Who the heck is Little Debbie
Little Debbie Nutty Buddys are a favorite of mine and it got me to thinking.
You may be familiar with the smiling girl on the box, but who is she? Is she even real? And what about all those unique creations?
Debbie is a real person. Debbie McKee-Fowler is all grown up still very much a part of the family business, currently serving as the executive vice president of McKee Foods. But how did she end up on the box in the first place?
Thank packaging supplier Bob Mosher, who suggested the boss should use the name of a family member for a new product launch.
O.D. McKee, Debbie’s grandfather, and the company’s founder, quickly decided to use the name of his 4-year-old granddaughter. A photo he had of her wearing her favorite straw hat was used for the brand image but, surprise, he didn’t tell her (or her parents!). Although they weren’t exactly happy with the idea at first, the product was already up and running, and Debbie remained the smiling face of the brand.
Debbie’s grandparents, O.D. and Ruth McKee, got their start by selling pre-made cakes out of their car. In 1934, they took things a step further when they purchased a failing bakery. They worked side by side, and little by little their business dreams were realized. Today, over 80 years later, the company is still family-driven, and business decisions, as well as day-to-day operations, continue to be overseen by several members of the McKee family.
The Oatmeal Creme Pie isn’t just among the best-selling Little Debbie snacks, it is also the original. In 1935, O.D. McKee began tinkering with his hard oatmeal cookie recipe to produce a softer cookie. Once the cookie was perfected, he paired and filled them with a fluffy creme filling. Soon, the new Oatmeal Creme Pies were being sold for a nickel each, a sweet price for an even sweeter treat.
Are Those Rolls Really Swiss?
Swirls of chocolate cake and creamy filling, enrobed in a rich chocolate make the Swiss Rolls a must-have treat for kids of all ages. But, O.D. McKee couldn’t take credit for creating this snack. His American version was inspired by a 1962 trip to a European trade show where he was looking for “the next big thing.” The cake, a miniaturized version of a popular dessert called roulade, was being crafted by several bakeries he toured. Once back in Tennessee, he started production on two lines and the Swiss Rolls were added to the Little Debbie brand a year later, in 1963. It remains one of the top three best-selling items in the lineup.
Little Debbie has quite a love of space, with snack names including Star Crunch and Cosmic Brownies. But it’s not just the name that makes these treats out of this world, they’ve also been to space! In 2014, Little Debbie, in partnership with the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, literally and figuratively launched their most recent galactic offering to date, Cosmic Cupcakes. The new cupcake, along with an astronaut bobble head, was attached to a weather balloon and, with a crowd counting down, were launched 18 miles into space.
The Nutty Bar That Changed Its Name!
My favorite Little Debbie snack is the Nutty Bar, which actually underwent a name change! Peanut butter, wafers, chocolate, they were so good. But, as I started to do research for this article I found out that the Nutty Bar had vanished. Well, sort of. Somewhere along the way the Nutty Bar is now known as Nutty Buddy.
There’s no official word from Little Debbie or McKee Foods about the name change, but the brand page does now refer to the snack as Nutty Buddy. And the original Nutty Bar is still listed as the third of the top three sellers, which also proves that regardless of what they are called, I’m not the only one who holds a special place for this classic combo.
PEOPLE HAVE GONE TO PRISON FOR THESE!
The taste of Little Debbie is so good that some people think they’re worth going to jail for, apparently. Over the past several years, there have been at least two known incidents of people stealing huge amounts of Little Debbie products. In North Carolina in 2015, brazen thieves cut through a fence where a distribution van was parked. Once inside, they broke into the van and stole 65 cases of snacks including Oatmeal Creme Pies, Swiss Rolls, and Honey Buns. In May 2017, two women were arrested in Jonesboro, Arkansas for stealing a trailer carrying $5,000 worth of snacks. The stolen trailer was eventually found and thankfully no one nor any cakes were harmed.
Little Debbie snacks aren’t just one of the tastiest brands, they’re also one of the most profitable. With a retail price about half the cost of its competitors, Little Debbie owns approximately one-third of all snack cake sales. In 2016, McKee Foods recorded over $800 million in sales — nearly $150 million dollars more than Hostess, its closest competitor.