Uncle Wally’s Muffins are “Tops”
Do you know the Muffin Man? Well, chances are you do. Wally “Famous” Amos, creator of the gourmet cookie category and founder of the Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie Company, is taking muffins (and other edible creations) to a new level at Uncle Wally’s Inc. Unrelenting in his quest to develop new products and armed with a 60,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art bakery, Amos has transformed himself from the “King of Cookies” to the “Muffin Man.”
Founded in 1995 by Wally “Famous” Amos and Louis Avignone, Uncle Wally’s is the leading supplier of in-store bakery muffin and one of the top muffin producers in the U.S.
The History of Uncle Wally’s
The company’s roots date back to 1992 when Wally Amos started a cookie company he called Uncle “Noname™” after relinquishing the right to use his name when he sold The Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie Company. Lou Avignone, a Famous Amos distributor at the time, heard Amos on a local radio talk show and contacted him with the idea for starting a new business. In 1994, the two became partners and subsequently launched Uncle Noname Gourmet Muffins. With America’s tastes shifting towards healthier foods, the company focused on fat-free and sugar-free muffins. Uncle Noname muffins became Uncle Wally’s Inc. in 1999.
During its first five years in business, Uncle Wally’s concentrated on growing distribution and developing strong relationships with its customers, which included A&P, King Kullen, Pathmark, Winn Dixie, Stater Bros, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Costco. Today, the grocery channel comprises more than 40 percent of the company’s total sales, with the balance coming from private label offerings, co-packing and the club store sector.
Since its inception, Amos, Avignone and the company’s management team have paid close attention to consumer lifestyle trends when developing new products and purchasing new equipment for their state-of-the-art bakery, which is located in Shirley, Long Island. According to Amos, “Product quality and strong retailer relations have remained the corporation’s primary objectives since we started the business.” This is clear from Amos’ personal appearances at retail stores and the wide array of products the company manufactures to meet its customers’ needs and appeal to consumers.
As most growing companies do, Uncle Wally’s experienced some rocky roads in the first five or six years in business. Rapid expansion, fueled by significant equipment and personnel needs and other challenges created financial hurdles the company needed to overcome. Supported by its partners, investors, and staff, the company overcame these difficulties and, eventually, came out on top. Today, Uncle Wally’s muffins are sold in more than 7,000 stores nationwide.
The Man Behind The Muffin
Born in 1936 in Tallahassee, Florida, Wally Amos moved to New York City at the age of 12 to live with his Aunt Della before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1955, where he earned his GED. Following his discharge, he held various jobs in New York, including sales positions at department stores, until he joined the William Morris Agency, where he started in the mailroom and worked his way up to becoming the first African- American talent agent at the company. It appeared Amos’s career had summated when he became an agent to such top-tier musical act clients as Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes. However, the pinnacle of achievement and his fame would soon come from an unlikely source – his chocolate chip cookie calling-cards, which he bestowed upon his music business clients, colleagues and friends. With the enthusiastic support of his clients, including Diana Ross who loved his cookies and urged him to turn his passion into a moneymaker, he launched Famous Amos in 1975.
Over the years, Amos has guest starred in a number of network sitcoms, including Taxi, and appeared on hundreds of television news and talk shows and radio interview programs, as well as in hundreds of magazines and newspapers throughout the world. His face, and trademark Panama hat and shirt graced the cover of TIME Magazine as one of “The Hot New Rich” and People Magazine said he was “The Face That Launched a Thousand Chips.” Perhaps one of the most defining moments in his career was when his hat and shirt, which appeared on his cookie bags, were inducted into the Smithsonian Institute’s Business Americana Collection. While Amos gained notable popularity and his business was successful and growing, in the early 1980’s grossing more than $5 million and employing 150 people, he decided to take a step back from the business and relied on top management to steer the ship. This backfired and by 1985, Amos was forced to sell his shares and even the right to use his own name.
In addition to being an entrepreneur filled with passion and creativity, Wally Amos has dedicated his life to helping others and improving literacy rates among adults while concurrently inspiring kids to embrace reading. For nearly two decades, he served as volunteer spokesperson for two nonprofit groups — Literacy Volunteers of America, which provided tutors for under-educated adults, and Cities in Schools, an organization that encourages at-risk students to remain in school. In addition, his reading program on Public Television has been airing continuously nationwide for more than 20 years. Recently, through his Read it LOUD!, Foundation, Amos initiated a national campaign, Read it LOUD! Savannah, in Savannah, GA, that encourages parents and caregivers to read aloud to children, for at least 10 minutes a day, from birth through six years old.
Amos has been the recipient of many honors and awards over the years, including the President’s Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, the Horatio Alger Award, and the National Literacy Honors Award. He was inducted into the Babson College Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs and received an honorary Doctorate in Education from Johnson & Wales University. He has authored five books, recorded an audio cassette album on personal empowerment, and delivers countless inspirational lectures each year.
Fired up with the entrepreneurial spirit, his commitment to Uncle Wally’s is as strong as ever. According to Amos, “At Uncle Wally’s we are not only focused on the customer and the product – but on building the best possible team we can build. This combination of the three is why the company’s future looks so bright.”
Making the Muffin “Tops”
Uncle Wally’s bakes and sells a wide selection of muffins in a variety of flavors including Rich & Moist Premium Muffins, Fat Free Gourmet Muffins, Individually Wrapped Snack Muffins and Sugar Free Gourmet Muffins. While all its products are original and developed by Uncle Wally’s research and development baking staff, over the past 12 months the company has entered a new era and embraced a new vision. The mission is to “offer the widest variety of muffins and gourmet edibles to meet all customer and consumer needs – from healthy and nutritious snacking to fun and indulging treats.”
To realize this objective, Uncle Wally’s recently launched the world’s first (refrigerated) slice and bake muffin and cupcake dough, under the Oven Luv’n ™ brand. In addition, it has seen incredible growth from its Smart Portion Muffins™ and Smart Portion Brownie Cups™, which are the latest answer for health-conscious consumers who want great taste but want to limit portion size. Smart Portion Muffins are whole grain, 99% fat-free, and an excellent source of fiber – and they taste great! Each Smart Portion package contains one muffin, and at only 80 calories, they are great for breakfast or snack time. Smart Portion Brownie Cups are also a good source of fiber and contain only 80 calories per brownie. Uncle Wally’s recently introduced: Smart Portion Cookies™ which are available at Wal-Mart Supercenters nationally and will be available for distribution for all markets during the 4th quarter. In May ”All Natural” Smart Portion Muffins™ and Brownie Cups ™ will become available in the all natural freezer section for select markets. With the Smart Portions and Oven Luv’n brands, the company improves not only its momentum, but its competitive advantage, boosting manufacturing and sales while bolstering its portfolio of product offerings.
This helps the passionate product development team bring to market products that appeal to consumers looking for foods that taste great yet offer portion control, as well as fun foods families can prepare together. With these new lines, Uncle Wally’s now offers the broadest selection of gourmet and home-style muffins in rich & moist, fat-free, sugar-free and all natural varieties. These products, which have won numerous awards for quality and great taste, will continue to get the attention of the American public and retailers nationwide.
Expanding an Epicurean Empire
When Wally Amos and Lou Avignone were first introduced to the “slice and bake” muffins and cupcakes, a light bulb went off simultaneously in both their heads. “What a fantastic idea,” exclaimed Wally Amos, who also shared, “…this makes muffins and cupcakes fun for the entire family!”
With exclusive distribution rights to distribute Oven Luv’n slice and bake muffins and cupcakes in North America, the Uncle Wally’s Muffin Company decided to take the next step, and recently announced the strategic acquisition of SKU Foods, a Missouribased manufacturer of the world’s first slice and bake muffin and cupcakes. This product is a ready-to-bake refrigerated muffin and cupcake dough and will be available at supermarkets across the country. Oven Luv’n Muffins are currently being sold in Shop-Rite, King Kullen, Pathmark and select regions of Wal-Mart supercenters. Both will also be available in May in select Target Supercenter. “We’re pleased to be the first company to offer consumers the option to bake either muffins or cupcakes at home with convenience and ease,” says Uncle Wally’s president and CEO, Lou Avignone. “The purchase will assist us in achieving its goal of becoming a household name by 2010.” Wally Amos, added, that the “Oven Luv’n offerings fills a new product niche for us and provides an easy way to make fun and delicious bakery-quality muffins and cupcakes at home.”
Oven Luv’n slice and bake muffins are available in vibrantly designed boxes containing two 8-oz. tubes of Uncle Wally’s Oven Luv’n Muffins dough. The new Uncle Wally’s packaging tells the product story and differentiates it from other bake-at-home products.
Because of organic growth and acquisitions, Uncle Wally’s recently completed the expansion on its company headquarters. With an additional 16,000 square feet of warehouse, production and freezer space, the company has more than doubled his workforce to 140, with additional staff dedicated to quality control and customer relations.
With energy, entrepreneurial vision, and a team he trusts, Uncle Wally is more excited than ever about the company’s progress and potential. Moreover, Wally Amos and his company are still passionately involved in helping nonprofits which are primarily focused on promoting children’s illiteracy and to help make families stronger.
Because of his entrepreneurial achievements, Amos has been the subject of many books. The most recent was a book entitled The Authentic Brand: How Today’s Top Entrepreneurs Connect with Customers (Noble Press/2007). The book, which features some of today’s most highly-prominent entrepreneurs, reveals how Amos’ recipe for creating an “authentic brand” includes: being the company’s highly prominent spokesperson; creating an inspiring and authentic story for the brand; constantly improving product quality; and giving back to the community and world by remaining involved in charitable causes.
It is no wonder why people, including consumers and marketers around the world are attracted to Amos’ charisma, products and authenticity.
Uncle Wally’s products can be found in Wal-Mart Supercenters, Club stores and
major supermarkets across the US. For additional purchasing information, please call (631)205-0455 ext 319.