by Keith Seiz, editor
Throughout the baking industry there are many success stories of companies starting out small and reaching great heights. However, rarely does a company achieve these heights as quickly as Jana's Classics, Tualatin, Ore.
In 1984, Jana Taylor, Jana's Classics' president, chief executive officer and founder, began developing and formulating ready-to-bake cookie dough in her home kitchen. 20 years later, Taylor is still formulating and developing cookies. Only now, she is developing formulas in a 75,000-sq.-ft. bakery that churns out annual revenues of more than $16 million.
To mark the company's 20th anniversary, Baking Management interviewed Taylor about the past, present and future of both the bakery she founded and the entire cookie category.
Jana's Classics manufactures a comprehensive line of cookies and cookie-based ice cream inclusions. According to Taylor, the company has formulated more than 400 products-that are sold to in-store bakeries, foodservice outlets and the dairy and dessert industries.
"We ( Jana's Classics) are not about being a commodity driven and high-volume company," Taylor says. "The whole purpose behind the company is to obtain the artisan taste and quality through mass customization."
Throughout the company's history, Taylor has always stressed the importance of research and development. This focus on innovation dates back to Taylor's college education, where she earned a double degree in home economics and food science. "With my technical background and me being research and development oriented, innovation has been the driving force behind Jana's Classics," Taylor says. "This has allowed us to shift and respond to the ever-changing market."
And, in the last 20 years, the cookie market has significantly changed. When Taylor first embarked on cookie manufacturing, she focused solely on frozen cookie dough. Today, market shifts have resulted in the rising popularity of thaw-and-sell cookies.
"My general guiding principle is not to let the process or engineering dictate what product can be developed. Research and development is all about developing something new and unique, and finding a marketing niche. Then, I'll let the engineers figure out the process to make it happen."
- Jana Taylor, Jana's Classics' founder
"This shift required huge capital expenditures," Taylor says. "When the market shifted from frozen to thaw-andsell, we had to put in band ovens."
However, capital expenditures were not always a concern for Jana's Classics. Until 1996, the company relied on copackers to manufacture the formulas Taylor created.
Evolution of a bakery
In 1985, Jana's Classics enlisted Oregon-based Martinson Foods to copack its cookies. In the next ten years, the company was forced to switch copackers eight times to deal with its skyrocketing sales and quality requirements. "Using copackers allowed Jana's Classics to go to school on eight other bakeries," Taylor says. "We ( Jana's Classics) built our own facility without a lot of 'I wish I would of and could of ' questions."
Jana's Classics moved into its own facility in 1996, and immediately brought its focus on innovation to its engineering department. "My general guiding principle is not to let the process or engineering dictate what product can be developed," Taylor says. "Research and development is all about developing something new and unique, and finding a marketing niche. Then, I'll let the engineers figure out the process to make it happen."
As a result of this innovative attitude, the company's engineering department has worked with various machine shops and equipment suppliers to create automated systems to manufacture the company's upscale cookie products. For example, in 2003 the company was awarded a patent for its unique manufacturing process of "mass customization and production of artisan-look cookies."
Jana's Classics' 75,000-sq.-ft. bakery is stocked with the latest innovations in cookie manufacturing.
The cookie industry: Now and in the future
Jana's Classics has weathered the ups and downs of the cookie category by continually innovating new products and manufacturing applications. When the market shifted from frozen cookies to thaw-and-sell products, the company was quick to refocus its marketing efforts and technological efforts on producing baked cookies.
Today, cookie trends are again forcing the company to re-evaluate its formulas and processes. "Indulgence is very in, but so is the health and wellness side," Taylor says. "10 years ago we were on the cholesterol watch, where it was reduced or no eggs. Now, it's eat more eggs. We've gone from no butter to margarine, and now margarine is bad for you so eat the real thing."
These contradicting trends have hurt some of the country's largest cookie brands, including Nabisco and Keebler. However, Jana's Classics' plans to stay one step ahead of fickle consumers by always being prepared. For example, the company has already formulated and sourced replacement oils for traditional fats that are high in trans-fatty acids. "There is a concern about the supply and demand when the required labeling hits," Taylor says. "We'll be ready for our private label customers if they want to change, and we'll be prepared to convert our formulas."
By being prepared, Jana's Classics has positioned itself to succeed despite challenging times in the cookie industry. It already has significantly expanded its business by branching into the ice cream inclusion industry and the thaw-andserve market. Although no one can predict what the next big trend in the cookie industry will be, chances are Jana's Classics will be prepared to meet the challenge.