Cooking with Cookies
By Kelly Visser, Iowa Food & Family Project
For 40 years, Cookies Food Products in Wall Lake has been home to some of America’s most loved sauces and seasonings; and Duane “Speed” Herrig has been the face and force behind the company’s success.
“It’s easy to promote something you believe in,” says Herrig.
And it’s easy to tell Cookies sauces and seasoning are something Herrig truly believes in.
Cookies began in the 1970s, and at the time, Herrig was just one of more than 30 investors in the young food processing company. In 1977 he and his wife, Judy, took over the day-to-day operations and bought the company in 1988.
“I am a jack-of-all-trades. There were times in the early days that I was doing sales, running delivery routes and cooking the products,” Herrig says.
His hustle continues to pay off today.
Herrig has a team of 15 full-time employees and produces around 6,000 gallons of sauce each day in the company’s 125,000-square-foot factory in Wall Lake. Cookies has customers in 34 states and three countries, and products are manufactured for both retail sales and purchased by businesses for use in their own food products.
According to Herrig, in a world of food trends, staying consistent has been the key to success.
“We haven’t changed our ingredients in the 42-year history. When something works, there’s no reason to change it,” he says.
Expanding from the core Cookies Original Bar “B” “Q” sauce, Cookies also offers five different barbecue flavors, a wing sauce, a taco sauce, salsas and seasonings. The sauces and seasonings are a perfect complement to Iowa-raised pork, beef, egg and turkey menu items.
Building Beyond Bold Flavors
Herrig’s boldness doesn’t stop with sauce and seasonings.
“In 2002, President George W. Bush was in town for World Pork Expo. I was on the radio talking about Cookies, and the host and I joked that I should be cooking for the president while he’s in town,” says Herrig.
“Next thing I know, the White House is calling asking for my Social Security number for a background check so I could cook for the president. I thought someone was pulling my leg, but it turned out to be true!”
Whether it’s animated radio conversations, lively demonstrations in grocery store aisles, a pink pig grill or show-stopping chef pants covered in the Cookies logo, Herrig has built a brand around being bold.
Beyond his role as “The Sauceman” at Cookies, Herrig also farms about 300 acres of corn and soybeans; and he and Judy own Speed’s Auto Supply and Speed’s Golf Car business. Their son, Bryan, runs the auto parts and golf car business, and son, Jeff, runs the manufacturing end at Cookies.
Cooking for the Community
All year long, you can find the Cookies “Rib Wagon” serving mouthwatering meals for community, charity and fundraising events. Whether it’s on behalf of the Salvation Army, National Guard, Bethel Mission, New Hope Village or Camp High Hopes (just to name a few) Speed and his team are committed to giving their time and talents to the community.
“I’ve had a great life, and I think it’s our responsibility to give back what we receive,” he says.
Editor’s Note: The Iowa Food & Family Project is pleased to announce our partnership with Cookies Food Products. The company’s family values, Iowa roots and love of cooking and promoting Iowa-raised ingredients is a perfect (and fun!) fit for our growing network of partner organizations.