Talk about hot dogs with a history! Feltman’s of Coney Island has transformed its business across generations, selling hot dogs from a pushcart cruising the beaches of Coney Island in 1867 to a multi-channel national business today that includes 2500 retail groceries and a growing e-commerce platform for always-on product availability.
Mid-19th century NYC was home to 200,00 German immigrants, about 25% of its population. One of these immigrants was Charles Feltman, a baker of bread. Charles originated the hot dog – a delicious, quality home-made frankfurter on a fresh-baked bun. His portable invention was driven by practical considerations, to avoid the cost of plates and utensils, and it really hit the mark in his community. Condiments of choice were sauerkraut, onions and Feltman’s own zingy mustard.
Business soared into the 1920’s when Charles’ beer garden in Coney Island grew to occupy a full city block with nine restaurants, an outdoor movie theater and an amusement park. Eventually the largest restaurant in the world, Feltman’s served five million customers per year and 40,000 hot dogs each day. But with the passing of time the pavilion was shuttered by his sons, and the brand went dormant after WW II.
A New Generation Reignites Feltman’s of Coney Island
In 2015 two brothers revived the Feltman’s brand as a start-up. With an all-natural 100% beef recipe, old-world spice blend, a 3-hour smoking process and no preservatives, Feltman’s once again attracted fellow Brooklynites who recognized quality and appreciated a healthier hot dog. Several hot dog stands scattered around the boroughs of NYC increased awareness, and set the stage for regional distribution to groceries in the tri-state area. Over the next three years, the Feltman brothers significantly expanded retail shelf space nationally in major grocery chains, which today accounts for the majority of sales.
E-Commerce Enables Cross-Channel Pollination
By 2018 the new “founders” had ambitions to take market share from corporate hot dog giants. They identified e-commerce as an important direct-to-consumer channel to reach and enlarge their base of buyers anywhere 24×7. Their e-commerce vision proved to be prescient a year later to handle online orders when the coronavirus pandemic struck, and consumers reduced trips to the grocery store.
Feltman’s e-commerce business has created a loyal community of all-season gourmet hot dog eaters that can be touched multiple times throughout the year. Using PSS’ specialized cold and frozen food e-commerce shipping services, Feltman’s marketing department has confidence that celebrity and athlete Influencers will receive their promotional hot dog deliveries in stellar condition when VIP promotional packages are sent directly via FedEx using PSS’ e-commerce solution. The program pays off when the Influencers share their Feltman’s gourmet hot dog experiences with their followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The buzz creates additional loyal Feltman customers for both online and grocery store orders. As of early 2020, e-commerce is generating a valuable revenue stream. It’s also proving to be a powerful platform to test and refine new natural meat product concepts prior to introducing them into their retail grocery channels.
Feltman’s is a values-based business that cares about and celebrates its community. Customers are reached through a blend of owned and earned media channels (specifically social media, Google searches, PR and email). Buyers of Feltman’s Red Hots today fall into three main segments.
- Savvy health-conscious family shoppers in the grocery store.
- Law enforcement, first responders and military/veteran shoppers. These buyers are offered a 10% discount year-round to honor service and uphold the founders’ values.
- Loyal hot dog connoisseurs who value Feltman’s good recipe and high-quality product.
Hot dogs are as American as apple pie and baseball. Feltman’s carries on the history and traditions of its original founders, with a thoroughly updated brick-and-mortar grocery + e-commerce approach to reaching all who crave “most likely the best hot dog you’ll likely ever eat in your life.”
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