Tag: Article

50 Grocery Store Products Chefs Love

This Chef Calls Jiffy the Rolls-Royce of Cornbread Mix.

Check out the brands chefs can’t live without.

Originally posted by: Food Network — 10/15/2018

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Jiffy Mix And Its Rich Washtenaw County History

Originally posted by: WEMU 89.1 — 6/12/2018

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Now Hiring!

Originally posted by: Ann Arbor Observer — 12/6/2017

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Potatoes, Pop, and JIFFY Corn Muffins: Michigan’s agri-businesses thrive and reinvest

Originally posted by: Second Wave Michigan — 3/26/2017

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Michigan Celebrates Food and Agriculture Gala brings out the best in the industry

Originally posted by: Corp! Magazine — 3/9/2017

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Jiffy Mix CEO: ‘Retro hip’ business was built on reputation

Originally posted by: Prairie Family Business Association — 3/6/2017

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Made in Michigan: Jiffy Mix

Originally posted by: ABC12 – WJRT Flint — 2/24/2016

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Article by: Randy Conat

CHELSEA (WJRT) – (02/24/16) – There’s a product that’s Made in Michigan that can be found in nearly every kitchen in the country. The company has been around for more than 100 years and never had a layoff.

It’s Jiffy Mix made in Chelsea near Ann Arbor.

The boxes of Jiffy Mix fly down the assembly line at the Chelsea Milling Company. 1.6 million boxes a day are sent around the nation and to 32 countries.

“When people think of Jiffy Mix, they pretty much think of us as the muffin company because our corn muffins are so popular. We actually have 92 percent of market share,” said Howdy Holmes, Chelsea Milling Company president and CEO.

One reason sales are so good is the price.

“You can buy our corn muffins for 55 cents. That’s a pretty good deal,” Holmes said.

Sales actually increase during recessions because people eat at home more often.

“Our whole mission is to serve working class America, the blue collar gang, if you will,” Holmes said.

Jiffy Mix has become a tradition in many families. Mothers and fathers often pass down their favorite Jiffy Mix recipes.

“Baking is an event to be shared. There’s a big emotional attachment,” Holmes said.

Jiffy Mix is able to keep prices down because the company doesn’t advertise or offer coupons. It buys local whenever possible, like the wheat used for flour.

“We get it all from the Thumb area,” Holmes said.

Much of the sugar comes from Michigan, too. Allegiance to the state is important.

“We’re Michiganders. We try to support local,” Holmes said.

The complex covers a large portion of Chelsea, about nine acres.

“Part of our structures were built in the late 1800s,” Holmes said.

There are 18 varieties of Jiffy Mix.

While Jiffy Mix is found in so many homes, the company has expanded into commercial and institutional food, like cake mix. Just over 300 people work at Chelsea Milling.

“It’s a great company to work for. Family owned forever and ever,” said Sharon Parsons.

“We’re like a big family. It’s really close knit,” said Josh Mohr.

Holmes is well-liked by the employees.

“He’s almost like a father. He’s always got words of encouragement,” Mohr said.

“We choose to take care of our people,” Holmes said.

Being a successful company attracts offers from other states to relocate.

“We have no interest in selling. It would never be the same,” Holmes said.

The next time you see that little box that becomes a plate full of delicious muffins, remember – it’s Made in Michigan.

Howdy Holmes, CEO Podcast: Conversations on Economic Opportunity

Originally posted by: MLive — 11/26/2014

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Chelsea Milling Company now offering vegetarian version of best-selling corn muffin mix

Originally posted by: MLive — 10/29/2014

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Jiffy Mix launches vegetarian version of famous corn muffin mix

Originally posted by: Chelsea Standard — 10/28/2014

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MSU students put sales acumen to test in the kitchen

Originally posted by: Lansing State Journal — 10/13/2014

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From Fast Lane to Fast Lane: How Howdy Holmes Transitioned From Racing Stardom to Running One of “America’s Last Great Businesses”

Originally posted by: Your American Story – Hosted by Raja — 10/12/2014

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10 Cult Brands So Popular They Don’t Need To Advertise

Originally posted by: The Huffington Post — 8/26/2013

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Chelsea Milling in major move into institutional, food service markets

Originally posted by: BakingBusiness.com — 7/18/2013

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7 Reasons This Muffin Mix Can Save America

Originally posted by: PolicyMic.com — 3/29/2013

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Chelsea District Library Featured in National Case Study

Originally posted by: Chelsea Patch — 1/24/2013

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Originally posted by: Old West Side News — 4/1/2012

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In the Plant: The right mix for success

Originally posted by: Plant Engineering magazine — 2/15/2012

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Major grain storage expansion completed at Chelsea Milling

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Originally posted by: Milling Journal — 9/9/2011

Chelsea, MI, which lies about 50 miles southeast of Lansing, is a close-knit community with small-town charm and also home to the 124-year-old Chelsea Milling Company, which now produces more than 22 flour mixes packaged in iconic blue and white Jiffy Mix boxes.

Chelsea Milling has a long history dating back to 1887, when it was known as the Chelsea Roller Mill (see brief history on page 8).

“While our core business has long been the Jiffy Mix line of products, largely for the retail market, in the past few years, the mill has expanded into the foodservice and institutional markets,” said Howdy Holmes, 63, president and CEO of Chelsea Milling Company.

The milling facility’s rated daily capacity is 4,400 cwts., he added, and annual sales have now reached from $115 to $130 million.


Launched Two New Divisions

“While the retail trade was the mainstay of Chelsea Milling’s business for years, we launched an institutional division in 2007, which now offers 14 different products in 50-pound bags,” said Holmes.

Chelsea Milling also started a food-service division in early 2008, according to Holmes, but instead of offering a 30-pound case made up of six five-pound bags, which is considered standard for the foodservice industry, the company offers a case comprised of twelve 2-1/2-pound boxes, which stack much better and are more stable on the pallet.

“By using a 2-1/2-pound box instead of a five-pound sack, we think this caters to the smaller establishments like the mom-and-pop type restaurants better,” explained Holmes. “Also, the box allows us to retain the very familiar Jiffy Mix brand graphics, which aids in product recognition.”


Need to Expand Grain Storage

But as Chelsea Milling’s sales grew with the two new divisions so did its need to expand grain storage significantly.

“Besides a growth in sales, there were a few other key factors that led to constructing new grain storage silos,” explained Jack Kennedy, vice president and general manager, who has been with Chelsea Milling for 16 years.

First, the existing eighteen 24-by- 125-foot slipform concrete grain storage silos – which included nine interstices, with a total capacity of nearly 980,000 bushels built in 1963 – were developing age-related structural issues, forcing Chelsea Milling to fill them only to 60-80% capacity, according to Kennedy. Each silo’s capacity was approximately 49,000 bushels, 11,000 bushels for each interstice.

“This situation made it imperative that we begin making plans on how and when we would repair and upgrade these older silos,” said Kennedy. “But way before any work could start, we obviously needed enough new grain storage capacity on hand to help maintain optimum production and to coincide with the maintenance and repair work of the older silos on an orderly basis.”

More grain storage also would provide some added flexibility in procuring wheat during more opportune times in the marketplace, especially during harvest time, and aid in managing wheat blending better.


Quick Turnaround on Construction

Employing the engineering and design services of Sunfield Engineering, Inc., Cedar, MI (231-228-4400), Chelsea Milling broke ground on the construction of six new slipform grain storage silos with two interstices in September 2010.

With a total capacity of more than 300,000 bushels, each 28-by-100-foot silo can hold 46,000 bushels, and each interstice can store another 12,000 bushels.

“The project was completed by April 2011 at a cost of approximately $3.5 million, which was the first and biggest grain storage expansion for Chelsea Milling since the early 1960s,” said Andrew Markwart, project manager, for Adams Building Contractors (ABC), Jackson, MI (517-748-9099), the general contractor on the project.

“Due to our soil conditions and to make sure things were solid, a somewhat unique feature of this particular project was the special footings that were installed,” explained Kennedy. “Before any slipform concrete was poured above ground, 122 auger-cast piles or concrete columns were poured nearly 40 feet below the soil surface and allowed to cure before the 21-inch-thick pads, which sat on top of those auger columns.


A Good Fit

“Adams Building Contractors and all the other suppliers on this project were excellent and wonderful people to work with,” said Holmes. “In fact, Dave Adams who founded ABC actually worked for Chelsea Milling during the mid-1950s. ABC also is just 20 miles from our location, so that worked out very well for us logistically. They are really adept at concrete structures. I’m very proud of the job they did. I wouldn’t be hesitant to recommend them in that capacity.”

The project also provided some interest to the small community of Chelsea, added Holmes, since it was a continuous pour project that spanned 86 hours. “I’m very proud that it was done on time and on budget,” he said.


Efficient Precleaning System

According to Utpal Patel, Chelsea Milling project engineer, in the past, wheat cleaning was performed at the flour mill. So, as part of this grain storage expansion project, Chelsea Milling installed a Megatex wheat screening/precleaning system by Rotex Global, LLC, Cincinnati, OH, in the new elevator section. The system separates the wheat kernel from other foreign materials using associated dust collection equipment.

“Any wheat received now goes through the screening system, before being stored in any of the new or existing silo bins,” explained Patel, who has been with Chelsea Milling for two years.

The screenings coming out of the grain cleaner are stored in a screenings bin before being transferred to c the flour mill, where it gets grinded using a hammer mill, according to Patel. There also is a provision to rescreen the stored grain from any bins, before being transferred to the flour mill.

“The grain screening system helps to improve the efficiency and yield in the flour mill,” said Patel.


Aeration/Bin Unloading System

While most flat bottom storage silos use a sweep auger system to unload grain material, according to Kennedy, Chelsea Milling decided early on in the design phase to use an AIRLANCO AIRAUGER® unloading and aeration system, Falls City, NE (402-245-2325).

“We felt that such a system would be safer and less prone to mechanical problems and allow us to clean out the silo bottoms better,” added Kennedy.

According to Patel, the AIRAUGER system is rated to unload wheat at 8,000 bph compared to the current 5,000 bph in the existing silos. The system also is used for aeration (1/12.7 cfm per bushel).


Wheat Procurement

Wheat inventory is turned over nearly twice yearly. “If you look at our total inventory, we can theoretically have 1.2 million bushels of wheat on hand,” said Kennedy.

Chelsea Milling procures wheat from about a 150-mile radius around Chelsea. Although rail is an option, the majority of grain is delivered almost exclusively by truck.

“While some wheat is procured from surrounding areas near Detroit, Battle Creek, and Jackson, most of our wheat is coming from the Thumb area of Michigan,” said Kennedy. “Some wheat comes from Ontario, but this varies from year to year, comprising from 10% to 35% of our supplies. It depends on the quality of Michigan vs. Ontario wheat and the varieties being grown.”

According to Kennedy, a single Fairbanks Scales 100-foot static weigh scale is used, before the live bottom trucks dump their grain into a pit. Every incoming load is tested for DON and other potential crop problems. An automatic probing system for sample testing is used, and dockage testers are utilized in the scale house.


Two Classes of Wheat

“The added grain storage capacity also has been great from the standpoint that it’s now easier to manage and maintain the two classes of wheat, which we procure regularly from Michigan wheat growers—namely, soft white and soft red wheat,” said Kennedy.

“Presently, Michigan is having a wonderful, trouble-free growing season for wheat. But that’s not always the situation. Some years, you might have low falling numbers or vomitoxin problems, or it may be other quality issues.

“In those cases, we needed to have an improved blending capacity—the ability to blend off different deliveries of wheat, in order to produce a homogenous kind of blend to use in our product lines. The recently added grain storage capacity has allowed us to do that more efficiently.”

Karl Ohm, associate editor

Secret ingredient to Jiffy Mix success: Treating employess and customers well

Originally posted by: Crain’s Detroit Business — 5/15/2011

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Recipe for success: Chelsea Milling Co. expands into food service and institutional markets

Originally posted by: AnnArbor.com — 8/15/2010

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Upper Crusts

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Originally posted by: Tulsa World — November 11,2009

By Natalie Mikles, World Scene Writer


Tasters put pie shells to the test

Maybe you wouldn’t imagine something as innocuous as pie crust could spur a heated debate. Well, it can.

Those who believe in the art of pie dough -who keep their butter and shortening in the freezer, use marble slabs to roll the dough and can speak to a preference of French vs. American rolling pins – will stand nothing less than homemade. But others, many others, are just fine with a frozen Mrs. Smith’s shell or the red box of Pillsbury pre-rolled dough.

So we decided to put them to a test, to see if anyone would know the difference between the homemade crust and the store-bought, as well as which was preferred. At first we thought it might not be much of a test at all. Most everyone claims to love homemade pie crust, so surely it would win. But what if, we thought, one of those mixes, boxes or frozen crusts was found to be even better?

Our testers, very willing Tulsa World staffers, analyzed the taste and texture of homemade, frozen, pre-rolled refrigerated and dry-mix varieties – all filled with cherry pie filling. Of course, they didn’t know which was which.

Here’s what we found.


The winner

Jiffy pie crust mix

65 cents, which makes two crusts

We never would have guessed this less-than-$1 a box mix would be so well liked.

“Light, flaky, crispy,” one tester said. “Easily the best all around.”

But it wasn’t a unanimous win. Some thought it was too dry, and one said “a bit stale – tastes like a box mix.”

Once the taste test was over and we told the testers they preferred Jiffy, most were surprised. Some didn’t know Jiffy made anything other than cornbread.

Pros: This crust took only a few minutes to make. All you do is add a few tablespoons of water, stir and then roll it out into a circle. Plus, doing those few steps makes you feel like you’ve baked from scratch.

Cons: Makes a crispy crust, which depending on your preference, can be good or


Second Place


Those who preferred the homemade crust really liked the “buttery,” “rich,” “near perfect” taste. We tested using a Martha Stewart recipe for pate brisee – a basic all-butter crust. But not everyone liked it, with some saying it was “too dense” and “doughy.”

Pros: Sometimes just knowing it’s homemade makes the crust taste better. And if you like butter, no crust is as buttery or fresh as homemade.

Cons: Much more time consuming than the other three crusts we tested. And, if you don’t have a rolling pin, counter space or a board to roll out your dough, you’re in for a mess.



It was a tie between refrigerated prerolled and frozen.

Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts

$3.49 for two crusts

After we revealed the winners, a couple of testers weren’t at all surprised to find they preferred this crust since it was the one they use at home. “Traditional and
sweet,” one said. “Most like homemade.”

Pros: Unroll, place in a pie pan and you’re done. Having a sheet of dough makes it easy if you want to create lattice or cutouts for your top crust. Cons: Some testers thought this crust was “too chewy,” “tough,” and “chemical tasting.”

Mrs. Smith’s frozen pie shells

$3.29 for two crusts

One tester, who has spent her fair share of time making pies for Thanksgiving dinner, was shocked to learn the frozen crust was her favorite. It made her wonder why she has spent so much time making pie crusts when this one is “just as good as homemade.”

Pros: The easiest of them all. The most difficult thing about this crust is opening
the package. No dishes to clean. When you’re finished, just throw the pan away.

Cons: If the aluminum pie pan it comes in doesn’t give it away as store-bought, the perfectly scalloped edge will.

Recipe for Success

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Originally posted by: Detroit Free Press — August 5, 2008

By Christy Duan

Free Press Special Writer

When Howdy Holmes arrived in 1987 at Chelsea Milling Co., the maker of Jiffy mixes, the market was moving rapidly. The family business was not.

So when Holmes became chief executive and president of the now 120-year-old company in 1995, he made it his mission to ensure that those little blue and white boxes wouldn’t vanish from store shelves.

He had a plan to move the well-known — but stagnant — business into the 21st Century, even as it went up against competitors like Pillsbury and General Mills. “It was an evolution — not revolution — from a sole proprietorship to professional management,” said Holmes, 60, who raced cars for 20 years before returning to the family business in Chelsea.

“It was hardest for the people. It wasn’t natural for them.” His to-do list was long.

He set out to boost efficiency. He increased factory floor space, rolled out new packaging assembly lines, upgraded equipment and hired workers with experience in finance, food sales and production. He called frequent staff meetings.

The effort paid off: On average, Chelsea Milling produces 950,000 retail boxes per day, up from 425,000 boxes per day 10 years ago.

“Efficiency is an internal measurement,” Holmes said recently. “You have to be efficient before you’re effective.” Just as he did more than a decade ago, Holmes is embarking on yet another evolution.

In addition to its mixes, Chelsea Milling is branching out, providing products to prisons, food services and private labels. It is also exporting products to 28 countries. To support its growth, the company recently added 20 full-time employees this year, bringing its total staff to 350.

Jiffy’s 21 mixes, which include blueberry muffin, fudge brownie, pie crust and multipurpose baking mixes, make up 67% of the market for value mixes, Holmes said.

But, unlike competitors — which often have multimillion-dollar advertising budgets — Jiffy doesn’t use TV commercials or ads to sell its goods.

“We have a reputation,” said Holmes, who grew up in the Chelsea mill and is the fourth generation of the Holmes family to run the business. “We rely on word-of-mouth, which is really the best advertising available. But it’s risky because we need to provide a consistent product.”

Jiffy mixes — which cost $1 or less — are 28% to 53% cheaper per ounce than competitors’ products. Holmes said the company has kept prices low by doing minimal advertising and making its products in-house. Only its iconic boxes are made off-site — by its own print business, CNS, in Marshall.

“Eighty-nine percent of items in the baking aisle are value products,” Holmes said. “It tells you something. People appreciate value.”

Still, the firm has challenges. Jiffy has struggled since the early 1990s as consumers have opted for fast food and other convenience items instead of cooking at home.

In recent months, the company has battled the rising cost of flour as wheat prices neared a 10-year high in the spring. “Since 1991, retail sales have been flat to declining,” he said. “We’ve spent 67 years as a retail company, but the future’s not in home baking.”

Holmes said Chelsea Milling posted 2007 sales of about $87 million, which included retail and private-label sales. That compares with sales of about $90 million in 2002, which only included retail sales.

Holmes said the privately-held company’s projected sales for 2008 will be close to $100 million. That will include retail and private-label sales as well as its newer divisions such as institutional, food service and export sales.

“Providing to institutions as an alternative strategy to the consumer is a great idea,” said Michael Bernacchi, professor of marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy. “You might not be able to get nose to nose with customers, but you can do that with institutions. They may even do better and succeed in a stronger way.”

Holmes said the sagging economy may actually help the business. Lower incomes could force consumers to start cooking at home again.

“It’s very expensive to go out. Cooking at home is definitely less expensive. The mixes are quick and easy to put together for the family, and portions are reasonable,” said Mary Pilon, 71, of Canton, who has been using Jiffy for 30 years.

“Every time there’s an economic slowdown or there’s the R-word, retail sales go up,” Holmes said. “Eating out is more convenient, but it costs more per bite than buying products in the grocery store and cooking yourself.”

For now, the 20-year Indy race car driver cautions that slow and steady wins the race. “Managing growth is the most difficult thing to do. What’s best for the long term is to penetrate the market at a slow but sure pace,” Holmes said. “We like to under-commit and over-perform.”

“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.

History in a “Jiffy”

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Originally posted by: The Chelsea Standard — July 3, 2008

by Janet Ogle-Mater

Special Writer

Holmes gears up to headline CAHS dinner, lecture

Chelsea Milling Co. President Howard S. Holmes Jr., better known as “Howdy,” will be the honored guest speaker at a dinner and lecture fundraiser for the Chelsea Area Historical Society on July 18.

Holmes will talk about his successful 20-year racing career and his family’s more than 100-year-old business, Chelsea Milling Company. Holmes is the fourth generation of his family who has presided as President and CEO over Chelsea Milling Company, known to most as Jiffy Mix. However, Chelsea Milling is not his first career.

From the late 1960s until 1988, he raced all over the world, including in six Indianapolis 500s.

“I was about 16 years old when I announced I was going to be a race car driver,” reminisced Howdy, now 60. “My father had a friend whose uncle got us tickets to the Indy 500 in 1957, and it started an annual tradition. “It’s a real American event with lights, fast cars, and over 400,000 in attendance. I suppose any young man exposed to it for a few years would want to race.”

Unlike other young men, though, Holmes went after his dream by enrolling in the newly opened Michigan International Speedway School of High Performance Driving in 1968. “I was one of 13 who enrolled in that first class,” Holmes recalled. “I drove a Formula Ford and that was it — I knew I had to do this. I finished 13th.”

Undaunted, with no formal background in racing Holmes put together a homemade trailer, bought some tools, and assembled a Formula Ford race car. “I bought a manual for my engine at an Ann Arbor bookstore. It took me 19 hours to take apart and put back together that engine,” Holmes recalled. “I think a real mechanic could have done it in about six. But I just figured things out by doing it and making mistakes.”

That philosophy, along with his unwavering desire and determination, seem to have worked for Holmes. He completed 19 races of 21 starts in 1971, which was his first year of racing.

“My pit crew were my buddies from school,” he chuckled. He was named Sports Car Club of America Central Division Champion in 1972 and 1973. He placed fifth in the International Formula Ford Series in 1974, and in 1978 won the series title, North American Formula Atlantic Champion.

In 1979, Howdy started in his first Indy 500 and finished in seventh place. He also captured the honor of “Rookie of the Year.” Naturally, his family was in the stands. “They were thrilled. We still have the tickets from that year,” said Holmes.

Howdy went on to compete in five more Indy 500s between 1982 and 1988, and placed in the top 10 four times. He compiled the best average finishing record of any Indy 500 driver who started in more than four events. “I was 32 years old when I won ‘Rookie of the Year;’ an old man in a young person’s sport. I was 41 years old at my last race, then I was considered a really old man,” he laughed.

The racing was only part of his impact on the world of motorsports. Holmes also founded marketing and advertising companies that served racing enthusiasts for 18 years. Furthermore, he authored an award-winning book, “Formula Car Technology,” and was a contributing writer for a number of newspapers and racing magazines.

Holmes was also a racing commentator for ESPN. With such a successful and varied racing career, it’s difficult for Holmes to single out just one fond memory of his racing days. “Every day for 20 years I was lucky enough to do something I was passionate about,” he said. “Everyday was a blessing.” When pressed, he acknowledged 1988 as a particularly good year. “It was the year of my last race and the birth of my son.” It is his 1988 Indy 500 ring that he proudly wears today.

Howdy continues the family tradition of going to the Indy 500. For years he has shared the day with members of his business “family” from the Chelsea Milling Co. His son, 19, joined him in the pits last year. “He didn’t want to go when he had to sit in the stands, but at 18, he could get into the pits. It was great fun to share this experience with him,” said Holmes. To hear more of Howdy Holmes’ racing career, join the Chelsea Area Historical Society at 7 p.m. July 18 at Silver Maples of Chelsea. Tickets are $30 and on sale at the Gourmet Chocolate Cafe.

“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 dbolton@michigan-newspapers.com or snail mail in care of the Morning Sun. Telephone messages can be left at 989-779-6055.

Color Management in a JIFFY

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Originally posted by: Package Printing — November 2007

by Jean-Marie Hershey

Brand recognition and integrity depend on packaging. The need for faster makeready, on-time delivery, and reductions in cost and waste place a premium on predictable results and comparable quality independent of location, substrate, or printing process. The primary goal of color management, therefore, is to reproduce predictable, repeatable, consistent color across a range of devices and media from the time a file enters the workflow until it is reproduced on press. Because proof, plate, and print must deliver identical results, color management touches every part of the print or packaging workflow. As such, it relies on a range of tools including calibrations devices, prepress software, on- press color monitoring, and other methods for controlling color.

C&S Carton in Marshall, Mich., the printing division of Chelsea Milling Company, a vertically integrated, fourth-generation food manufacturer, recently invested in one such tool – a digital color control system by EPG (Essex Products Group) that enables user-friendly ink key adjustments from a central ink desk to control color, speed makeready, and reduce waste.

Chelsea Milling Company, Chelsea, Mich., has been selling Jiffy prepared baking mixes since 1930. It has never advertised to consumers, relying instead on its core principles of providing quality and value to its customers, as well as brand awareness of the “little blue boxes” that hold the Jiffy mixes. When the time came to revamp the graphics on the blue box, the company replaced an aging 5-color press with a 6-color 77″ Harris, equipped with the EPG KeyColor system.

“We were running a 5-color 77″ Harris from 1970 until about two years ago,” says Don Stephen plant manager, C&S Carton. “It had cloth dampeners and was badly in need of major repair. When we went to proof the new graphics on our shells, the owner realized we couldn’t reach the color quality (the brightness of the red on the flag) that he wanted to achieve. So we replaced the older press with another 77″ Harris – a 6-color this time – and upgraded it with the EPG system and Dahlgren Dampeners.”

Chelsea Milling Company stores wheat, mills it into flour, and uses it exclusively for its own prepared mixes. The company created C&S Carton in 1970 to help control the quality and cost of the cardboard shells that encase the growing JIFFY brand product line, which now included 24 different prepared mixes, C&S prints the shells for every one of them.

C&S’s purchase of the 6-color Harris with EPG system was a direct result of management’s decision to revamp the graphics on the Jiffy box. The team was looking for a fresher, more modern and livelier look, without abandoning the lineage of the Jiffy brand franchise.

“Since we don’t advertise, that package is the franchise,” explains Jack Kennedy, vice president of operations. “Why bother going to the effort of refreshing the graphical look of our packages if we couldn’t reproduce colors from package to package on a consistent basis? We needed to have that repeatability and quality to make our other efforts pay off.”

C&S runs six colors to produce the Jiffy blue box. Three are process colors and three are spot colors – the dark blue, background blue, and a red – specially formulated for Jiffy. Six EPG Smart Fountains, one for each of the six units on the press, control the ink keys. Each Smart Fountain controls 59 ink keys. C&S also uses a densitometer, running color by the numbers instead of the press operator’s best questimate.

Prior to the EPG install, “in order to accommodate normal variation during a press run, the operator had to manually adjust hundreds of ink keys by hand,” Kennedy explains. Not all 59 ink keys had to be adjusted on each unit every time, but a majority of them had to be changed. “If we still had control color by hand, it would defeat the purpose of all these other improvements.

Although it is a captive printing operation, C&S Carton faces challenges that are similar to those faced by most converters, such as the demands for higher quality and faster turnarounds, all while keeping costs down. The absence of product advertising makes the visual appeal of the “little blue box” even more critical and raises the stakes on the company’s ability to control quality efficiently and cost effectively. On an average day, C&S Carton’s 14 employees produce 1/5 million packages, 42-up on a sheet, in one 10-hour sifts. The division prints 300 million shells annually. Prepress work is handled outside; C&S prints onto recycled clay-coated boxboard, then strips and cuts the board, sending the shells to Chelsea Milling in a flat configuration.

EPG’s digital KeyColor ink control system incorporates Smart Fountain technology for computerized control of the fountain ink keys. Smart Fountain is designed to allow press operators to adjust ink key settings easily and quickly on all ink fountains from a central console, helping assure color repeatability throughout an entire press run, while speeding makeready and reducing waste. The Dahlgren continuous dampening system helps maintain consistent press performances and reduce scrap, Stephan says.

Now, except for some normal variation during a press run, the color holds. Comments Stephan, “On our old press, we were lucky to run 28,000 sheets a shift. Because of the newer press and the EPG system, we are now able to run anywhere from 38,000 to 40,000 sheets. Start-up time has been reduced from 45 minutes to 15 minutes, and instead of taking 2,000 sheets to get up to color, it now takes 200.”

Gary Hoag, C&S Carton production supervisor, adds, “It has also reduced overtime, because we are running much more efficiently.

C&S develops a history for each product shell it prints, which gets stored in the KeyColor console. Some shells, like those for the best-selling corn muffin mix, are produced constantly, while other – holiday or seasonal varieties, for instance – are produced intermittently. The stored data ensures that the color is consistent regardless of the timeframe between the shell runs for a particular product.

“When we proof a job, Howdy will come over for a press check.” Says Stephan. “When he OKs it, we save the data, so the next time we put that job on press, we can go back into the computer, bring it back up, and automatically start adjusting the keys for color.”

As part of its own improvement process, C&S’s prepares house, Panoplate Lithographic in Kalamazoo, Mich. provided C&S with a profile, or fingerprint, of the new 6-color press soon after installation. Performing fingerprinting prior to production ensures full color management. Color profiles and gamma curves are adjusted accordingly so that the digital proof matches the final production print.

“Profiling, or fingerprinting, gave us the characteristics of our press – dot gain and all the other attributes of how one press differs from another,” Kennedy explains. “Panoplate applies that profile and makes adjustments at the plate level rather than us having to make adjustments on press.”

Training Press operators to use the system went very well, says Stephan. “The EPG system is so much easier to work with,” he says. “The press operators fell in love with it. It made their job so much easier and saves them so much time. It saves us a lot of legwork. It is like night and day from the way we used to do it.”

The Mix I Mastered

Originally posted by: Washington Post — July 25, 2007

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Color, sweets rule this bakery

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Originally posted by: Ann Arbor News — July 27, 2006

By Lisa Allmendinger

Billy’s world Famous Blue Raspberry Muffins were one of the most colorful concoctions entered in Wednesday’s Jiffy Mix baking contest at the Washtenaw County Youth Show.

Even more important, perhaps, was that Billy Poet, 11, of Bridgewater Township, had a blast concocting his unique, bright blue baked goods.

“I like raspberries and I like oatmeal, and to make it more funny, I added blue dye,” Poet said.

The member of the Country Sunrise 4-H Club said Wednesday’s competition was his first time participating in the fun contest, which attracted more than 40 entries to the Youth Show held at the Washtenaw County Farm Council Grounds near Saline.

Both Bill and his cousin, Kristen Meade of Livonia, had fun with food coloring. She made Country Surprise, ruby red corn muffins for the baking contest.

The rules stated that 4-Hers must use one of the many flavors of Jiffy Mix sold in grocery stores and then enhance it. The front panel from the box and the actual recipe were displayed with the baked goods that spanned two long tables.

Each participate took home a free box of fudge brownie mix as well.

The baking contest is in its third year at the d4-H show and was the culinary creation of the 4-H Still Exhibit Committee.

Chocolate chip cookies were baked the first year, and sugar cookies to the cake last year. The theme from the Chelsea-based Jiffy Mix was chosen for the 2006 contest, which was judged by Peggy Hines, a former Washtenaw County clerk and 4-Her, and by Peter di Lorenzi, from the MSU foods and nutrition department.

“I think every one of these deserves a blue ribbon,” said Haines a former 4-Her who entered muffins, flowers and photography in past 4-H fairs.

Said di Lorenzi: “There was a really good balance and use of fruits. Lots of thought went into them.”

Elaine Feldkamp, a 4-J program assistant, explained the recipes would be put to good use.

“We’re going to collect all the recipes and will make a cookbook out of them,” she said.

“We’re looking for seed money to help pay the printing costs, and then we’ll use it as a 4-H fundraiser.”

The Seto family of Chelsea will be well-represented in the cookbook. Both Christ Seto, 11, and his sister, Katy Seto, 14, will have their recipes included.

Chris, 11 entered Peppermint Mushroom Surprise, made of devil’s food Jiffy cake mix, crushed-up peppermints and coconut. But the secret to his cake was “the baking in” of the marshmallows, thus the mushroom shape.

“There really aren’t any real mushrooms in it,” he said.

Katy Seto, on the other hand, made an apple cinnamon cake and added apple sauce to the mix, topping the creation with giant meal-away mint-like candy.

Both brother and sister are members of the Poison Ivies 4-H Club of Ann Arbor, a new club that first entered the competition this year.

Melanie Burchett, 14, also of Chelsea and a member of the Double LL Llama club of Manchester, said she made Jiffy Cheesecake Breakfast Bars, utilizing a big box of Jiffy baking mix.

Six winners were chosen and given certificates for their baked creations. Best cake went to Melany Mioduszewski of Dexter. Best pie or pastry went to Luke Sowash of Whitmore Lake. Best cookie went to Catherine Ehnis; best bread to Korbyn Koerner of Saline. Ken Mallonen of Ypsilanti was awarded best fruit. The most creative presentation was given to Coty Bentley of Stockbridge.

The 4-h show continues through Friday night at the Washtenaw County Fair Council Grounds at 5055 Ann Arbor Saline Road from 8 am to 9 pm.

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.”

Teamwork, Supercharged

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Originally posted by: Business Week — November 21, 2005

By Robert D. Hof

I KNEW THIS STORY WAS GOING TO BE FUN AS SOON AS the first message popped up on my new Web site. Assigned to write a story about how one company uses the new collaborative Web services to improve its business, I decided I had to try it out myself. So when Richard bird, president of R.Bird & Company, inc., offered to help set up an online workspace for me on Basecamp, the collaborative project-management service his firm uses with its clients, I jumped at the chance. Within minutes, I posted a request to several Bird clients on my workspace, which they could access with a password, and waited for them to start weighing in.

It didn’t take long. One of the first responses came from Chelsea Milling Co., the Chelsea (Mich.)-based maker of those ubiquitous Jiffy brand muffin mixes, which was in the midst of the first major redesign of its cheery blue-and-white product boxes in 35 years. Clearly comfortable with this new collaborative medium, General Manager Jack Kennedy offered a pungent description of the company’s plan. “We wanted to look ‘refreshed’ while maintaining our ‘retro-hip’ style,” he wrote. “You know, sort of like keeping your same girlfriend, but with a great makeover!”

A lot of corporations like Chelsea are starting to tap the new collaborative possibilities of the Web. Weary of span-encrusted e-mail, static intranets, and bloated “groupware” such as Lotus Notes, they’re trying out the alternatives: group globs, editable Web sites called wikis, pumped-up Web calendars- and group project management services like Basecamp. The San Francisco market researcher collaborative Strategies LLC predicts these tolls and associated hardware to run them will grow from a $23.4 billion market last year to $40 billion by 2009.

Chelsea’s experience with Basecamp illustrates why. Created by the five-person software developer 37signals LLC in Chicago, Basecamp lets groups of people post messages and files, create to-do lists, and set milestones for a project, all on simple, no-frills private Web pages. Items on each page, created by clicking on a button and typing, are listed sensibly in reverse chronology – like a pile of papers on one’s desk, but much neater. That’s it – no manuals, no arcane commands. Like Google’s Spartan home page, it’s so simple you can’t do anything wrong – and so addictively easy to use that one customer calls it “Basecrack.”


Like “Next-Door Neighbors”

CHELSEA EXECS HAD their doubts at first. Chief Executive Howard S. “Howdy” Holmes is intensely hands-on, preferring to see photos and even minute retouches in person. Dubious of Bird’s promise that Basecamp would substitute for in-person visits, he hesitated to hire a consultant based 650 miles away, in White Plains, N.Y. But R.Bird’s design ideas won him over.

The doubts soon dissolved. “It quickly became apparent we could do a lot with the Web,” Kennedy says. Instead of hopping a plane every time they wanted to see a new design wrinkle, Chelsea folks could view crystal-clear PDF files of mockups on-line, often while talking on the phone about tiny alterations they wanted. Such exchanges, which used to take as much as two months, now took two minutes.

The service even left room to play pranks. At one point, Holmes took pains to describe a tiny detail of a box design, referring to a piece of a muffin as looking like “as Scotty dog on top of a hockey stick.” Afterwards, R.Bird Creative Director Joseph Favata posted a notation in the workspace: “Richard is concerned that the likeness of the BTK killer running down the street with the dagger may cause a drop in sales. (Look at the full muffin while standing on your head with one eye closed.)”

It all paid off. Kennedy estimates that by using Basecamp, Chelsea slashed the overall time to complete the massive redesign project from at least two years to about eight months. Says Kennedy: “The Web-based file sharing made it seem like [we] were next-door neighbors.” Moreover, says Bird, “Decisions are made more quickly, and I definitely spend less time managing the communications of the project. We can spend more time creating.

Not all the people who work at Bird’s clients have made the switch. Instead, they cling to e-mail and the phone – to Bird’s clear irritation. “It’s 300% more work” for his firm and clients to manage projects without the new technologies, he nearly shouts at me. Problem is, it takes time and patience for people to get used to working differently. “Collaboration isn’t something you can just throw over the wall to people,” notes David Coleman, managing director of Collaborative Strategies.

Indeed, my adventure into Web collaboration suggests a number of lessons about how organizations can get people to try this stuff: 1) Keep it simple. 2) No, even simpler. 3) No matter how good the collaboration tool, you may have to knock some heads to force people out of old habits. 4) Leave room for what still works: Sometimes, nothing beats a phone call, a face-to-face meeting, or even (gasp) e-mail. But whether it’s Basecamp, a wiki, or some other collaboration service, I think I’ve found one more think on the Web that I can’t live without.

Chelsea Milling Company

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Originally posted by: The Wall Street Transcript — April 2003

(SAP611) TWST: What is Chelsea Milling Company?

Mr. Holmes: Chelsea Milling Company is a 100-year-old, family-owned business. Our products are sold under the brand name “JIFFY” mixes. We are a vertically integrated company. We have one manufacturing facility in Chelsea, Michigan. We employee approximately 350 people. We produce 1.6 million boxes of JIFFY mix daily. We compete in the retail prepared mix section in grocery stores throughout the United States.

TWST: Give us an idea of what the competitive landscape is today from your perspective. What’s interesting and what’s changing about that competitive landscape?

Mr. Holmes: Our competitive landscape today is all about change. Customer consolidation, centralization, food broker consolidation and supply change maximization are all elements of our competitive landscape. Competitors in today’s retail prepared baking mix section include General Mills, Pillsbury and Multifoods on a national level, and numerous regional branded products, as well as private label.

What’s interesting to me is the tremendous amount of change that is taking place. The rapid expansion of Wal-Mart is forcing many other customers to redefine their business.

TWST: What are those markets?

Mr. Holmes: The retail prepared home baking market is made up of three segments: ingredients, prepared mixes and frozen products. Chelsea Milling Company only competes in the prepared mix section of the home baking market . A perfect example of an item which fits all three segments would be pie crust. You can purchase ingredients and make it from scratch or you could buy a prepared mix or you could purchase a frozen pie crust shell. Those are the three segments that comprise the retail prepared home baking market.

TWST: Interestingly, on the sales and marketing side, you have taken a slightly different approach from some of the large marketers. Can you give us a little flavor of that strategy and what you feel it actually brings as far as value to the company.

Mr. Holmes: Chelsea Milling Company is very different from our competitors. The biggest difference is we do not advertise. JIFFY mixes are all about value. Since we do not advertise JIFFY mixes in the traditional sense, the costs associated with advertising and marketing are not included in the price of our product. That gives us a tremendous advantage.

Consumers appreciate value. We believe there must be two components to have value – the highest quality ingredients and the best price. The only true comparison between ourselves and our competition is when you equate retail pricing on a per ounce basis. On that direct basis, JIFFY mixes are 20%-60% less expensive on a per ounce basis than most or our competition. This presents a unique opportunity for both our consumers. Since our customers are interested in maximizing profit, they do so with our JIFFY mixes, because our turns are so much greater than the competition. Consumers, on the other hand, are mostly interested in value. We are popular with consumer base because our per unit price is so much less expensive than the competition, without sacrificing quality.

TWST: How successful has Chelsea Milling been in what has been considered to be a flat market space? How have you been able to compete not only for consumers but also for that shelf space in this super market aisle?

Mr. Holmes: I believe the appropriate answer to that question is value. Let me try to explain. JIFFY mixes are best known for our prepared muffin mixes, although we have many other products such as pizza crust, pie crust, all purpose baking mix, cake mixes, frosting mixes, etc. When you dissect the muffin mix category across America, you will discover that there are two choices – premium products and value products. The premium products sell for a dollar or more per unit of sale, and the value products sell for less than a dollar on a per unit basis. According to IRI, 88% of the muffin mix purchases are from the value segment. When you combine both the value and the premium segments, JIFFY mixes command 58% of those markets. When you just look at the value segment, we hold a 65% share.

Our customers are very much aware of these statistics. They realize that stocking JIFFY mixes is in their best interest as it pertains to revenue, and JIFFY is popular with the consumer. In many situations, we drive the category.

TWST: Walk us through the top management team you have on board today. Are there any areas you are looking to augment?

Mr. Holmes: For the first 100 years of Chelsea Milling Company, we operated as many family businesses do, as a sole proprietorship. In the late 1980s, we elected to transform the infrastructure of the company from a sole proprietorship to a professionally managed company. Over the last 16 years, we have invested tremendously in our facilities, systems and people. Today, Chelsea Milling Company is professionally staffed with a group of individuals uniquely qualified in all disciplines. This is true for both salaried and non-salaried personnel. We have achieved this position by paying very close attention to our hires. Our staff puts more emphasis on internal and external relationship than we do on completing tasks. This is very different from most companies.

We practice interdependent decision making which requires individuals to give up personal ownership of solutions and discuss things as a team. The transition from a sole proprietorship to a professionally managed organization has been slow and methodical. Our dedication to strong family business values, combined with real world professionalism has us uniquely situated for the 21st Century.

TWST: Are there any particular individuals you care to highlighted?

Mr. Holmes: Our senior management team is made up of Jack Kennedy, Vice President and General Manager, Douglas A. Tomney, CFO, Dudley Holmes, Vice President Procurement, Ed Hostetter, Director of Purchasing, John Powers, Director of Finance, Tim Kelly, HR director, Bill McCreadie, National Retail Business Manager, Terry Elmore, Director of Manufacturing Operations, and Mike Williamson, Superintendent.

TWST: What’s on the agenda over the next 12 months? What will make that time frame a success?

Mr. Holmes: Chelsea Milling Company is always on a self-improvement program. In the area of facilities, we have three major projects under way. We are expanding the square footage of our printing facility in Marshall, Michigan, by 40%. We are completing a bulk storage facility here in Chelsea for corn meal and sugar ingredients. We are almost finished with a storage facility to house additional packaging, mixing and warehousing equipment, as well as administrative inventory.

We are in the middle of selecting a new ERP system which will allow us better systems to maximize our business processes. In the area of people development, we have a continuous training and educational program which is offered within the company and numerous external resources which complement and enhance our skill set.

TWST: I understand that outside funding is not an issue for this company and that you are pretty much self-funding from your internal resources.

Mr. Holmes: We are financially very stable.

TWST: What do you feel analysts or investors should be focused on within the segment of your industry? What would be the short list of assessments or focus areas that they should include in that assessment process?

Mr. Holmes: In terms of growth potential or investor interest, I would suggest they watch closely customer consolidation. Not all of these programs are going to work. I think areas of interest are the following: suppliers, wholesalers, retailers and food brokers that intend to survive are going to have to develop strategies which will stand the test of time. For wholesalers and retailers, that means developing initiatives which consider revenue streams on both the buy and the sell. For manufacturers, I think the key area is electronic business development, maximizing customer service and a thorough understanding of supply chain management.

For food brokers, I believe they will need to develop a plethora of services that have to do with transportation, sales, marketing and information systems which can instantly paint an accurate picture to retail movement off the grocery store shelves.

TWST: All the headline companies that tanked, the employees who were heavily invested in the company they worked for saw a lot of their pensions and their investment net worth disappear almost overnight. In a family-owned business, that had to give you a pause for reflections.

Mr. Holmes: As a family-owned business with limited shareholders, our intent is still to maximize shareholder value. Our employees’ profit sharing program and 401(k) options are very diverse. With continual third party education about investment selection, our employees, of course, make their own decisions about diversity.

TWST: Thank you.

Howdy S. Holmes
Chelsea Milling Company
201 W. North Street
Chelsea, MI 48118
(734) 475-1361
(734) 475-4630 – FAX

JIFFY’s Secret Recipe

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Originally posted by: Fortune Small Business — December 2001

By Paul Lukas

Chelsea Milling has beaten its competition – the Pillsbury Dough Boy and Betty Crocker never laid a whisk on’em – and plans to stay on top with two parts aw-shucks family business and one part professional management.

You’re in the supermarket, with the usual barrage of bells and whistles competing for your attention. New-and-improved this, flavor-blasted that. It’s all so assaulting, it becomes a blur. Then you turn your shopping cart into the baking aisle, and there they are – those simple little blue-and-white boxes, so perfectly designed that they resemble totems or trinkets. No screaming typography, no sensory overload. They seem not so much retro or anachronistic as timeless. Even the name feels iconic: Jiffy. Jiffy muffin and biscuit mixes, produced by Chelsea Milling of Chelsea, Mich., have become so familiar, and the product itself is so ordinary, that it’s easy to overlook how remarkable the brand’s story really is. Data from the market research firm Information Resources show that Jiffy is the leader in the $230 million muffin-mix category, with 30.6% of the market as measured by revenue and a whopping 55.3% share as measured by unit sales – a performance that’s all the more impressive given that Chelsea Milling is a family-run operation competing with such corporate behemoths as General Mills and Pillsbury. Just how has Chelsea Milling beat the big boys at their own game for more than 70 years? Well, it helps if you don’t play by the same rules. Jiffy doesn’t spend a dime on marketing – but can turn on one – and keeps prices low. It also helps that the current CEO, Howdy S. Holmes, realized a while back that bringing outsiders into the old family operation was the key to building a modern company.

Mabel Holmes wasn’t thinking about business models or marketplaces on the day in 1930 when she noticed that one of the neighborhood children, a boy being raised by a single father, was eating a sorry-looking homemade biscuit for lunch. Dry and hard, it was more like a hockey puck. Realizing that finding the time to make biscuits from scratch was a challenge for a single parent – especially for fathers, who rarely cooked in those days – Mabel decided to come up with a ready-to-make mix that would be “so simple, even a man can do it.? The result was Jiffy, America’s first prepared baking mix.

The Holmes family had been in the wholesale flour business since 1802, so Jiffy was just a side project at first. Mabel’s husband, Howard Samuel Holmes, ran the operation until his death in 1936. The business then passed to Howard and Mabel’s twin sons, Dudley and Howard Sumner; the latter ultimately asserted control and expanded the brand over the next several decades. A pie-crust mix was added in 1940 and a corn-muffin mix in 1950, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that Chelsea Milling finally abandoned flour wholesaling and devoted itself exclusively to Jiffy. Today the brand line features 17 products, including mixes for pizza crust, brownies, pancakes, biscuits, and frosting.

Chelsea Milling is currently run by Howard Sumner Holmes’s son – Mabel’s grandson – Howdy S. Holmes, who’s acutely aware of how his family and his company intertwine. As he’s fond of saying, “I am standing on my father’s shoulders, and he is standing on his father’s shoulders.” But while Chelsea Milling is clearly smaller than its competitors (the privately held firm won’t disclose hard data, although Holmes allows that annual sales are “upwards of $75 million”), he scoffs at the suggestion that he’s trying to keep up with the Betty Crockers and the Duncan Hineses of the world. Strictly speaking, he says, “They are trying to keep up with us.”

A key reason for that is that Chelsea Milling is privately held, which gives it the freedom to be fast on its feet. If Holmes wants to increase Jiffy’s prices, he can just do it. “We’re not tied to analysts’ expectations on gross profit margins,” he says, “so we can make pricing decisions based solely on what makes sense, not on shareholder demands.” The firm is also a lean operation that dispenses with corporate bureaucracy in favor of efficiency. “In a larger company,” says Holmes, “the decision-making process is considerably more complicated. Here, it’s done by three or four people, not three or four departments.” Most of Chelsea Milling’s 350 employees are in manufacturing. The company mills and stores its own flour, and everything except the printing of the little boxes is done on-site.

But the biggest distinction between Chelsea Milling and its rivals lies in marketing. If you can’t recall seeing any Jiffy advertising, it’s because there has never been any – not TV commercials, no print ads, not so much as a coupon. The brands’ success is based entirely on repeat customers and word of mouth. It’s a nearly unthinkable strategy in the modern, media-saturated environment, and Holmes readily admits it probably wouldn’t work for a brand being launched today. But Jiffy has built up so many generations’ worth of good will in American kitchens that it can get away with it.

“Our approach is to give people the best value, which is a combination of two things,” says Holmes, launching into one of his Jiffy mantras. “That’s the highest-quality ingredients with the best price. And the only way you can do that is if you take out the 30% to 52% of the end cost that’s passed on to consumers by removing advertising, marketing, merchandising, and so forth.” Because Jiffy mixes aren’t saddled with those costs, they typically sell for a third to a half less, on a per-ounce basis, than their competitors’ (all of which, perhaps tellingly, declined repeated requests for comment for this story).

That pricing advantage has given Jiffy a huge boost over the years, creating an enthusiasm for the brand that runs as deep in the retailing community as it does among consumers. “In our stores Jiffy does three times the sales of the next closest item,” says Gary Rhodes, a spokesman for Kroger, the nation’s top grocer. “And customers, we find, are very loyal to Jiffy – it’s very strong in all our divisions. “Perhaps most impressive, Rhodes notes, even Kroger’s private-label brands can’t compete with Jiffy because “we can’t match them on the cost.” And while Chelsea Milling, like everyone else, has to pay slotting fees to certain grocers to guarantee shelf space (the brand’s small box size makes multiple shelf facings a must), it does to by providing free or discounted product, not by paying cash, a barter that helps preserve the firm’s cash flow.

It was Howard Sumner Holmes who made Jiffy a household name, but it’s Howdy Holmes who has charted a long-term strategy for the brand. Howdy, now 53, is an interesting case. Unlike so many people who take over their family businesses, he spent most of his adult life working outside the family operation. And the major item on his resume couldn’t be more different from the low-profile, small-town ambiance of Chelsea Milling: He was a racecar driver, and a successful one – his 1979 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year plaque hangs on his office wall. “I always knew at some point I would work here,” he says. “But I also realized it was important for me to go out in the world and so some other things.” Okay, but isn’t the transition from racing to muffins a bit of a stretch? “Actually, when you turn on your TV, you see a race but what you don’t see is the preparation and the huge industry behind it. There’s marketing things, engineering things, huge organizational things, relationship dynamics – it was perfect training for a manufacturing facility.”

By the time Holmes decided to get out of racing and return to Chelsea in 1987, it was clear to him that the company was vulnerable. Much of what he saw was common to family operations: His father had run virtually every aspect of the business for decades, and the company had become too set in its ways. At one point, for example, the firm’s devotion to low price points was so single-minded that Jiffy mixes went eight years without a price increase; that risked giving the impression that Jiffy was an austerity brand, suitable only for budget-squeezed college students and the low-income bracket. In addition, manufacturing, quality control, and accounting processes had become outdated, and there was no succession plan. “I felt our business model worked against growth,” Holmes recalls. “You basically had one decision-maker at the top doing the job of four or five or six executive, with no delegation.”

Holmes stepped in, launching a reorganization that effectively left him in control as his father took a less active role (the elder Holmes has since died), and began transforming Chelsea Milling “from a sole proprietorship into a professionally managed company” – another of his mantras. It was a difficult process, both structurally and emotionally, because family businesses are notoriously intractable and making changes inevitably leads to bruised feelings. Or, as Holmes puts it, “you don’t run a business with your heart, and you don’t make family decisions with your head. Therein lies the problem, because when the family is the business, their direct thoughts and feelings are in conflict.” In Chelsea Milling’s case, the most direct result of that conflict was that Howdy’s brother, Bill, unhappy with what he considered the company’s more corporate directions, left the firm and became an airline pilot, although he remains on the board of directors. (Howdy Holmes declines to discuss the situation, saying, “That’s all in the past now.” Efforts to contact Bill Holmes for this article were unsuccessful.)

The ruffled feathers were probably unavoidable, because while some of Holmes’ moves were just basic updating – adding more muffin flavors, say – his biggest changes, enacted through the early and middle ’90s, struck at the heart of Jiffy’s family-oriented nature: He began bringing in outsiders. First, nonfamily members were appointed to the company’s board. Then Holmes began recruiting managers from other companies, a major departure from his father’s autocratic style. The current executive team hails from all over the American business map. CFO Douglas Tomney previously worked for the food-processing firm Curtice-Burns. Human resources director Patricia McGraw jumped over from Unisys. And general manager Jack Kennedy came from Ocean Spray.

Holmes, sensitive to his family’s heritage and his father’s reign, repeatedly stresses that he still respect the firm’s old way of doing things and that he had made changes incrementally, not overnight. Kennedy, the general manager, says Holmes’ patient but persistent approach allowed the newcomers to settle into their roles. “It’s natural for a person coming in from an outside company to want to contribute right away, to want to do something heroic. But that is not what this organization wants – they want us to step back and spend our time worrying about relationships and culture and adapting. Then there will be plenty of time for contributions.”

For Kennedy, that meant smoothing out a manufacturing schedule that relied too heavily on overtime (at one point plant employees had worked 41 straight days during a period that included Thanksgiving and Christmas). He also developed a preventive maintenance program – incredibly, the company’s first – for Chelsea Milling’s aging packaging equipment. The changes took place as the physical plant underwent other modernizations: increasing the number of production lines from 13 to 17, upgrading quality-control mechanisms from analog to electronic, and building a new 125,000-square-foot warehouse, capable of storing more than a million cases of finished Jiffy products. The upshot is that production capacity has increased by about 40% since Holmes took over; the facility can now turn out 1.6 million boxes daily. That has not only put an end to the overtime-laden boom-bust production cycles that the company used to endure but has also provided room from further sales growth in the future.

And yet despite the modernizations and the influx of big-company talent, Chelsea Milling still has a small-town, throwback feel. Yes, there are a few hints of corporate-style regimentation, mostly regarding the company’s rah-rah motto: “The mission of Team Jiffy is to achieve 100% product integrity, with quality people caring about each other,” which is posted on so many of the manufacturing plant’s walls that it’s almost creepy. (And just in case anyone’s missing the point, a pen clip imprinted with QUALITY AND VALUE peeks out from Howdy Holmes’ shirt pocket.) But a walk through the factory floor, where scores of little blue boxes make their way like tin soldiers through filling, weighing, sealing, and packing stations, reveals a decidedly chipper workplace, with friendly employees who seem to be genuinely enjoying their jobs. They greet Holmes warmly, he appears to know virtually all of them by name, and none of it feels phony.

Despite all Howdy Holmes has done to modernize his company while retaining its aw-shucks feel, his biggest challenge may be external: The dry-mix game has slowly been contracting for about a decade, as modern life’s increasingly busy pace continues to redefine the notion of a “convenience product.” What does that portend for Jiffy?

Holmes says one thing not in the offing is selling the brand, although he claims there have been several offers. (“We consider it very flattering, but no, thanks.”) With Jiffy sales growing despite the tightening market, and the company carrying no debt, Holmes feels Chelsea Milling is well positioned to make adjustments, several of which he’s already considering. “Right now we’re just in the retail market, but we are seriously looking at export. We are seriously looking at institutional. We are seriously looking at food service. All these are possibilities.”

Whatever direction his team chooses, they’ll do it efficiently but methodically, just as they made their changes within the company. “I think people are going to continue to eat,” Holmes says with a wink, “so we’re not in that big of a rush.” A canned answer? Confidence bordering on cockiness? Maybe, but maybe not – after all, you probably have a few boxes of Jiffy muffin mix in your cupboard right now.

She discovered how to help homemakers in a “JIFFY”

Originally posted by: The Detroit Free Press — February 26, 1967

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