Lessons From Broken Cheesecake

Joe Rand sells cheesecake online at Dezzerts.com near Orlando.

That sounds tasty, unless the cheesecake arrives at your door warm and alive with bacteria, or schmooshed like a pancake, or even battered a bit in one corner. “You want to get the product to the consumer in a state representative of high quality,” he says.

So the problem with selling cheesecake online isn’t stimulating the taste buds, or arranging affiliate relationships: “Fulfillment is a major challenge,” says Rand.

Unfortunately, when Rand launched his site in October, the state of the art in cheesecake delivery left something to be desired.

“Everyone does the same thing. They use a Styrofoam cake box, a pre-formed box. They put it in without gel packs or other cooling. I’ve received some samples that were warm, others that were banged up good. Or they’d put the gel packs on top or underneath the product, releasing moisture.” If you’ve ever had a layer of water floating on your cheesecake… it’s not pretty.

The solution was deceptively simple, a commercial-grade aluminum pan with the gel packs (frozen gel that warms up slowly) underneath it. The pan has the site’s logo on the bottom, and can be reused again and again, for cooking new cheesecakes or taking some of your best homemade to grandma.

“We’ve shipped it from Japan and it’s still cold. FedEx has to crush the box to hurt the cheesecake. Logistically, it makes that product bulletproof.”

There still remains one problem. The pans cost $8-10 each. Dezzerts.com sells cheesecakes with the pan for $40 while competitors sell them without the pan for $30. The lesson is to sell the pan – push its benefits and multiple uses, justifying a higher price for the final product.

Once Rand sells his fulfillment solution he’s got big plans. “We’ll partner with people who sell desserts in various parts of the country. There’s a company that sells creampuffs in Columbus, Ohio, for instance. We’ll put together a roadmap to desserts, and consumers will be able to see what the local fare is there.”

When Rand first called, however, he didn’t want to talk about Columbus, or his discovery of the perfect way to ship cheesecake. He had issues with the Pillsbury people.

It seems Dezzerts.com is running a recipe contest, an “online dezzert bakeoff,” with a trip to the Disney Culinary Institute as first prize, and the Doughboy’s employers object. They don’t object to the contest per se, but to the use of the term “bakeoff” to describe it.

“Pillsbury sent me a nasty letter. My counsel says they don’t think Pillsbury can defend that. Bakeoffs have been a tradition in small towns around the country. It’s a common term.”

That may be true, but if Joe Rand can get a cheesecake from Japan in one piece, don’t you think he can come up with another term for “bakeoff,” something he can trademark? (So he can send nasty letters to Pillsbury if they use it.) Send your best ideas here, and if Rand uses your name maybe he’ll give you some of that cheesecake.

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