You know the blue-and-white packaging and that elegant cursive logo. And there's a good chance you know just where to find all those Honey Buns, crumb coffee cakes, and chocolate chip cookies in your local supermarket. But we're willing to bet a box of chocolate frosted doughnuts—the company’s best seller—that there are a few things you don’t know about Entenmann’s.
1. IT ALL STARTED IN BROOKLYN.
William Entenmann learned the baking trade in Stuttgart, Germany, where he spent his teenage years working at a bread factory. Eager to set out on his own, he moved to America with his family, and in 1898 opened a bakery on Rogers Street in Brooklyn. Every day, he delivered fresh-baked rolls, cakes, and bread loaves by horse-drawn wagon to customers throughout the neighborhood.
2. IT BECAME A LONG ISLAND TRADITION BY FLUKE.
A few years after opening his Brooklyn shop, William’s son, William Entenmann, Jr., came down with rheumatic fever. The family doctor recommended they move out of the city, where fresh air could flush out the illness. Entenmann moved his bakery 40 miles east to Bay Shore, Long Island, and eventually passed it down to his son, who helped grow Entenmann's into a profitable, far-reaching company. In 1961, Entenmann's opened what was then the world’s largest commercial bakery on the site of the elder Entenmann's shop. It remained a Long Island institution until 2014, when parent company Grupo Bimbo closed it.
3. BREAD USED TO BE A SPECIALTY.
For decades, Entenmann's turned out loaves of bread along with pastries, pies, and its original best seller, All Butter Loaf Cake. In 1951, after William Entenmann, Jr., died of a heart attack, his wife, Martha, and children gathered to discuss the company’s future. They decided they needed to narrow their focus in order to stay competitive. So they jettisoned the bread loaves and put all the company’s manufacturing muscle behind its pies, cakes, and other sweet treats.
4. MOVING TO SUPERMARKET SALES WAS A RISK.
The Entenmann family also decided to do away with home delivery and focus solely on retail sales. After decades spent building a loyal network of delivery customers, this was a big risk. And it was difficult to stay the course after frozen food sales, mail order, and other opportunities came calling. But the Entenmanns stuck with their choice and were rewarded handsomely as they rode the growth of the supermarket industry in America.
5. FRANK SINATRA HAD A STANDING ORDER.
The famous crooner had a thing for Entenmann’s coffee crumb cake, and would receive weekly deliveries to his house. Other famous clientele included J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilt family.
6. THE COMPANY INVENTED THE FIRST SEE-THROUGH BOX FOR BAKED GOODS.
A few years after going all-in on retail sales, Martha Entenmann and sons had a revelation: If customers were able to see pies and cakes on display at the bakery, then shouldn’t the same hold true at the supermarket? In 1959, Entenmann’s came out with the first see-through packaging for baked goods. The company’s cellophane window boosted sales and quickly became an industry standard.
7. PEOPLE WOULD PASS THE CAKES AND PIES OFF AS UPSCALE TREATS.
In a 1979 feature for New York Magazine, writer Jean Bergantini Grillo confessed to passing off Entenmann's baked goods as her own gourmet creations. She also wrote about image-conscious hosts and hostesses who would present the company’s creations as homemade, or fresh from the local bakery. "Rich people have been stocking up on Entenmann’s cakes and pies for years, craftily disposing of the telltale boxes and serving them anonymously."
8. IT BATTLED NAGGING RUMORS INVOLVING A RELIGIOUS LEADER.
In the late '70s and early '80s, word spread that Entenmann's was funneling money into the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. It’s not clear how the Korean religious leader, who considered himself the messiah and was imprisoned for tax fraud, came to be linked with a baked goods company. But the rumor was persistent. In 1979, Entenmann's sent out 10,000 letters to clergymen and other influential sources pleading its case. "Absolutely, completely, unequivocally false, untrue and unfounded," was how a company spokesman put it to the Associated Press.
9. IT’S BEEN THROUGH QUITE THE CORPORATE SHUFFLE.
The Entenmann family sold the company to pharmaceutical giant Warner-Lambert in 1978. Four years later, Warner sold the baking brand to General Foods, which then sold Entenmann's to Kraft. The company was sold again several years later, this time to Bestfoods, which was purchased by Unilever in 2000. Unilever offloaded its baking division to Canadian manufacturer George Weston. Finally, in 2008, Entenmann’s sold to Mexican baking company Grupo Bimbo, its current owner.
10. IT SELLS SCENTED CANDLES.
Ever wished your home or apartment smelled more like butter pound cake? Well wish no more! Several years ago, Entenmann's introduced scented candles that recreated the smell of some of its hallmark creations, like apple strudel, caramel pecan pie and, yes, butter pound cake. The candles even come in see-through boxes that replicate the baked goods’ packaging.
11. IT TURNS OUT MORE THAN 100,000 DOUGHNUTS EVERY HOUR.
To keep all those college dorms and office break rooms stocked, Entenmann's turns out a dizzying 15 million donuts every week, and upwards of 780 million each year.
12. THE ENTENMANN FAMILY IS STILL IN BUSINESS.
The wine business, that is. After selling the baking company in 1978, Robert Entenmann, grandson of founder William, bought a potato farm on Long Island’s North Fork and turned it into a horse farm. In the mid-'90s, he converted the property into a vineyard, and today it turns out bottles of red, white, and bubbly under the Martha Clara label.