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From administration to innovation: how the Byron Bay Cookie Company got back to business

2013 didn’t start off too well for popular cookie manufacturer, the Byron Bay Cookie Company. In March, the company announced it had entered voluntary administration, much to the surprise of consumers and fellow manufacturers. It didn’t take long, however, for it to be snapped up, with Rinoldi acquiring the Byron Bay Cookie Company in July, and getting the brand back on its feet in no time.

Emilie Emond, marketing manager for the Byron Bay Cookie Company, said the acquisition has completely transformed the company.

“At first people were asking why a pasta company would purchase a cookie company, but to me it didn’t sound odd at all, it just made sense because Rinoldi is a manufacturer with a lot of experience. They’re one of Australia’s oldest manufacturers, having been around since 1878 and they have the expertise that we obviously needed. And then for them, they acquired a very strong brand, so it did make sense.

“The mood at Byron Bay Cookie Company has completed lifted,” Emond told Food magazine. “And from a cultural point of view, Rinoldi is a family-owned business. They’ve got a very strong, positive, friendly culture and that’s transferred over into the Byron side as well. So you can see that people are happy to go to work every day. It’s made a tremendous difference.”

While there were staff casualties when the company first entered voluntary administration, 15 new employees have been hired since Rinoldi stepped in, and the new owners are now investing in making Byron Bay Cookie Company a leading manufacturer in Australia’s baked goods industry.

“From a practical point of view, the bakehouse in Byron Bay has seen a lot of improvements, because from the get-go Rinoldi has been investing in the site. For example, it’s introduced new processing equipment, and a new ERP [enterprise resource planning] system which we desperately needed … So now we’re in a better position to supply our customers in full and on time,” Emond said.

The Byron Bay Cookie Company credits the loyalty of its customers, including David Jones and Qantas, for its ability to get back to satisfying orders so quickly.

“We were very fortunate because all of our customers stuck by us. The best example is Qantas. We’ve been onboard Qantas for 10 years now and as soon as we were in trouble they reassured us that they were going to continue ordering from us, and that’s something that meant a lot to us, and obviously we’re still supplying to them – both domestically and internationally.

“And that’s such a core part of our brand. A lot of people know about us because of Qantas,” Emond said.

In other good news for the brand, Jetstar has recently announced its agreement to stock Byron Bay’s gluten-free Dotty cookie on its flights, both domestically and into Asia as well.

“That’s another big win for us,” said Emond, who believes the company’s customers were so loyal during Byron Bay’s troubles because they know how hard manufacturing is in Australia at the moment and were keen to stand by a local brand doing it tough.

Instead of making a song and dance out of its acquisition and resilience through tough times, Emond said Byron Bay Cookie Company’s strategy throughout the year was simply to put its head down, work hard and keep its customers happy.

“Our first focus was [to ensure we were able] to fulfill our orders … Because we’ve got such a strong presence in the café world, it was important for us to be able to supply our cafes, because at the end of the day when people grab a cup of coffee and they see the jars on the counter, that’s the biggest brand exposure you can get. So it was important that we could continue supplying, and keep those jars full.”

Once that was guaranteed, the marketing team was able to work on a very subtle marketing campaign, including attending industry events, conducting product sampling and promoting the brand through social media.

At the end of the day, however, it all comes down to the product. 2014 will be a year of innovation and product development for the Byron Bay Cookie Company brand, because there’s no better indication that a company is thriving than if it continues to release products that are in demand and sell well, said Emond.

“Product development has always been a strong area for us, but I guess in the last 12 months we had to kind of put it on hold. I know we released an Anzac biscuit last year, which worked really well for us, but we want to kind of push the boundaries when it comes to new flavours.

“We’re investing a lot in new product development. There are other new flavours in the pipeline as well for 2014; it’s important for us to stay fresh and relevant. We know that our customers love our classic flavours, but there’s always a need to keep innovating and keep the offering current,” she said.

“To be honest I’m quite impressed with how the company’s been turned around in such a short period of time. Yes, for the first couple of months there was a bit of damage control, but we’ve already managed to get back to where we were. And getting Jetstar onboard was a big win for us. It was like ‘OK we’re back. We’re strong.’”

 

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