Dick & Jane Baking Company makes learning fun again.
By Matthew Totsky
Most people associate the names Dick & Jane with education, thanks to a series of early childhood readers used as textbooks for children in the United States from the 1930s through the 1970s. But now, a real-life couple named Dick & Jane are making sure their names resonate with present-day students, thanks to their fun and unique products.
Their Troy-based business is called the Dick & Jane Baking Company and they specialize in making educational snacks.
“This idea started in 2007,” Dick says. “I noticed that parents typically put a handful of Cheerios on their child’s tray when the kids were first learning to chew. In preschool, the children would eat animal crackers while learning about animals. I thought to myself, ‘What is the next logical step to teach kids using food?’ Then it came to me to put states and capitals on a cookie and things really took off from there.”
Jane adds, “We were never in the food business; we were in the idea business. I’ve been a teacher for 18 years. I am a first-grade teacher in Troy and have previously taught second- and fourth-graders. But we both wanted to do more. We were lucky to come up with an educational idea that could be shared with everyone. I even use our products in my own classroom. And my students see my picture on the packaging so they think I’m the person that actually bakes all the cookies!”
It’s important to note that Dick & Jane’s Educational Snacks are not like Oreos or Nutter Butters or other products found in the food aisle of the grocery store.
When they first started, they called the products Smart Cookies, but over the years their brand has evolved to better reflect their products.
“We sold our products to schools, but a school in Georgia suggested we change their name so the word ‘cookie’ didn’t appear all over their menus,” Dick says. “They feared that parents would think their kids were not eating a healthy product, so we changed the name to Educational Snacks and that’s really a more accurate description of what we do.”
Jane adds, “Dick is allergic to nuts so we wanted to create something that was all-natural that the children could enjoy and learn with at the same time. In order to stay ahead of all the school health and wellness guidelines, our products were reformulated to a healthier whole grain recipe, too.
“And all of our Educational Snacks are vanilla because we want the focus to be on education, not on the cookie. People are always asking if we can manufacture them in chocolate or cinnamon or with frosting, but we always resist because we want to be known first and foremost as a maker of educational products.”
After the first batch of the States & Capitals rolled out of the oven in 2008, Dick & Jane received their first order from Van Eerden, a school food service distributor from Grand Rapids. Two years later, Dick & Jane introduced a new line featuring all 43 U.S. presidents and the White House.
“We got those into schools, too,” Dick says, “as well at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum in Kansas, and at Gettysburg and Mt. Rushmore.”
In 2012, Dick & Jane proudly introduced English & Spanish as their first bilingual edition.
“This product is a blank canvas,” Dick says. “We can do many other subjects like Sign Language, Countries & Capitals, Fun & Fitness, American History, Animals & Sounds, Letters & Words, People, Places & Things. The possibilities are endless.”
Today, Dick & Jane Educational Snacks are served to approximately 2 million students a month in school lunch and afterschool snack programs. They’ve also shipped them to Norway and South Korea and have had interest from schools in New Zealand, China and Dubai.
“Early on, we were getting feedback from moms across the country asking where to buy our snacks,” Jane says. “We worked hard to get them on the shelves at Meijer, Whole Foods and Kroger in Georgia. We then developed a strategy with Amazon to make our product available to everyone in the country every day. Social media and Facebook have been very integral to our success. It has allowed us to market ourselves specifically to women with kids and to grandparents.”
Dick & Jane also believe in giving back.
“We are in the process of forming the Dick & Jane Foundation,” Dick says. “This charity will be set up to raise money to adopt classrooms, support teachers, sponsor school gardens, renovate cafeterias and promote healthy exercise.”
Dick & Jane do have a last name, but they never use it, not even on their business cards.
“We like to be on a first-name basis with everyone, and our names are very simple and easy to remember,” Dick says. “Our names already have 80 years of brand equity thanks to the early childhood readers so many people are familiar with. It’s ironic that we met each other and we had these names, but this is who we are. We’re in love with this business and it shows in the product we’ve
Order on Amazon.com, visit www.
dickandjanebakingco.com or call (248) 519-2418.