NEWARK, CA —Most American consumers know the name Otis Spunkmeyer. Anyone who’s ever participated in a school fundraiser or grabbed a muffin between flights in an airport terminal can recognize the logo’s signature red font.

But the world has drastically changed over the past two years, especially so for this beloved cookie brand, from the pandemic to new ownership and a corporate rebrand. So Otis Spunkmeyer has tapped into a changing world and used it to innovate while staying true to its roots.

The name “Otis Spunkmeyer” was born in the East Bay region of California nearly four decades ago when founder Ken Rawlings opened a retail store in Oakland. As he expanded the brand into foodservice, the company eventually moved into a manufacturing facility in San Leandro, planting roots for the flagship production bakery as Otis became a nationally known brand.

As the business grew in foodservice and school fundraising with its cookies and muffins, the bakery expanded production into other areas of California and beyond. Today, Aspire Bakeries operates four bakeries that produce Otis Spunkmeyer cookies across North America.


Although Aspire Bakeries’ home offices reside in Los Angeles; Chicago; and Mississauga, Canada, California’s East Bay may always be the place Otis Spunkmeyer calls home. So, when the San Leandro bakery was bursting at the seams, it looked to the neighboring location in Newark, CA, as the place to update, increase capacity and expand R&D for frozen cookie dough and other sweet baked goods for foodservice accounts.

Investments in technology upgrades and plans for future expansion were underway at the Newark bakery in 2019, but before the transformation and transfer from San Leandro could be finalized, COVID-19 hit the Northwest region of the US in the first quarter of 2020.

“We put a crisis team together as soon as things started shutting down in March,” said Beau Netzer, president of foodservice and in-store bakery for Aspire Bakeries, Otis’ parent company. “Keeping our bakeries and employees safe has been paramount for us, and that’s something that will never change.”

From the time of shutdowns in March 2020 to the startup of the Newark cookie line in September 2021, the pandemic may have slowed life down, but it was also a portal to new beginnings for this nostalgic brand as Newark prepared to emerge as the West Coast hub for cookie innovation.

The pandemic’s downtime allowed Otis Spunkmeyer to focus on how this bakery could facilitate growth by first absorbing San Leandro’s cookie production and then transferring its R&D capabilities. It also created breathing room to determine what resources Newark would need during the parent company’s transformation into Aspire Bakeries.

“The investments in Newark and the new chapter of Aspire Bakeries have injected a renewed energy into the entire company,” Netzer said. “At the bakery, the entire team is motivated to move into the future in this upgraded facility. It was risky in the middle of a pandemic, but we invested in the risk, and it’s paying dividends.”

“The investments in Newark … have injected a renewed energy into the entire company. It was risky in the middle of a pandemic, but we invested in the risk, and it’s paying dividends.” —Beau Netzer | president, foodservice and in-store bakery | Aspire Bakeries


The corporate and operational changes gave Otis Spunkmeyer the boost it needed to propel Newark forward through expanded capacity and a bolstered sales force. It was a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances that led to unbridled opportunity.

“Our shift was like a seesaw,” said Greg Tompkins, Aspire Bakeries senior VP of R&D. “All of a sudden, foodservice just shot up. There were almost points where we couldn’t make product fast enough.”

Consumers sought a premium experience from their cookies after COVID-19 had them had them on a nearly two-year emotional roller coaster. Otis’ R&D team was charged with innovating a distinct experience that stayed true to a brand so rooted in tradition.

“With Otis’ wonderful brand heritage coupled with consumers’ desire for comfort and indulgence, our innovation team has been hard at work developing new cookie ideas for our customers,” said Chris Prociv, senior VP of marketing, innovation and R&D for Aspire Bakeries.

In addition to R&D, Aspire Bakeries has developed a new Strategic Innovation initiative; together with R&D, these teams are not only putting product development at the forefront of innovation, but they’re also doing it with a modern approach.

“We’re starting with the consumer and asking, ‘What is the end-user looking for?’” Prociv explained.


Plans are underway to overhaul the bakery’s test kitchen and lab with the Otis R&D team now integrated into the Newark operation. The phased renovation and expansion of the lab will not only accelerate product development but will also create an interactive showplace for hands-on, cross-functional innovation.

But the lab will become so much more than just a center for customer ideation. It will share space with the employee break area, creating an opportunity for holistic interaction with the entire Otis Spunkmeyer team.

“It doesn’t just involve the ideation and finished baked goods,” Prociv said. “This new lab creates an opportunity for everyone here to experience product development firsthand, and that makes the work people do at every stage of the process much more meaningful.”

Meanwhile, technology on the bakery floor has also helped ramp up production for every variety of Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, from value to premium, which are shipped as frozen pucks to Aspire Bakeries’ foodservice and retail customers throughout the country.

The cookie makeup line includes a Baker Perkins wirecut depositor designed to customize the configurations of pucks across the belt depending on the cookie size and type. With that flexibility, it was critical to have a freezer that could keep up with current capacity but also be ready to take on more as the business grows.

“One of the biggest needs that we addressed in building this line was flexibility with the ability to expand,” said Jody Holder, Aspire Bakeries’ VP of US bakery operations, noting the investment in an IJ White spiral freezer. “We went above and beyond on freezer capacity.  This will allow us to invest in more tech down the road in areas like mixing and wirecutting. That’s a strategy to make sure we’re ready for the five, 10 or 15 years ahead.”

With the operation lined up to take on more capacity, the bakery itself has room to grow. It sits on 10 acres owned by Aspire Bakeries, so with the capability to expand, the sky’s the limit for this facility to become a marquis bakery for the Otis Spunkmeyer brand.

“We’ve invested in this bakery and its future,” Netzer said. “With the updates, growth potential, and the new innovation lab, Newark is set to be a hub of excellence and a real showplace.”