Bleu riBBon CHoColates: How Can small Businesses aDaPt
to a CHanGinG environment?
Dawn r. Deeter-schmelz, rosemary P. ramsey, and Jule B. Gassenheimer Bleu Ribbon Chocolates is a small regional manufacturer of high-quality chocolate that sells its products via trade accounts, corporate-owned stores, and online/mail. Historically, the company has not engaged in strategic planning, as demand was greater than manufacturing capabilities. The trend toward healthier foods and the poor economy, however, has hurt sales. The owners must determine their new strategic direction. Should they change the product line, in-source manufacturing, reduce the number of companyowned stores, increase sales to retail outlets, lay off workers, or hope the health craze ends soon and the economy turns around?
Bleu Ribbon Chocolates, a small manufacturer well-known
in the Midwest for producing and retailing high-quality
chocolates, was at a crossroads. Historically, Bleu Ribbon
Chocolates has not engaged in strategic planning. Management saw no need; everything had been going fine. In the past, demand always had been greater than what the
company could produce, and geographic expansion was
not a goal. Unfortunately, by 2010, the external environment had changed significantly, and the current owners of Bleu Ribbon Chocolates found they needed to determine
a new strategic direction. Today, more consumers prefer
healthy food products. In fact, organic products comprise
8 percent of the confectionary market (Vreeland 2009).
The U.S. economy had stalled. With demand for Bleu Ribbon Chocolates trending down, the company must react appropriately. Key members of the company have reviewed
several possible alternatives. Should the product line be
changed? Should the company in-source manufacturing for
other producers? Should Bleu Ribbon Chocolates reduce the
Dawn r. Deeter-schmelz (Ph.D., University of South Florida), John J. Vanier Distinguished Chair in Relational Selling and Marketing, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, email@example.com. rosemary P. ramsey (Ph.D., University of Cincinnati), Professor of Marketing, Raj Soin College of Business, Wright State University, Dayton, OH, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jule B. Gassenheimer (Ph.D., University of Alabama), Professor of Marketing, Crummer School of Business, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL, email@example.com.
number of company-owned stores and/or increase sales to
retail outlets? Should workers be laid off, or should management reduce worker hours? Or should the company do nothing, in the hope that the health craze ends soon and
the economy turns around? Appropriate answers must be
found if Bleu Ribbon Chocolates is to continue its long
history of success.
History of Bleu riBBon CHoColates
As a young woman, Mrs. Bleu developed a passion for
making candy. It all began in her home economics class
while she was in high school. This passion continued into
adulthood, when Mrs. Bleu began making chocolates for her
friends and family in the 1930s. The quality and taste were
so fantastic that her fans recommended she start selling
the chocolate candies. The rest, as they say, is history. Mrs. Bleu began making chocolates and selling them from her
home. Positive word of mouth spread, which led to consistent sales to department stores and other businesses. As demand grew, Mrs. Bleu could no longer make the candies
in her kitchen. Eventually, she purchased a larger facility
to use for manufacturing and retail sales.
Growth occurred slowly, but through perseverance and
passion, Bleu Ribbon Chocolates became a local landmark.
This case was written solely for the purposes of classroom discussion and not to illustrate effective or ineffective marketing decision making. Although based on real events, the company name and certain operating data are disguised.
Marketing Education Review, vol. 21, no. 2 (summer 2011), pp. 177–182. © 2011 Society for...
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