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40 oz. Baking Mix




Jiffy mix set to move into food service Firm may also become global player

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Originally posted by: Ann Arbor Business Review — February 2006

By Janet Miller

Compared to its first 100 years, the privately held Chelsea Milling Co., makers of Jiffy Mix, is moving faster than you can whip up a batch of corn muffins.

It took 10 years to introduce a second product after Jiffy Mix all-purpose baking mix made its debut in 1930. And after the pie crust mix was introduced in 1940, it took another decade to introduce the company’s third product, corn muffin.

“We don’t’ fit the business school mold in terms of frequency of introducing new product,” Howdy Holmes, CEO and great grandson of the company’s founder quipped. “We’d do one a decade.”

So it seems like Jiffy Mix is now on the fast track, Holmes said. Consider this: Three new mixes – lemon cake, lemon frosting and oatmeal muffins – were introduced last year, along with a new 40-oz size of the all-purpose baking mix. The company revamped the design of its iconic blue box for a fresher look last year. Jiffy Mix sits on the verge of entering the food service market. The company’s first industrial-sized packages of corn muffin mix are in warehouses a waiting distribution. And, Jiffy Mix is moving toward becoming an international player.

“We launched four new products last year, when we used to launch a new product every 10 years,” Homes said. “It speaks to how the marketplace has changed. People are not baking as much as they used to.”

The home baking mix industry has been flat to declining since 1991, Holmes said, with in industry-wide volume drop of 26 percent in that time. While the privately owned, family run company doesn’t release sales data, “Jiffy Mix hasn’t been hit as hard as the rest of the industry, Holmes said. “We’ve outperformed the competition.”

While the industry is struggling, Jiffy Mix’s market share has risen. It owns 59 percent of the overall market, and can produce up to 1.6 million boxes of mix a day. Its numbers for the value market – where a box mix costs $1 or less – are even more impressive. Jiffy owns 67 percent of that market. The value market is credited with 87 percent of sales, while the premium market (a box costs $1 or more) accounts for a 13 percent share.

Still, Jiffy Mix needs to respond to the decline in home baking, Holmes said. “While it’s never going to go away, I don’t see a turnaround in home baking,” Holmes said, “As a result of the volume drop, Jiffy Mix has decided to explore other channels of distribution.” That included various channels of food service along with exports.

While food behemoths such as General mills, Pillsbury and Continental Mills are multi-layered and can turn to other divisions such as frozen and refrigerated food lines, Jiffy has always been strictly dried mixes. It holds a place in history as the first retail prepared baking mix ever. Jiffy Mix needs to look beyond the baking aisle for places to do business, Holmes said.

Jiffy Mix has been courting change for a decade, Holmes said. “We’ve had to arrange ourselves facilities-wise, systems-wise and people-wise. To change an organization, you just can’t do that overnight. We’ve had the luxury to prepare.”

For instance, the company has increased production capacity 33 percent since 1990 and personnel by 30 percent. It’s also increased storage capacity. “We’ve gone from a day-at-a-time inventory to four, five or six days,” Holmes said.

After a decade of preparation, the changes have begun. The company’s top seller – corn muffin mix (Jiffy owns 92 percent of the corn muffin mix sales nationally) – will lead the way. One of the top four national food service distributors – Holmes doesn’t want to name the company – has five-point packages (two 2 ½ pound boxes banded together) of Jiffy corn muffin mix warehoused and ready for distribution in less than a month, Holmes said. Holmes hopes Jiffy Mix will find its way into restaurants, senior citizen homes, schools, and prisons.

There are other channels within the food service industry where Jiffy Mix will look, Holmes said. The company could look to supply ingredients for the frozen or partially-baked market, or even compete in these niches directly, Holmes said. “We have so many options. But we have to understand them first. We need to start from the ground up. That’s what we’re doing with food service. We don’t have a 75 year history in food service or export.”

While Jiffy Mix is moving into food service, it is also exploring exports. Research is under way. There are language and labeling issues (Jiffy mix had prototype boxes in two languages other than English) for exports along with the issue of import and export duties. There are also cultural taste differences to be explored. “What is popular here may or may not be popular in Mexico or Canada or San Juan, “Holmes said, “We have to understand the different cultures.”

While Jiffy Mix is at least a couple of years away from entering exporting, it is looking at possible markets, from Canada to Mexico and around the globe to New Zealand and Australia, Holmes said.

It’s a long process. It would mean manufacturing Jiffy Mix at places around the globe, which would be a huge departure from its current operation. Jiffy Mix has always been made at the single plant in Chelsea. To export, Jiffy Mix could establish a strategic alliance with a local manufacturer or could establish an operation of its own, Holmes said. What couldn’t happen he said, would be to manufacture the mixes in Chelsea and ship them around the world. “We couldn’t do that because of the freight issues,” he said.

The Jiffy Mix business model has always set it apart from its competition. The company doesn’t advertise. They are vertically integrated, milling their own flour, doing their own packaging, even making their blue boxes at a plant in Marshall.

“We don’t grow our own wheat and we don’t make our own shipping cases. But that’s about it,” Holmes said. And he is not ready to dismiss the possibility of seeing Jiffy Mix someday grow its own wheat through contract growers. Holmes said the company is more than 90 percent vertically integrated. “Most of our competitors are very different than that,” he said.

But as Jiffy Mix looks for new distribution methods and venues, it will stay true to its founding philosophy, Holmes said.

We wouldn’t go into the global market unless we have established ourselves as the value player. You won’t see us served alongside escargot. You’ll never see us come out with a lime, banana kiwi muffin mix. We’re the staple supplier.”

How many different “JIFFY” Mix varieties do you manufacture?

We have fifteen different retail baking mixes.

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Do you have high altitude baking directions for “JIFFY” mixes?

For “JIFFY” Cake Mixes stir 1-1/2 tablespoons flour into dry mix. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons additional water and mix as directed. Increase baking temperature to 375°.

For “JIFFY” Baking Mix, Buttermilk Biscuit Mix and Muffin Mixes stir 2 tablespoons flour into dry mix. Add 2 tablespoons additional liquid and mix as directed. Baking temperature remains at 400° for muffins and 450° for biscuits.

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As of November 2004, all “JIFFY” Mix products will have a “Best If Used By” date printed on the top of each package. This is based on a twelve month shelf life from the day it was manufactured. We feel the product is at its best if used by this date.

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“Jiffy” Mix is Michigan success story

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Originally posted by: The Morning Sun — June 2, 2008

by Dick Bolton

Fretting about gasoline prices and the rising cost of everything else one morning last week, I was overtaken by pangs of hunger. That sparked some curiosity, and sure enough, within minutes several Internet sources had confirmed that stress can, indeed, induce the urge to eat. But you probably knew that already.

What happened next was a visit to the pantry in search of a goody. And what did I find? Well, I must say it was a great stress reliever, packaged in a small, blue, white and red box, labeled “’JIFFY’ corn muffin mix.”

Within the hour I had a batch of hot cornbread – johnnycake, we used to call it – on the table to very nicely quell the hunger pangs. But the real stress reliever was that little package.

And more particularly, it was the price label: “36 cents.” Toss in the required egg and a third of a cup of milk, and my whole eight-inch diameter johnnycake had cost less than a little regular from Mickey D’s. Of course, I haven’t added in the value of my own labor here. Is that fudging things a little?

Anyway, my johnnycake tasted better and was a lot more satisfying than fare from a fast food place, too. All that got me to thinking.

You know, I remember seeing the “Jiffy” brand corn muffin mix as long as I’ve shopped for groceries in Michigan. It always has seemed like a rare bargain, too. In the back of my mind, there was the sense it was some kind of a local – or at least regional – product.

Well, last week’s study of that little box informed me that “Jiffy” mix is a product of the Chelsea Milling Company of Chelsea, Mich., down by Ann Arbor. Regional inkling confirmed.

And that, of course, inspired yet another visit to the Internet. Sure enough, the Chelsea Milling Company has its very own Web site. Turns out, the company claims to have been around as a family business in Chelsea for 120 years.

It also produces 20 other cake, piecrust dough, pizza dough, muffin, pancake, biscuit and frosting mixes, in addition to the corn muffin offering. All are offered up at very reasonable prices. And it’s not just a regional outfit. Chelsea Milling’s “Jiffy” products are sold in all 50 of the United States, and make it to some foreign countries through the U.S. military.

According to the company Web site, “Chelsea Milling Company is a complete manufacturer. We store wheat. We mill wheat into flour. We use that flour for own mixes. We make our own ’little blue’ boxes. We do it all…,” right there in Chelsea.

But I especially like the next part of that spiel, which says, “…that’s why our mixes provide you with the best possible value. Value is using the highest quality ingredients and the best price!”

If personal experience with the “Jiffy” mixes is any indicator, I’ve seldom read words in a company’s own description of itself and its products that ring more true than the latter. The price certainly is low, and the products are good.

The company boasts quite openly about that “best price” business on a Web page showing how relatively little is spent on marketing the “Jiffy” products. A straightforward graphic shows that while all producers bear the cost of ingredients, labor and packaging, the “Jiffy” brand foregoes costly advertising, merchandising, and coupon offers, which Chelsea Milling labels, “extra costs to you.”

Instead, the company relies on brand recognition by loyal customers who have come to appreciate its quality-price-value equation. Word of mouth certainly helps. The internet seems to give “Jiffy products a boost, too. Running a search using key words “Jiffy corn muffin mix” produced “about 33,400” hits as reported by Google.

Other “Jiffy” not-so-trivial lore I discovered is that Chelsea Milling lays claims to having been first to manufacture and market a baking mix of any kind, starting in 1930. Credit for originating the product is given to Mabel White Holmes, whose husband, Howard, once upon a time ran the family-owned business.

Mabel must have been quite a feisty and formidable lady. “Jiffy” mix lore has it that she was fond of saying, “It’s so easy even a man could do it.” We guess she was referring to baking with her concoction.

But it must be noted also that after her husband died in a 1936 mill accident, Mabel stepped in as company president for a few years. Her sons took over the operation in 1940. Today, her grandson, Howard “Howdy” Holmes runs the show.

Back to personal experience, I’d say using the “Jiffy” mixes definitely is easy enough for this man to do it. I just follow the directions. The results are yummy, and a good stress relieving bargain all around.

Dick Bolton is a Morning sun columnist. Send bouquets or brickbats by e-mail to or snail mail in care of the Morning Sun. Telephone messages can be left at 989-779-6055.

“Jiffy Mix” book hot off the presses

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Originally posted by: The Chelsea Standard — July 10, 2008

By Janet Ogle-Mater

Special Writer

Howard S. “Howdy” Holmes Jr. will be the guest speaker at the upcoming Chelsea Area Historical Society’s Dinner and Lecture fund-raiser.

Holmes will talk about his successful 20-year racing career and about the Chelsea Milling Company, the more than century-old family business of which he is president and CEO.

Holmes will also be sharing aspects, and signing copies, of the new book, “JIFFY: A Family Tradition, Mixing Business and Old-Fashioned Values,” by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds.

The book explores the early years of the mill, the beginnings of Jiffy baking mixes, and the changes that have taken the company into the 21st century. Through it all, four generations of Holmes family history is revealed.

“I wanted to honor my family before me and I felt a need to record our history,” said Howdy. “It has been a heartwarming experience for me.”

The idea for the book began in 1990, but was put on hold for several years after the unexpected death of the original author, Joseph Clayton.

“In 2001, I was moved to start the project again after the death of my father and the release of Reynolds’ book, ’Our Hometown,’” Holmes recalled.

The inside jacket of the book reads like a recipe with ingredients including such attributes as courage, consideration, consistency, values, respect, and honor. It is easy to see how this mix of ingredients has combined to make a successful family-owned business for four generations.

Chelsea Milling was founded in 1887 by E.K. White and incorporated in 1901. Harmon S. Holmes, a Chelsea businessman with a number of flourishing ventures, including H.S. Holmes Mercantile, bought the mill in 1908.

Early on he turned the management of the mill over to his son, Howard, who would marry E.K. White’s daughter Mabel in 1912. Mabel White Holmes went on to create Jiffy Baking Mix in 1930. Then, tragedy struck the family when Howard Samuel Holmes fell to his death from a grain elevator inside a silo in 1936.

Mabel and her 23-year-old twin sons, Howard and Dudley Holmes, took over running the company. In 1940, Howard Sumner Holmes became president, a position he held for 55 years. “He never planned on being in the family business, but he did what he had to do, and without complaints,” Howdy said of his father.

Unlike his father, Howdy knew he wanted to be in the family business. “I grew up in the mill; I’ve done every job in the place at least once,” he said.

But before joining the team at Jiffy, he was given the freedom and encouragement to pursue his childhood dream of auto racing.

Holmes had a successful career, competing in six Indy 500 events and claiming “Rookie of the Year” in 1979. He also gained a wealth of experience in business management, marketing, and public relations.

He brought this business experience back to Chelsea Milling in 1987, and has been President and CEO since his father retired in 1995.

“When I returned, I saw a great brand, and principles, but knew there had to be some changes.”

Howdy began to the move the company away from a proprietorship and toward a professionally managed company. He also invested more into the employees and invited their collaboration.

“When you ask someone their opinion, you get different feedback from your own and you learn new things,” Holmes said. “My management system is not too complicated treat people the way you would like to be treated.”

Howdy left unchanged the basic principles on which the company was founded, including a commitment to quality and value for a fair price.

“Our choice is to give consumers the best value,” Holmes said. “We define ’value’ as being the highest-quality ingredients at the best price.”

One way they keep their prices low is not to spend money on advertising. In the nearly 80 years since the brand was founded, the company has never advertised. It prefers to rely on consumer loyalty to the little blue-and-white box for quality and value.

It seems to be working: Chelsea Milling produces 1.6 million boxes of Jiffy mixes each day during the peak winter season, Holmes said, and claims 57 percent of the nation’s total muffin mix market share. Its corn muffin mix, introduced in 1950, continues to be its top seller.

To hear more about the Chelsea Milling Company and the new book, join the Chelsea Area Historical Society at 7 p.m. July 18 at Silver Maples of Chelsea.

Tickets are $30 per person or $50 for a ticket and copy of the book, and on sale at the Gourmet Chocolate Café, 312 N. Main St.