Bantam Bagels shatters American bagel stereotypes

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Bantam Bagels are designed to be “classic, iconic” NYC bagels with a twist by containing cream cheese inside.  Pic: Bantam Bagels
Bantam Bagels are designed to be “classic, iconic” NYC bagels with a twist by containing cream cheese inside. Pic: Bantam Bagels

Related tags Grocery store Bagel

Former Shark Tank competitors, Nick and Elyse Oleksak, share their story of how Bantam Bagels has expanded to more than 7,700 Starbucks locations and the frozen section of grocery stores across the US. 

“Shark Tank brought a group of fans to our business that we could have never expected,”​ Nick Oleksak told BakeryandSnacks. “The Shark Tank viewers are some of the most passionate and supportive customers we have.”

He also admitted their business would not have been able to come as far as it has if they were not a husband and wife team.

Started with a dream

The idea of Bantam Bagels came to Oleksak in a dream in 2012.

“Elyse and I were trying to think of the next big thing and the moment I told her about my idea for mini cream cheese stuffed bagels, we both knew that was it. We were making bagels in our kitchen in Brooklyn that night,” ​he said.

“Neither of us had any baking or food industry experience prior to that first test batch we made almost four years ago,” ​Oleksak recalled. “But, I think that has been an advantage for us from the beginning. None of our recipes are over-engineered; each one is based around simple, classic ingredients done right.”

Shattering stereotypes of traditional bagels

Oleksak said Bantam Bagels are not just a breakfast item, but are designed to be “classic, iconic” ​NYC bagels with a twist by containing cream cheese inside.

Most people associate bagels with a typical large, round, breaded item with a hole in the center, he pointed out, and customers do not automatically presume that Bantam Bagels’ mini orbs are bagels unless they are told so.

“We are on a mission to change the way America bagels are perceived, one mini cream cheese stuffed bagel at a time. We are using promo offerings, and demos to get the product into our customers’ carts. That said, we are very conscientious to demonstrate, both visually and through text, what a Bantam Bagel exactly is. Once people understand the concept, they light up and are always willing to give it a try.”

Each Bantam Bagel contains around 100 calories, targeting consumers looking for convenient and on-the-go snacks, according to the company.

Expanding distribution

In addition to the food service side of the business, Bantam Bagels is busy expanding its product reach into conventional frozen grocery stores all over the US, claimed Oleksak.

“We have launched our frozen six packs in Kroger Stores (Midwest), Safeway (Northern California, Hawaii and Portland) and many independent grocers (Northeast, Midwest, Pacific Northwest and Texas),”​ he said. “We have a few more deals closing now with some larger retailers here on the Northeast.”

With such momentum, Bantam Bagels said it is in “extreme growth mode”​ right now with a rate of approximately 300% year-over-year.

“We understand that frozen grocery retail is a tough place to launch, so we are working nonstop to make sure customers can access the product at a great price point,” ​Oleksak added.

Commenting on consumer trends in the US bakery industry, Oleksak said the market seems to be going in a direction of “real.”

“Authenticity of origin and ingredients is highly valued in this category where people are consciously choosing to spend their treat.”

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