Foods to Pay $100 Million for Two Companies". New York Times. 1998-10-15.
  14. ^ a b c Robin Sidel (2003-12-31). "Appetite Is Growing For Parmalat's Archway Cookie Unit". Wall Street Journal.
  15. ^ Kevin McCoy (2004-01-13). "Parmalat's American workers uneasy, while investors are angry". USA Today.
  16. ^ "Specialty Foods Sells Archway Cookies And Mother's Bakery To Italy's Parmalat". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 22, 2014.
  17. ^ Chandler, Susan (September 13, 2000). "Specialty Foods Sells Archway Cookies And Mother's Bakery To Italy's Parmalat". Chicago Tribune.
  18. ^ Alec Rosenberg (2002-06-05). "Mother's Facelift: Cookie firm not crumbling in face of competition". Oakland Tribune.[dead link]
  19. ^ Tom Abate (2006-04-04). "Mother's Cookies crumbling: Oakland bakery abandoning area where it was born". San Francisco Chronicle.
  20. ^ Creswell, Julie (May 30, 2009). "Oh, No! What Happened To Archway?". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Ginger Christ (2008-12-03). "Lance, Inc. approved to buy Archway Cookies, Kelloggs approved by the bankruptcy court to buy Mother's Cookies". Ashland Times-Gazette.
  22. ^ John King (2008-12-23). "Shuttered bakery reopens, rehires workers". CNN.
  23. ^ Mother's Cookies website
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Iconic Oakland cookie company bought by Nutella's parent company". San Francisco Chronicle. April 1, 2019.
  26. ^ David Morrill (2008-10-09). "Mother's Cookies closes down". Contra Costa Times.
  27. ^ Jane Irene Kelly (1998-03-09). "Mother's Cookies Gets Giddy With KB&P West". Adweek.

External links[edit]