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Barry’s Gourmet Brownies Represents a “sweet” Tampa Bay success story

America has long embraced a love affair with chocolate, especially chocolate brownies. Specifically, fudgy chocolate brownies. Count the namesake behind Barry’s Gourmet Brownies among these chocolate enthusiasts.

Around 40 years ago, he estimates, Barry (the man behind the company name) created a made-from-scratch brownie recipe that drew raves from family and friends whenever he baked a pan of the homemade treat. Yet he never marketed the delicacy until the response it received at a special event in January 2013.

Fast forward to today, and Barry’s Gourmet Brownies represents one of the nation’s most remarkable business stories. The company now makes four delectable flavors. Their brownies are currently being sold on QVC, and Barry’s Gourmet Brownies can also be found in restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores around the world.

The first-of-its-kind brownie bites, which feature a package of bite-size brownies in a microwaveable cup, will soon be available in vending machines, and convenience and grocery stores nationwide. And Barry’s Gourmet Brownies have been a fixture in gift bags and sampling rooms at prestigious events like the Daytime Emmy Awards, the News Emmy’s, the Sports Emmy Awards, and prominent food and wine festivals, most recently in the Loews Hotel guest celebrity penthouse at the SOBE event in Miami.

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This growth explosion was launched after Barry received a call from a Festival of Chocolate representative. The woman from the Tampa-based event said she was told that Barry was “the king of brownies” and asked if he could send her samples and serve them at the MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) event.  

Barry called longtime friend Doug Byrd, who is a veteran sales and marketing executive, and asked for his help in preparing brownies for the MOSI event. They appeared at the festival with a four-ounce double chocolate chunk brownie, and the response was phenomenal.

“The demand was much more significant than anyone anticipated.”

At the festival, a representative from another event in Orlando asked that Barry’s Gourmet Brownies participate in their fundraiser. At the same time, another company that provided box lunches for an event at Disney requested that the brownies be included in the box lunches.

“That is when I especially recognized that there was tremendous potential,” Byrd said. “People were telling us that they had never tasted a brownie that was as delicious as Barry’s Gourmet Brownies.”

To ensure that quality was maintained in producing a higher volume of brownies, Byrd immersed the company into product development. Content with providing the recipe, Barry agreed to a royalty arrangement and stepped away from the business as Byrd went to work on perfecting the brownies and building the company.

Barry’s Gourmet Brownies debuted in a localcommercial kitchen in Largo before expanding into a bigger space there. They moved to a building in St. Petersburg but quickly outgrew that and added an additional corporate office anddistribution center facility in Clearwater with a combined square footage of more than 100,000, including the largest freezer in Pinellas County.

The rapid need for additional space was necessitated by a myriad of factors, including the commitment with QVC.

“They wanted a smaller brownie, and more flavors,” Byrd said. “So we added a two-ounce version and, in addition to double chocolate chunk, we included salted caramel, peanut butter and raspberry.”

During his travels around the country meeting with retailers, distributors and event representatives, Byrd noticed the number of people drinking coffee, which gave him an idea.

“Why not give consumers a fast and convenient way to enjoy hot brownies with their coffee?,” Byrd thought.

The result was Barry’s Gourmet Brownies’ innovative brownie bites, which are packaged in a cup that Byrd created and can be warmed in 10-15 seconds and have the same effect as a home baked brownie.

“We are especially excited about the brownie bites because they represent a completely different revenue stream,” Byrd said. “We are presently negotiating with a vending machine company that has machines with a built-in microwave, our brownies will be available in airports, college campuses, convenience stores and other public venues. There is boundless potential.”

As the demand escalated, Barry’s Gourmet Brownies is adding more flavors, like cream cheese, German chocolate truffle, hazelnut chocolate and even bacon. The brownies are made in the bakery at Barry’s Gourmet Brownies’ St. Petersburg facility. Celebrities have raved about the brownies after experiencing them at the Daytime Emmy Awards, SOBE Wine and Food festival event in Miami Beach, Rib Fest, and many other venues; and Barry’s Gourmet Brownies’ “Get Rich” t-shirt slogan is a favorite.

In less than 10 months, Barry’s Gourmet Brownies has evolved from a man with a homemade recipe to a bustling global company that expects to have more than 200 employees by the end of 2014. The company is seeing a growing presence in restaurants and throughout the country in all avenues for distribution. Byrd says he is especially excited about the 9.2-ounce brownie that will be available in hotels and restaurants in the very near future.

“We have grown by making smart decisions, and my conducting extensive product development to make sure that our brownies taste just as fresh and fudgy from the East to West Coast as they do here in our bakery,” Byrd said.”

For more information, visit www.barrysgourmetbrownies.com.

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