Sure, Hostess may have copyrighted the tagline “The Original,” but the Tasty Baking Company has got five years on the company that introduced the Twinkie. Today, Philadelphia’s preeminent purveyor of pre-packaged sweet things is celebrating its 100th birthday. Here are 10 things you might not know about Tastykakes.
1. THE COMPANY IS BASED IN PHILADELPHIA FOR LEGAL REASONS.
Tasty Baking Co. co-founders Philip J. Baur and Herbert C. Morris came from Pittsburgh and Cleveland, respectively. The two connected over a shared love of high-quality baked goods, with Baur coming from a family of bakers and Morris being an egg salesman. At the time they founded the company, Baur’s family was in the process of selling their popular bakery, with a stipulation that no family member could open up a bakery within 100 miles of Pittsburgh. So the pair headed to the City of Brotherly Love.
2. MORRIS’ WIFE CAME UP WITH THE NAME.
After taste-testing a few of their recipes, Morris’ wife commented on how “tasty” they were. And with that, the company’s name was born.
3. HIGH-QUALITY INGREDIENTS ARE NO JOKE.
From the beginning, Tasty Baking Co. sought to set itself apart by using only the finest ingredients in their products, including farm-fresh eggs, Grade A creamery butter, real milk, cocoa, hand-sifted flour and sugar, and all-natural flavorings. That tradition continues today; Tastykake sources its ingredients from around the world, including sugar cane and cocoa from Africa’s Ivory Coast, vanilla from Madagascar, Indonesian cinnamon, nutmeg from the East and West Indies, and banana puree from Ecuador.
4. AUTOMATED WRAPPING DIDN’T HAPPEN UNTIL 1956.
For more than four decades, Tastykakes were individually wrapped by hand. In 1956, the company managed to improve productivity with a few state-of-the-art additions to its plant. The introduction of spiral metal chutes, powered conveyor belts, and auxiliary equipment cut the baking cycle down from 12 hours to 45 minutes. And the installation of a Battle Creek wrapping machine meant that the final packaging could be automated.
5. TASTYKAKE LOVES SPORTS.
Though their products are now available throughout much of the country, Tastykakes are still a Philadelphia icon. And they’ve proven this time and time again by sponsoring several of the area’s professional sports teams. Hall of Fame baseball announcer Harry Kalas would often talk about the box of Tastykakes that had arrived at his booth between innings. At a memorial service for fans following his passing in 2009, attendees were treated to complimentary Tastykakes. Philadelphia Flyers players are often treated to a box of Tastykakes for scoring a goal, making “He shoots, he scores for a case of Tastykake!” a frequent announcement during games. The company also owns the naming rights to local sports radio station 610 WIP’s studio, a.k.a. Tastykake Studios.
6. BETTY WHITE LOVES TASTYKAKES.
Betty White is one of several Tastykake spokespeople to appear in a commercial for the company over the years. Dick Clark, Joe E. Brown, Shari Lewis (and her puppets) are a few others.
7. CHOCOLATE-COVERED PRETZELS HAPPENED BECAUSE OF A DECLINING TEEN POPULATION.
In 1981, the company’s research showed that the number of teens living in the Mid-Atlantic states—their target demographic and distribution area—was on the decline. So the company decided to shift gears and launch a few new products with adults in mind. The more grown-up menu included chocolate-covered pretzels, Danish pastries, muffins, and single-sized snacks.
8. TWO THOUSAND TASTYKAKES ARE THROWN FROM THE TOP OF AN OLD PRISON EVERY YEAR.
Each year on Bastille Day, a local cabaret group known as The Bearded Ladies gather around the tower of the prison-turned-landmark Eastern State Penitentiary and throw 2000 packs of snack cakes down at the adoring crowd (led by Marie Antoinette, as she tells the world to “Let them eat Tastykake!”)
9. BROOKLYN LOVES TASTYKAKES, TOO.
In the song “Brooklyn Zoo,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard states: “As I create, rhymes good as a Tastykake.”
10. PEANUT BUTTER KANDY KAKES ARE THE BEST!
That’s not just a personal opinion; Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes are the company’s best-selling product. They bake 500,000 of them per day. Compare that to 439,000 Butterscotch Krimpets or 217,000 Chocolate Cupcakes. Wow. (And yum!)