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Pepperidge Farm

Healthful Bread Builds a Business

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How many goldfish crackers have you eaten in your lifetime? Did you know they were created by a Connecticut company? Goldfish crackers are made by Pepperidge Farm, which is located in Fairfield.

In 1926, Margaret Rudkin and her family moved from New York City to Fairfield. They named their farm after the pepperidge tree in the back yard.

From “Healthful Bread Builds a Business,” Connecticut Explored, Winter 2015-2016

Rudkin’s son, Henry, Jr., had asthma. His doctor believed his food was making him sick.

Rudkin started making homemade bread. She hoped it would help him get better.

Rudkin made her bread with natural ingredients. She researched the history of making bread. She looked through old cookbooks. She even ground her own flour. Her first few loaves of bread were hard and flat. But she got better and better with practice.

Rudkin’s husband had a terrible accident. He was unable to work. Rudkin decided to sell her bread to earn money. She thought other people might want this healthy bread, too.

She went to her local grocery store to ask the owner to sell her bread. She wanted 25 cents a loaf. Other bread cost only 10 cents a loaf. The owner did not think he would be able to sell such expensive bread. But the bread was so good and healthful that people bought it.

From “Healthful Bread Builds a Business,” Connecticut Explored, Winter 2015-2016

Rudkin soon needed more space for her growing business. She moved her bakery into her garage. She wanted to sell even more bread. Her husband was working again. He took loaves of bread on the train into New York City each morning. A store there sold it.

By 1938, Rudkin was baking and selling so much bread she had five people working for her. Two girls came after school to wrap and label the bread. Rudkin hoped to sell 3,000 loaves a week. She borrowed money from a bank to buy better kitchen equipment. She started selling rye bread, pumpernickel, and dinner rolls. By 1940, she had sold more than 1 million loaves of bread!

During World War II, lots of the ingredients she needed were in short supply. This made baking bread difficult. Rudkin never changed her recipe, though. She wanted to make sure the taste and quality stayed the same.

In the 1950s Rudkin won several awards. And she continued to expand. She added new products such as coffee cake and cookies. In 1961, she sold the company to Campbell Soup for $28 million. Rudkin continued to lead the company.

From “Healthful Bread Builds a Business,” Connecticut Explored, Winter 2015-2016

In 1958, she found the recipe for the goldfish cracker on a trip to Switzerland. The company introduced it in 1962. In 1963 she released a cookbook. It was the first cookbook to sell so many copies that it appeared on The New York Times bestseller list.

Margaret Rudkin died of cancer in 1967. However, Pepperidge Farm continues to be a successful business. Her hard work and creative ideas helped this company grow into what it is today.

“There isn’t a worthwhile thing in the world that can’t be accomplished with good hard work. You’ve got to want something first and then you have to go after it with all your heart and soul,” Rudkin said.

This story is adapted from “Pepperidge Farm: Healthful Bread Builds a Business” by Cathryn J. Prince, Connecticut Explored, Winter 2015/16