No half-baked idea here: Hydrox cookies go to Amazon first
September 29, 2015 11:47 AM
Hydrox cookie fans today must click before they can dunk. That’s because the only place the resurrected sandwich cookie is available is through Amazon.com Inc.
Leaf Brands LLC, which bought the Hydrox trademark last year and began baking the cookie for distribution earlier this month, says it targeted Amazon as its first retailer, as opposed to pursuing placement in supermarkets, the traditional distribution model for a grocery product. “Hydrox has a huge following of interested customers that haven’t had access to the product for eight years,” says Cody Sheean, director of marketing for Leaf Brands, referring to the last time then-owner Kellogg Co. sold the cookie. “The first thing was to find a solution to get [consumers] the product as fast as possible. Amazon can get everywhere in the U.S. without issues, as opposed to waiting for retailers to do a cookie reset or pick us up for distribution.”
Hydrox cookies have a long history, first hitting the market in 1908 and predating by four years the Oreo, which, with its cookie wafers and cream filling, resemble it.
Amazon began taking pre-orders for Hydrox cookies Sept. 9 and shipping packages to customers last week. Leaf Brands sells the cookies wholesale to Amazon and Amazon is the seller of record. Sheean says Amazon has placed three purchase orders because it sold through the first batch quickly. Leaf Brands approached Amazon about the relaunch and Amazon was “in from day one” on the effort, he says. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amazon does not have an exclusivity contract with Leaf per se, but Sheean says Amazon has the rights to the cookies until other retailers carry Hydrox, and it is working to line other retailers up. That process can take up to six months and is likely to cost Leaf some cash upfront in the form of slotting allowances. Supermarkets typically require manufacturers to pay slotting fees to get their products on store shelves. Sheean says a a major supermarket recently wanted more than $100,000 to get Hydrox in front of customers. There was no such fee online with Amazon. “Slotting fees are a big barrier to entry for a smaller company like us. Amazon doesn’t charge the slotting fee that a traditional retailer would,” Sheean says.
Leaf Brands spent the past year rebuilding the Hydrox recipe consumers of yesteryear liked best, and web users played a big role. Sheean says the Hydrox recipe was tinkered with many times by bakers over the years, and Leaf used Facebook to suss out the direction it should go. “Reaching out to Facebook people was part of our research and development process, to try different formulations of the cookies,” he says. The “new” old cookie is made with sugar, no trans fats and has a dark chocolate wafer cookie.
Hydrox fans, having torn into their Amazon boxes upon receipt, are sharing photos celebrating the cookie on Facebook and demonstrating the reach a brand can get on the web. Sheean says Leaf has seen photos posted from consumers in Philadelphia, Florida and Washington state. “Amazon got us to customers so much faster than any other retailer would have,” he says.
The cookie appears to be making waves for Amazon too. As of Monday, Amazon ranks it No. 7 in its “hot new releases” list for its Grocery & Gourmet Food store and it is the No. 54 best-seller in the Snack Food category overall. It is No. 5 in the Snack Cookie subcategory, behind two varieties of Oreos, Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies and Chips Ahoy.
Amazon is the No. 1 retailer in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide.