- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

A batch of military emblem cookies will start selling in 459 grocery stores today, including some in the Washington area.

The Stampers cookies, which started selling on the Internet in May, are part of the Cookie Club of America Inc., a San Diego cookie company.

The cookies, at $3.99 for a box of 18, are being sold on a trial basis in 459 stores owned by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., a Montvale, N.J., supermarket chain.

A&P; stores in 10 states and the District of Columbia that will sell the cookies include A&P;, Super Fresh, Waldbaum’s, the Food Emporium, Food Basics USA, Sav-A-Center and FarmerJack.

The crunchy morsels, flavored with almond and vanilla, also will be available in about 1,500 Kroger stores by the end of the month, in time for the holiday season, said Cookie Club President Clifford J. Smith.

Mr. Smith started the cookie company as a way to rally support for the U.S. military. All of the military branches approved their emblem use for the cookies, and 5 percent of the cookie profits go to the National Military Family Association, an Alexandria nonprofit organization that assists military families.

Kathy Hopta, category manager for A&P; U.S., said the chain ordered an initial 32,870 packages. “If they are successful, we’ll certainly look at reordering,” she said.

What sealed the deal for the cookies, aside from donating to a patriotic cause, were the dog-tag greeting cards Mr. Smith created for the cookie displays, Mrs. Hopta said. The display stand has two dog-tag cards hanging on the side, allowing store customers to write to troops serving abroad.

Once the cards are full of messages, they will be sent back to the Cookie Club and forwarded to soldiers overseas.

Mr. Smith said the transition to retail will be a major boost for his fledgling business.

“The sales on the Internet were OK, but not great. Really, the big push was to get these boxes into stores so that people would not have to pay shipping charges,” Mr. Smith said.

The Cookie Club has posted about $5,000 in Internet sales since beginning in May, he said.

Once the cookies show success on supermarket shelves, Mr. Smith said, he plans to sell individual branch cookies to commissaries and exchange posts on military bases.

He is about to negotiate with the Defense Commissary Agency, the Fort Lee, Va., government agency that oversees the military’s 284 supermarkets worldwide. “If all goes well, we could start selling the cookies to branches early next year,” Mr. Smith said.

The agency had said the cookies would need to be in at least two retail chains before they are considered for commissaries, Mr. Smith said.

The cookies already have stirred up much-needed advertising for the National Military Family Association, said Kathleen Burke, development director.

“If we never receive a dime, it will still be a good thing for the association just in the feedback we have received,” she said. “Cliff has his heart in the right place, putting the military families on the forefront.”

The organization has yet to receive any profits from the cookie sales, which Mr. Smith says have been small. He said he plans to send the organization a $500 check in the next week.

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