If you decorate cakes or have ever shopped for cake making supplies, then chances are you are familiar with the Wilton brand. It’s hard to miss their products since Wilton has led sales in baking and cake decorating products for over half a century. Based in the Chicago suburb of Woodridge, Illinois, Wilton has grown enormously from its beginnings as a family cake decorating business during the United States’ Great Depression.
Today Wilton Industries sells over 2,000 different bake ware and food-related products, from instructional manuals and cake pans to pastry bags and food colorings. Wilton’s products aren’t just sold in the United States either. Major retailers in over 150 countries carry Wilton products. And business continues to grow with approximately 400 new consumer products being developed annually.
It all started in 1929 when Dewey McKinley Wilton, with the help of his wife, began a small cake decorating business in Chicago. Then came the stock market crash and the nation’s Great Depression. Surrounded by high unemployment rates and bread lines, Wilton carved out a prosperous niche by creating wedding cakes for Chicago’s famous hotels and clubs. The Wilton family business grew throughout the 1930’s.
Decorating cakes for the rich and famous gave the Wiltons’ reputation a nice boost. So when they opened a cake decorating and candy-making school for caterers and chefs, they had no problem with enrollment.
By 1947, the “Wilton Method” had become a household word among cake decorators, and a leading department store chain, JC Penney, was now promoting and selling Wilton products.
Before long the Wilton brand name become synonymous with cake decorating supplies and schools. All of this publicity laid the foundation for the Wilton’s decorating empire that continues to influence wedding cake trends.
Then in 1977, under the leadership of Wilton CEO Vince Naccarato, three diverse companies were united as Wilton Industries: Wilton Enterprises, Copco and the Weston Gallery.
Today, each division is a recognized leader in its market. Wilton Enterprises is the number one preferred brand name in baking and cake decorating products, Copco is the premier designer and marketer of teakettles and quality kitchenware, and the Weston Gallery is a leader in upscale picture frame design and marketing.
Under the continued leadership of Naccarato, the company enjoys strong sales growth and national distribution, which are largely credited to “category management,” that is basing marketing on tracked trends, and through “supply chain management,” which helps retailers lower costs of merchandising.
According to Austin Chronicle report, the Wilton Method was the unquestionable ruler of cake decorating until the 1980’s when Martha Stewart’s methods gained popularity. Her made-from-scratch cakes and stance that taste is just as important as the decorating challenged Wilton’s use of cake mixes and vegetable shortening.
However, Wilton continues to enjoy great success and to lead the industry. According to Hoover’s November, 2006 business report, Wilton Industries employed 650 people and reported $325 million in sales for the 2005 fiscal year, a 7.8 percent increase from the previous year.
For three quarters of a century, Wilton has offered cake decorating classes throughout the United States and Canada, including the Wilton School of Cake Decorating in northern Illinois. Wilton is partially credited for bringing the intricate, European cake decorating method to the United States and Canada.
In fact, Wilton’s cake decorating classes enroll nearly 200,000 students every year and from all around the world.
While many cake decorators enjoy the Wilton classroom experience, others like the customer below, prefer learning at their own pace at home with video instruction, such as the “Cake Decorating Made Easy” series.
Another ingredient in Wilton’s recipe for success is its annual “Your Take on Cake” contest, which attracts thousands of talented cake decorators from across the United States and Canada who compete for $5,000 in cash and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend The Wilton School’s two-week Master Course for Cake Decorating in Darien, Illinois.