How sweet it is.
Anyone attending the Minnesota State Fair can tell by the lines that Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar is the most popular food vendor. But the numbers show just how much her chocolate chip cookies dominate it.
Sweet Martha’s sold a monstrously large $4 million worth of cookies in 12 days last year, according to data the fair released this week.
That was more than three times the revenue for the runner-up vendor, Midwest Dairy Association, operator of the $2 all-you-can-drink milk booth, at $1.1 million.
“We’re very happy and full of pride because it’s such a team effort,” Martha Rossini Olson, founder and co-owner of the business, said Thursday. “It’s a wonderful thing for the whole team of 30 managers who always come back. It trickles down to the employees.”
Olson saw a 19 percent gain in sales last year, due mostly to the addition of a third location on the north end of the fairgrounds. She’d been asking for a third location from the fair for well over a decade. The new, temporary location in a tent will be replaced by a permanent spot on the north end next year.
“We wanted to spread out the market to help with the long lines and give people a better experience,” said Dennis Larson, State Fair license administration manager.
Olson said she hopes to make the wait even shorter this year by adding a fourth oven in the tent. That will increase the third location’s output by another 2,000 cookies every 12 minutes. This year her three locations will employ 550 people.
Larson said revenue for the fair’s food vendors was $47 million last year, up 10 percent from 2015. Food vendors used to be charged a flat fee to have space at the fair. That changed to a percentage of revenue in 1991. Vendors now pay 15 percent of their gross, minus the amount collected for sales tax.
The rising star among the fair’s bestselling food vendors is the Blue Plate Group’s Blue Barn, which had revenue of about $630,000 last year.
“They only started three years ago,” Larson said. “They’re bringing in a new, higher-end food that’s already proven successful.”