Selling cookie dough and other perishable frozen foods can be tricky. But with cooperation and organization, it can bring in significant cash through high-volume sales. Perishable food, especially cookie dough, has become one of the fastest-growing product fundraisers.

Cookie dough sales have worked so well for the Southview Elementary PTO in Waconia, Minn., that cookie dough is now the group’s only product fundraiser. This school year, the group sold more than $100,000 worth of dough, making $36,000 in profit. “It has been a proven product for us....It’s our one product and everyone looks forward to it,” says PTO president Kelly Schiffman. In past years, the PTO has used the proceeds to build a playground and install an interactive whiteboard in every classroom.

Other perishable products include soft pretzels, pizza, and cheesecake, but cookie dough is the most popular. It’s regarded as universally yummy, and it’s durable. When dropped off frozen at school, it can survive long enough to make it through delivery. Once refrigerated, the dough lasts for months.

Perishable food products are not regarded as health foods, and that turns off some parents and could run afoul of school or district policies. But parents who love selling cookie dough and pretzels say the products enable them to teach their kids to enjoy treats in moderation. “Kids love cookies and milk after school,” Schiffman says. “With frozen cookie dough, you can make two cookies, and that’s it.”

Keys To Success

Good food. Quality varies widely, so sample a variety of products. “I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t eat myself,” says Steve Leiser of Cookie Dough Works, a New York-based company.

Good value. Even yummy products won’t sell if customers perceive them as overpriced. Find a product that is both tasty and affordable based on your community’s standards.

Planning. Three words come to mind when dealing with perishable food: extra freezer space. Some volunteers and customers will be out of town on delivery day. Make sure everyone involved realizes the importance of delivering the food promptly or freezing it. How long the product will last outside a freezer varies, from three weeks to as little as eight hours.

Teamwork. Build a rapport with your sales representative, who can answer important questions such as whether the product was manufactured in a nut-free plant. (The answer is usually no.) Your representative can also help with logistics and offer sales advice.

Dos and Don’ts

Do thoroughly research the companies. Ask for references and call them. Make sure you’re getting the best deal for your group. Representatives say they are shocked by how many parent groups sign with them after inquiring only about price.

Do ask a lot of questions about pricing. Cookie dough generally comes in a 3-pound tub and costs about $14, but some companies might offer 2.7-pound tubs for the same cost. Some companies will allow you to order a partial case, others will not.

Do check with your school to make sure you’re not violating any rules about sugar or fat content. Soft pretzels can be a healthier snack if you skip the cinnamon and sugar topping.

Don’t forget about shipping costs. They can eat into your profits, especially if your school community is small. Work with your sales rep to figure out how to keep shipping costs to a minimum. “Cookie dough is heavy and must be shipped on a frozen-food truck,” says Larry Rice of Tri-Star Promotions. His company offers free shipping on orders of 500 tubs or more.

Don’t buy extra products in hopes of selling on the spot. The risk of perishables defrosting is too great.

Don’t assume everyone will be in town when you are ready to deliver their perishable food products. Call ahead to let customers know the scheduled delivery date.

Top 5 Ways To Increase Profits

  1. Offer tasting samples. Bake your perishable food products at a school function. Parents will smell the aroma and remember how good cookies taste when they come out of the oven.

  2. Enlist everyone, including your principal, in your school’s fundraiser. Rick Garlock of Great American Opportunities attributes the Southview PTO’s success in part to the principal’s enthusiasm for getting everyone motivated and excited.

  3. Aim for variety. Families will often buy several flavors of the same product to accommodate everyone’s preferences.

  4. Time your fundraiser for maximum profits. The Southview PTO schedules delivery to occur just before the holiday season so families can use tubs of sugar cookie dough to make their cutout cookies.

  5. Keep excitement high. Whether selling pretzels, pizza, or cookie dough, build in incentives that kids will want to work toward.

FAQs

How long will perishable products last between being dropped off at school and delivered to customers?
It varies. Some cookie dough will last for 20 days or more, while others will need to be delivered within eight to 12 hours.

Once products defrost, can they be refrozen?
Some cookie dough can be defrosted and refrozen several times, but many products cannot.

How much profit can I expect to earn?
Expect to pocket about 30 percent to 40 percent of your sales. Some companies will let you increase the price or set your own price, allowing you to maximize profit. Others will let you package orders yourself, which lowers your cost.

What about break-apart cookie dough? Is this a better choice than dough in a tub?
Break-apart cookies save time and are portion-controlled, but representatives say break-aparts lose the benefit of the tightly sealed tub and can absorb flavors from other foods in your freezer. Sample some of both to figure out which one parents prefer.

There are kids and parents who eat the cookie dough raw. Is this safe?
Some companies use pasteurized eggs, making the uncooked dough safe to eat.

Is there any other reason to consider selling frozen cookie dough?
Parents say the tubs are great for storing crayons, hair accessories, toy cars, and other knickknacks.

New and Trendy

Healthier foods may be on the way, and some companies already offer products without trans fats. “If sugar is the first ingredient, you’re going to face resistance,” says Lanny Walker of ABC Fundraising.

Ultimately, though, what makes cookie dough a winner is its familiarity, so don’t expect any big changes. Look for companies to add more varieties, such as dough studded with candy bits. And look for more products emphasizing brands already familiar to customers.