You are signed in as
Sign in now
Building Its Global Brand Presence
by Beverly Dykes
In February of 2013, Auntie Anne’s celebrated its 25th birthday. The momentous occasion was preceded by another milestone -- the opening of the chain’s 1000th U.S. store opening, which took place in Elizabethtown, KY in late December 2012. The concept is remarkable not only for having withstood the test of time as a leader in the competitive snack food category of retail, but also for maintaining a steady pace of growth by increasing its appeal among new populations of consumers domestically and internationally. Since the opening of the first Auntie Anne’s in 1988, its popularity has been widespread, with aggressive store expansion buoyed by an ever evolving customer base.
In fiscal 2012, the chain added 202 new stores to its roster, of which 117 were in the U.S. Auntie Anne’s also put a major focus on expanding internationally, having established a presence in six new countries, including Jamaica, Jordan, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Russia and Panama. The company also opened its 100th unit in the region of Thailand last year. 2012 also marked the company’s 23rd consecutive year of positive sales growth. For 2013, Auntie Anne’s corporate executives have disclosed plans to open more than 118 locations overseas (likely targeting Vietnam, the Bahamas, India, Aruba, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France and Brunei); and another 100 new stores are projected to be opened in the U.S. Stated Mike Shattuck, the President of Auntie Anne’s parent company, FOCUS Brands International, “Building our global brand presence has substantial value for us, and we’ve cracked the code to achieving sustained success.”
The history of how Auntie Anne’s pretzel bakery concept evolved from a single farmer’s market stand into the world’s largest soft pretzel franchise, with more than 1,330 locations worldwide, can be attributed to steady pursuit of a targeted growth strategy and basing development expansion on the best locations and partners. The signature pretzel recipe was developed by Anne Beiler, who, with the encouragement of her husband Jonas, tinkered with some initial ingredients until getting results deemed “pretzel perfect” (ie., sweet tasting, with a light, bread-like texture). The first franchised Auntie Anne’s location would debut in 1989. The popularity of the delicious, hand-rolled soft pretzels, and a strong business model, allowed for exponential growth, until Auntie Anne’s Inc. was purchased by long-time company executive Sam Beiler in 2005. Sam initiated a major re-branding and updating of the brand, to ensure its relevancy in the marketplace. In November 2010, Sam sold the company to FOCUS Brands Inc., an Atlanta-based franchisor and operator of over 3500 ice cream shops, bakeries, restaurants and cafes in the U.S., District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 60 foreign countries under a handful of exclusive brand names.
One of the brand’s most recent new store openings took place in Port of Spain, Trinidad. It is a co-branded Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s store that is operated by seasoned entrepreneurs (a husband and wife that operate five other such stores in the region under terms of franchise territory rights). Such individuals typify the savvy and passionate nature of the franchise partners affiliated with FOCUS Brands’ operations. The company has recently disclosed plans to continue to increase its domestic footprint in the U.S. through franchise expansion of all brands. “We are always looking for opportunities to grow with individuals who possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit and the right industry experience,” remarked Mike Shattuck.
Auntie Anne’s takes pride in upholding the Pretzel Perfect Guarantee, which states “We guarantee you’ll love your pretzel or we‘ll replace it with one that you do.” The bakery’s crew members recognize the importance of the “Threefold Philosophy” of serving “fresh, hot, golden brown soft pretzels with friendly, courteous service in a sparkling clean store.” The pretzel dough is mixed, twisted and baked to a golden brown state of perfection in full view of customers, who receive them fresh-from-the oven. Every year Auntie Anne’s rolls more than 97.5 million pretzels, at a timed pace of about 4-5 seconds per pretzel. There are typically 8-10 varieties of pretzels available at any given time. Other rewarding snack items featured on the menu board at Auntie Anne’s include pretzel stix, nuggets, and four varieties of pretzel dogs. Customers can also choose from nine flavors/types of dipping sauces, among which are cheese, marinara, sweet glaze, light cream cheese and Hershey’s fudge. Drink choices encompass coca-cola products, lemonade (made using Anne‘s own recipe), fruity flavored lemonade mixers, frozen lemonade mixers, and flavored icees.
Existing Auntie Anne’s stores are positioned in shopping malls, outlet centers, airports, train stations, travel plazas, colleges/universities, and non-traditional shopping and entertainment centers all over the globe. The chain continues to pursue growth in traditional locations such as malls and outlet centers, as well as in non-traditional spaces, including universities, airports, travel plazas and military bases. Auntie Anne’s is actively developing additional franchise partner relationships (and is always prospecting for future locations) in new and existing market regions in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas and Vermont.
The chain’s store prototype options are flexible in accommodating a variety of venue types. Typical in-line sites can range in size from 450-650 sq. ft. Baking kiosk locations require 200+ sq. ft. of space, plus utility hook ups; and an additional 150-200 sq. ft. of space in the vicinity of the kiosk is needed for offsite storage. A satellite retail unit location (SRU) involves baking being done at a main store or off-site, thus allowing for a unit size of approx. 76.5 sq. ft., configured in either square or linear models (these are ideal in a venue that already has an in-line Auntie Anne’s store elsewhere). Among the factors that will contribute to a successful location: high pedestrian traffic; traffic counts of 30 people every five minutes during off-peak hours, 70 people every five minutes during lunch and dinner periods, and over 100 people every five minutes on weekends; positioning toward the center of the mall and on the most active level; if a food court location, must be on the corner or at the entrance; ideal venues will have a minimum of two anchors, with sales exceeding $30 million each; the percentage of food offerings versus other retail tenant types should not exceed 20 percent (and the sales figures of other food vendors will be considered).
The company has received many notable industry accolades over the years. Among some examples: Auntie Anne’s has received the 1012 ZAGAT top five most popular quick-refreshment chains honor, was ranked number one in the category of hand-rolled soft pretzels by Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, and has been granted the World-Class Franchise honor by the Franchise Research Institute (one of the highest honors a franchise company can earn) for the past seven years. The success of the brand lies in the people-focused philosophies established by its founder, quality and diversity of products, exceptional and efficient service, and the enticing and fun activity of pretzel making.
If you are a chain retailer take this opportunity to share your story and promote your business. Articles should run between 400 and 800 words. Topics should, in general, discuss expansion plans, new retail concepts, what set you apart from your peers or what makes you successful.
Articles will be posted for at least one week and will then be placed in the Editorial Archives. All articles submitted will be read and considered but we cannot guarantee publication. Each published article will carry the submitters byline (if desired) and is a free service to our community.
Article ideas and suggestions are also always welcomed. Contact PVS@PlainVanillaShell.com