Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Birdola Going For A Record!

From The Grand Rapids Press:

Birdola Products' seed cakes are meant to be hung from trees, but the one made to set a world record is a bit too heavy for that.

To mark the Northwest Side company's 20th anniversary, a 700-pound wildlife seed cake will be unveiled Wednesday at Blandford Nature Center, where birds, squirrels and other critters will do the real celebrating.

"We expect it to last three months," said Kristin Tindall, ecology education coordinator at Blandford, whose desk faces the feeding area where titmice, chickadees and woodpeckers gather with chipmunks and squirrels. "It's like a picture out of 'Snow White' here."

The privately held company's goal is to convince the Guinness World Records to recognize the 5-by-4-foot, 14-inch-thick seed cake in a new category.

Becoming the first seed cake record-holder might be fitting for the company, which says it invented bird seed cakes and now sells more than any other company nationally.

"We've grown considerably in the last 20 years," said President Frank Hoogland, who owns Birdola with Grand Rapids businessmen Dan Pfeiffer and Rich Postma.

"We continue to develop new products and pursue new markets. We hope to keep that trend continuing."

Birdola's employees, who number 30 to 35, have the capacity to manufacture up to 14,000 seed cakes a day at its Broadway Avenue NW plant. And during busy times, it does, Marketing Manager Rick Savino said.

The seeds are held together by a vitamin-laden protein binder the company developed when the founder, the late Don Metz, searched for a way to reduce mess and waste at bird feeders.

Today, truckloads of sunflower seeds come in from the Dakotas, peanuts from Georgia, millet from Colorado and nyjer seed from Pakistan, Myanmar and India.

Cherries and blueberries sometimes come from Michigan, but with prices up "tremendously" for all commodities, Savino said, the company tries to find the lowest prices at the right standards.

"Like anyone else, our margins are squeezed," he said. "Sales are a little bit soft right now."

When it comes to the choice of feeding wild birds or the dog during tough times, Birdola's "bird granola" gets left on the shelf.

But the company sees several hopeful signs.

First, more people are staying home, often gardening, and may pick up bird watching as a way to enjoy their yards. Second, the population is aging, and it is the settled-in segment that feeds birds.

Savino adds it is more important than ever to feed birds because their natural habitats are decreasing.

Meanwhile, large national chains and mom-and-pop stores are carrying Birdola's 45 products. Locally, Meijer, Family Fare and D&W Fresh Markets carry the lines, including the best-selling, 2-pound Birdola Plus Cakes that hold together even when pecked.

National chains that sell their products include Petco, PetSmart, Lowe's and Menards.

Company officials hope a world-record cake will bring a little more attention to their products.

At the very least, the birds will be happy.

"It will give all the birds a feast for the balance of the summer and well into the fall," Hoogland said.


Laura said...


I am a staff member at Blandford Nature Center and noticed that you have the incorrect link for our website. You can find our site at www.blandfordnaturecenter.org .

We're excited to have the cake here and hope people come out to see it!

Laura Worth
Volunteer Support VISTA
Blandford Nature Center

birdchick said...

Hi Laura,

thanks for the update. When I originally googled that link it was not active. I just tried it now and see that it works. I'll update the entry.

Thanks for the head's up.