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This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 15, 1999.

From Bagels to Jelly Bean Banks

In 1985, Warren and Sara Wilson thought the time was

ripe to combine a long-time American snack food with an ethnic favorite.

They married the potato chip and the bagel into a baked, low-fat and

low-cholesterol product called New York Style Bagel Chips. Sales figures

proven them right as did the success, two years later, of another

ethnic foods-influenced product, New York Style Pita Chips. Then someone

else developed an appetite for their products — the Nabisco Foods

Group of Parsippany, which bought their company seven years ago.

Keeping their office in Montgomery Knoll, the Wilsons worked in the

area of fat-free snacks, but that category has faltered over the last

two years, says Warren Wilson. "Consumers are demanding a better

tasting product with more fat." They discontinued their fat-free

food research last year.

Now the Wilsons have moved into a new arena: combining snacks with

licensed sports products. "We make the bottle banks, the 10-inch

tall bank filled with jelly beans that match the color of the sports

logo," says Wilson. The souvenir products are sold at places like

Waterfront Park, home of the Trenton Thunder, and include a popcorn

bank, filled with all natural popcorn made with canola oil. "When

you eat the popcorn it is a bank for your kid’s room," says Wilson.

Sam’s Clubs offers a two-foot bank that sells at around $10; soon

the Sports Authority will sell 20-inch banks, priced at $12 or $13.

"We have over 200 sports teams to sell throughout the United States,"

says Wilson. Fans of hockey, football, basketball, baseball, and more

than 50 college and university teams will be able to buy bottle banks

with their team’s logo. Banks are also going to be available to represent

five NASCAR drivers. Jelly beans will be packaged with WCW wrestling

logos. A stocking stuffer for sports fans: A tree ornament in the

shape of a logo with a popcorn ball inside.

This business has its roots in funnel cakes. When he was a Villanova

student, Warren Wilson operated a funnel cake stand at the Allentown

fair. Encouraged by his parents (he was a dentist, she an opera singer)

he took funnel cakes from being a mere regional food specialty, suitable

for street fairs, and patented an apparatus so it could be commercialized

as a national attraction for malls and amusement parks.

Along the way, he encountered his future wife. Sara’s parents were

entrepreneurs who worked together in a plastics extrusion business.

She studied nutrition and food at Centenary College, Class of 1973,

but had a job in advertising after graduation. She met Warren when

he was operating a funnel cake stand at Paramus Park and they began

working together, energized by each other’s ideas. "We fuel each

other, talking about our schemes and things we want to do," says

Sara Wilson. The pair married in 1982 and have two children, ages

eight and nine.

At the Montgomery Knoll office, Warren is responsible for sales and

production and Sara works in product development, advertising, and

licensing. In addition to maintaining this 14-person office, the company

leases space in three factories, two in Pennsylvania and one in south

Jersey.

"After owning factories for the bagel chips, we found it very

stressful to keep the production lines going," says Sara, "and

we decided our specialty is being creative and finding niches and

marketing. We were determined to get a mainstream item that could

theoretically be in every household."

As for product development, it takes place in the Wilsons’ kitchens,

either at their home in Princeton or at the shore. "We go out

of our way to make a family evening with our meal," she says.

"I love to cook."

— Barbara Fox

Snack Factory, 11 Montgomery Knoll, Box 3562,

Princeton 08543-3562. Warren Wilson, president. 609-683-5400; fax,

609-683-9595.


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