When Rob and Kathleen Lochel, owners of Lochel’s Bakery in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, decided back in February to enter the Sweetest Bakery in America contest, a first-time event sponsored by Dawn Foods, they had no idea what to expect. The experience exceeded their wildest imagination.
After receiving nearly 100,000 votes, Lochel’s Bakery was just named the “Sweetest Bakery in America” by Dawn Foods, and the Lochel family couldn’t be happier. The contest generated so much interest in their bakery, which is located just north of Philadelphia, that sales through the summer rose 30 percent, and they gained 1,000 new Facebook fans. The 75-year-old, family-owned bakery now has nearly 12,000 followers.
“We had the best summer in 12 years,” says Kathleen Lochel, reflecting on months of hard work and excitement. “Our Facebook page has definitely exploded since it was announced we won the contest, and we’ve had customers come into the store screaming, super excited for us. The town has gone crazy over it. The contest has not just boosted our sales but our morale. Our employees and their families were all on board.”
To celebrate the victory, along with its 75th anniversary, Lochel’s Bakery plans a block party on Oct. 14 in Hatboro where they will host kids’ activities, a donut eating competition and music with a DJ.
“We are truly trying to go above and beyond,” Kathleen Lochel says. “It has definitely been a wild ride.”
Becky Loveland, vice president of marketing for Dawn’s North America business, and Brian Dunn, distribution sales lead at Dawn’s Northeast distribution center, said the contest exceeded Dawn’s expectations, as well. The contest succeeded in promoting the spirit and passion of family bakeries and shed light on their successes across America.
“We are very excited that the Lochel family has won the title, and it is very well deserved,” Dunn says. “When I first approached the Lochels about the Sweetest Bakery in America contest, Kathleen jumped all over it, as I knew she would. The whole Lochel’s team are among the hardest working folks I’ve ever met.”
Loveland said Dawn Foods created the contest for customers like Lochel’s Bakery “to enable smaller bakeries to really be able to use the contest as a way to bring their bakery to light to their community and across the country.”
“We created the Sweetest Bakery in America contest to really help bring value to our customers,” Loveland says. “We knew they were looking for ways to make their bakeries more successful in their communities, and bring their bakeries to light. We generated a toolkit that they were able to use to promote their bakeries. The success of it was far more than we ever imagined.”
More than 1,000 bakeries participated, and the national contest generated more than 500,000 votes overall. “We were able to engage so many different communities and so many different bakeries in this simple approach,” Loveland says. “We’re excited because we want to do it again, and make this an annual event. We look forward to getting even more bakeries engaged after they see the success that Lochel’s had from participating in this contest and engaging their community in a new way.”
Kathleen Lochel recalls that when Dunn brought the kit out, she signed up immediately. “I am huge on social media, whether it is videotaping employees working, doing contests and giveaways. So I just went to town with it,” she says.
She provided daily updates on Facebook throughout the summer. The bakery also had ballot boxes that Dawn provided inside the store, as well as at a kiosk for two days each week at a local mall.
In addition, Dawn provided buttons for the Sweetest Bakery in America contest that all employees at Lochel’s Bakery wore each day to help generate excitement.
A local television show, Good Day Philadelphia, did a live broadcast at the bakery, and the momentum kept building. “It went beyond anything I could imagine,” Kathleen Lochel says.
She also credits having a great marketing tool: a retro donut box from Dawn with the words “you deserve a donut” on the outside.
“We’re very much a traditional bakery with a bit of a modern twist, and the colors of the box matched our logo and everything,” Lochel says.
Plus, she recalls a chance meeting with Dawn’s Ron Jones, who provided her with valuable perspective on Dawn’s Circle of Excellence.
“This past bakery convention, I met Ron Jones. He pulled out this card and gave it to me, and told me, ‘This is the Dawn Circle of Excellence. Keep this with you.’ I’ve kept it ever since. With Dawn, it’s more of a business relationship and partnership for us.”
Loveland points out that sharing a passion for family business plays an integral role in Dawn’s culture.
“Our heritage as an almost 100-year-old family bakery really comes to light when we meet other family bakeries,” she says. “We’re able to share that passion for the business and share that connection. We feel like we’re a part of their family, and we look for them to be as successful as any of our other family members.”
Adds Dunn: “The bakery business is about celebration and fun, which makes it different than other industries. We’re out here for a common goal for everyone to be successful.”