Mother's Cookies

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Mother's Cookies
IndustryFood (bakery)
Founded1914; 106 years ago (1914)
OwnerFerrero SpA

Mother's Cookies is a brand that originally had 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 Cookies factory in Oakland, California in 2006

Mother's was founded in 1914 when Woodrow Wilson declared that Mother's Day would be a national holiday in the USA.[7] The founder was N.M. Wheatley, a newspaper vendor.[1] The company was sold to Artal NV, a Belgian company, then bought by Specialty Foods Corp., a conglomerate formed by Robert Bass.[8]

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.[9][10] The transaction made Specialty Foods the third largest cookie maker in the United States[4][11] after Keebler and Nabisco.[12]

The two companies then went through a succession of owners. Specialty Foods sold Mother's and Archway to an Italian firm, Parmalat Finanziaria in 2000 for $250 million.[citation needed] As of 2002 Mother's was baking 17.5 million cookies per day.[13] 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.[11] Parmalat filed for bankruptcy[11] 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,[14] and moved baking operations to Ohio and Canada. The company suffered an accounting scandal in 2008[15] 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]

"Holiday" version of Mother's Circus Animal Cookies

Brand and product returns[edit]

In December, 2008, Lance Inc. bought the assets of Archway,[16] and soon reopened the former Archway factory in Ashland, Ohio.[17] Also, the same month Kelloggs 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.[18] After the return of the Mother's Cookies product line, customers noted changes in the recipes, most notably to the Taffy cookie.[citation needed] In April 2019, Kellogg's announced the sale of Mother's Cookies, among other brands, to Italian confectioner Ferrero SpA, creators of Nutella.[19]


Mother's is known for pink and white iced "Circus Animal Cookies", "Taffy Sandwich Cookies" (original recipe), "Peanut Butter Gauchos", and iced oatmeal cookies.[20][21] 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). 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. ^ Linda Civitello (2007). Cuisine and Culture. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-471-74172-5.
  8. ^ "Specialty Foods Sells Archway Cookies And Mother's Bakery To Italy's Parmalat". Chicago Tribune.
  9. ^ "Archway Cookies closing in Battle Creek". WOOD TV 8. 2008-10-03.
  10. ^ "Specialty Foods to Pay $100 Million for Two Companies". New York Times. 1998-10-15.
  11. ^ a b c Robin Sidel (2003-12-31). "Appetite Is Growing For Parmalat's Archway Cookie Unit". Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ Kevin McCoy (2004-01-13). "Parmalat's American workers uneasy, while investors are angry". USA Today.
  13. ^ Alec Rosenberg (2002-06-05). "Mother's Facelift: Cookie firm not crumbling in face of competition". Oakland Tribune.
  14. ^ Tom Abate (2006-04-04). "Mother's Cookies crumbling: Oakland bakery abandoning area where it was born". San Francisco Chronicle.
  15. ^ New York Times
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ John King (2008-12-23). "Shuttered bakery reopens, rehires workers". CNN.
  18. ^ Mother's Cookies website
  19. ^ "Iconic Oakland cookie company bought by Nutella's parent company". San Francisco Chronicle. April 1, 2019.
  20. ^ David Morrill (2008-10-09). "Mother's Cookies closes down". Contra Costa Times.
  21. ^ Jane Irene Kelly (1998-03-09). "Mother's Cookies Gets Giddy With KB&P West". Adweek.

External links[edit]