Exclusive: Udi Bar-on on selling his brand for $125 million and how you can win the name game
This is part one of my conversation with Udi Bar-on, founder of Udi's. Tune it tomorrow to read part two of our interview.
In 1994, when Udi Bar-on, who today lays claim to eleven eponymous local restaurants and cafes, a catering company and Colorado's largest artisan bakery, first opened a long-gone dessert shop in the former Northglenn Mall, no one could have predicted that an unexpected leap into gluten-free bakery products would have made him a millionaire. But in 2012, that's exactly what happened: Bar-on, his son, Etai, and daughter Robin, the chef of all the Udi's restaurants and cafes, sold Udi's Foods to Smart Balance -- now Boulder Brands -- for $125 million. And while the iconic Udi's name is one of the most recognizable brands in the Colorado culinary community, one of the stipulations of the mammoth sale was that the family would rebrand its company and dispense with the Udi's name - and they'd need to do it by July of this year. "Now that the life cycle of the gluten-free business is complete, we have an incredible opportunity to use those resources to support the seemingly infinite number of opportunities that lay ahead for our company, soon to be known by another name," says Udi.
And while the Bar-on family, which also includes Udi's wife, Fern, and Etai's wife, Darcey, could have done the renaming themselves, they're stepping aside to give the community the opportunity to create a new name that best represents the next chapter for the company. And that company has big plans, including installing new oven technology in its 30,000-square-foot Louisville-based bakery, to "make it an artisan, world-class bakery that goes back to our roots - our original dream of selling bread to customers," Etai explains. "We're putting money on the table that we can evolve to the next level by having one of the best bread bakeries in the country."
But before that comes to fruition, there's the name game. Starting on Wednesday, January 15, the public will have the chance to submit its suggestions for Udi's new name by visiting renameudis.com, where they'll find an entry form, along with the option to upload videos, share images and keystroke a short (and convincing) plug that gives your name a reason to stand above the fray. The contest will run through February 10, and once the Bar-on family has settled on their three favorites, they'll turn the final vote over to civilians, who will ultimately choose the winning name. "Udi's Foods was created with family and community in mind, and putting control in the hands of our fans is a natural extension of our brand," says Etai.
And there's plenty of incentive to exercise your creativity, since prizes will be awarded to the top three finalists: Grand prize is a twenty-person party at any Udi's cafe or restaurant, worth up to $1,000; the second-place prize is a $300 gift certificate, and the third-place prize a $150 certificate.