A carnival of colourful treats
Ziegenfelder never fails to excite consumers with its colourful and juicy frozen pops that offer unimagined combinations of flavours, which have taken the business to a respectable position in the US confectionary industry
Over a century and a half separate the day when Ziegenfelder was first set up as a company and the moment you are reading this, in which the West Virginia business has established itself as one of the most successful frozen twin pops producers in the USA. Founded in 1861, Ziegenfelder would also make ice-creams for a while, before finally settling as a twin pops manufacturer. It is a closely held family owned business operated by CEO Lisa Allen and her husband Barry Allen, Chief Customer Officer. Lisa Allen continues the family tradition started by her grandfather, adhering to the family principles that have defined Ziegenfelder for so long.
FoodChain spoke with Barry Allen – who provided us with a more detailed overview of the business. “We produce about 2.5 million frozen twin pops a day. They are our best-known product, which we call ‘The Rainbow Array’. We have produced more than 1.5 billion pops over the last two years.” The Assorted Twin Pops range represents 18 colourfully frozen twin pops in a variety of flavours, such as cherry, grape, banana, blue raspberry, orange, and lime. Historically, the cherry twin pop has been the most loved flavour, with banana following closely. The latter trend has also encouraged Ziegenfelder, trading under the name of Budget Saver, to release a bagful of banana-flavoured twin pops only, in order to address popular demand.
Before we continue, it is well worth providing a very brief historical background to the concept of the twin pop. The delicious treat was invented during the Great Depression, so that two children could split one for a nickel. Not many years ago before that, the ice pops were popularised after Frank Epperson patented the concept of ‘frozen ice on a stick’ in 1923, thus giving a kickstart to an industry that would go on to produce some of the all-time favourite frozen snacks to American children.
“One of the most recent highlights for us was the introduction of our Monster Pops range,” Barry continues. “Our cherry mango and cherry pineapple flavours are extremely popular at the moment and in addition, we have enriched the range with the so called ‘sours’ that come in blue raspberry lemonade and pink lemonade tastes. Furthermore, we established a partnership with a fast-food restaurant chain, called Sonic that saw us launch three new flavours – cherry limeade, ocean water (coconut, lemon, and lime), and strawberry lemonade.”
Completing Ziegenfelder’s product categories are the Sugar Free Pops, whose name is rather self-explanatory about their specifications, as well as the Red, White and Berry Blast pop that stands out. Created in an all-American image, the product combines cherry, lemon, and blue raspberry flavours that guarantee consumers’ taste buds a second-to-none experience.
The extended product assortment has also been instrumental in Ziegenfelder strengthening its presence on the Walmart shelves, since the hypermarket chain is the company’s largest customer. “We have probably grown our offerings there by 50 per cent, thanks to the new items we introduced. Now, we are going to concentrate on developing these further this year and probably throughout 2019,” Barry states.
A distinguished aspect of Ziegenfelder’s operations is that the entire manufacturing process is currently being executed by hand. “In fact, my wife’s father came up with the unique technique we are still using to date. Nevertheless, we have planned to invest in automation in 2019. We are not going to switch to complete automation, of course, because we have never done it before, but we will see how it works and we hope that partial automation will improve our efficiency,” Barry advances.
Perhaps, it is the family values, which are an inherent part of Ziegenfelder’s DNA that have propelled the company to participate actively in community enhancement initiatives. The business was recently awarded the Director’s Community Leadership Award by the FBI Director, Christopher A. Wray for hiring ex-convicts and people who might have battled drug or alcoholic addictions. “We want to help people get back on the right path,” Barry comments humbly. “Sometimes, when a person gets out of prison and does not get a job, they just go back to prison, which does not make sense. We believe that there are good people who can help us in our business. We do not hire everybody, of course, but we see who might fit in our culture and try to give them an opportunity. We have had cases of employees who have stayed with us for years, have started a family, and a new life, essentially.”
Turning his attention to the future of the company, Barry reiterates the team’s intentions to first take care of the development of recently launched products, and then focus on doubling the size of the business – an ambition that is reflected in Ziegenfelder’s strategy for the next three to five years. “There are a lot of opportunities coming our way and we certainly have plenty of room to grow. We have overseen a period of controlled growth in the last ten years, when we would expand when necessary, but our next goal is to move to the next level more quickly. We are also keeping an eye on our potential expansion into non-US markets. We have not had the capacity to do that, but we hope that by investing in new production lines we will be able to open up opportunities that will allow us to start trading internationally.”
With a flair to make frozen pops in a characteristically unique manner and backed by a long tradition of instilling family values throughout all of its activities, Ziegenfelder is now at the threshold of a new and exciting period in its history that is expected to bring a colourful mix of possibilities in the years to come.