'Magnolia Bakery shot to fame with one-minute footage of Carrie Bradshaw in one episode of a TV series': Zonu Reddy, co-founder Spago foods on their franchise in Bengaluru
If you love cupcakes with beautiful pastel swirls and if you enjoy creamy banana pudding or delicious cheesecakes in seasonal flavours, you can head for NYC’s iconic Magnolia Bakery that has now opened a branch in Indiranagar, Bengaluru. The bakery in New York city achieved pop-culture fame thanks to TV shows like Sex and the City where Carrie Bradshaw was filmed chatting with her friend, Miranda at their first location on Bleecker Street.
Magnolia Bakery is known for their fresh bakes every day and will offer a range of products that will suit the Indian market. You can choose from cupcakes, cheesecakes, icebox bars and their signature banana pudding.
Zonu Reddy and Nischay Jayeshankar, husband and wife team, who are the founders of Spago foods, acquired the Magnolia Franchise for India and launched the bakery in Bengaluru.
Earlier, Zonu Reddy worked in the real estate sector of Bengaluru with an extensive array of clients. Later, she learnt digital marketing and social media, and began to develop strategic marketing solutions. She uses her spare time to undertake leadership roles in the youth wing of CREDAI (The Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India). Her unique skill set also includes working in angel networks looking to fund and support promising entrepreneurs and their start-ups. Zonu completed her graduation in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Berkeley.
Nischay Jayeshankar, co-founder, is a graduate in Business Administration from Bond University, Australia. He has over 10 years of experience in the real estate sector in Bengaluru. He is the Director of Adarsh Developers and also oversees the design and execution of many residential and hospitality projects across the city.
In an interaction with YS Weekender, Zonu Reddy talks about their love for food and travel and how they launched the Indian franchise of Magnolia bakery...
YSWeekender: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got interested in the food industry?
Zonu Reddy: With a shared love for food and travel as twin inspiration, my husband Nischay and I have journeyed across the world, always looking for high-quality foods, made with the freshest and most delicious ingredients.
This passion and quest for gastronomical treasures birthed the idea of Spago foods, a brand that would bring the best global food brands to India, while preserving their authenticity and true flavour. At Spago Foods we consider that food transcends the basic need for nourishment - it is familiarity, family, memories and comfort. This is the reason we always strive to go to great lengths to pamper our customers with the freshest and best quality ingredients, which we believe is the key to delicious food.
YSW: Where did you first hear of Magnolia and what did you love about the original bakery?
ZR: While I was studying at UC Berkeley, I happened to visit New York city during my spring break with my friends. While I was there, I visited the iconic store on Bleecker Street and fell in love with the cupcakes, and that was my first introduction to the brand.
Since then, whenever I visited New York (a few years later with my husband), it became our favourite spot in the city for delicious desserts. What I loved most about the brand was that I could see the care and effort that went into producing the products. The Bleecker Street store especially felt very homely - like someone had handmade these goodies just for me.
YSW: What is so special about the iconic Magnolia bakery products?
ZR: The biggest reason why Magnolia Bakery products are so iconic is that everything is made from scratch, without using any pre-mixes. All the products are made on site, in small batches and have no preservatives. The quality of ingredients used is exceptional. We have worked tirelessly with the corporate chef to match Magnolia Bakery ingredient specifications here locally.
During that process, we realised that there is no compromising when it comes to the quality and taste of the ingredients that are used. There has been a lot of time and effort dedicated to perfecting each recipe and maintaining consistent products - it even comes down to minute details like the pans the cakes are baked in.
There is such a wide range of products - about 300 in constant rotation. Each time you walk into a Magnolia Bakery there will probably be something you have not tried out before. We are also constantly developing new flavour profiles and variations.
YSW: How did the mention of Magnolia Bakery in TV shows and by celebs change the status of the bakery?
ZR: Magnolia Bakery was already a neighbourhood favorite, but after being featured briefly in the TV show, Sex and the City (only in one episode for less than a minute), Magnolia Bakery became known worldwide and, according to some, launched the world's "cupcake craze."
After being on Sex and the City, Magnolia Bakery has also been featured in a number of TV shows and movies, including Saturday Night Live, Devil Wears Prada, Broad City and soon, To all the Boys I've Loved Before 3.
YSW: How did you go about acquiring the franchise?
ZR: We knew Magnolia Bakery was looking to enter India and they were evaluating potential partners. We shared our profiles across to them and explained why we would love to bring this brand to India.
YSW: What were some of the challenges in setting it up in Bengaluru?
ZR: Sourcing the right ingredients that match the specifications of Magnolia Bakery has been the biggest challenge. We really wanted to be able to localise the products as much as possible from the start.
We went through a lot of trials with different brands of ingredients with our corporate chef to figure out the final mix. We still have to import a couple of key ingredients from the US, due to the unavailability of these ingredients locally.
YSW: What are the specials in the Bengaluru bakery?
ZR: Magnolia Bakery is credited with starting the cupcake craze in the US so cupcakes definitely hold a special place here. We have a wide range of cupcake flavours - so there is something for everybody. We are also famous for our Banana Pudding! One of our personal favorites are the cheesecakes - they are some of the best we have ever had!
YSW: Can you tell us about your banana pudding and its variants?
ZR: Magnolia Bakery's classic banana pudding is a fan favorite and for many years, that was the only flavour we offered. A few years ago, we started adding monthly featured flavors, including chocolate, peanut butter, salted caramel, chocolate hazelnut, red pudding and java chip.
YSW: What are the bakes made especially for the Indian market?
ZR: We have developed a range of eggless products especially for the Indian market. For Christmas we are coming out with a limited-edition plum cake. We also wanted to hero a local ingredient so we have developed a line of mango products for the next mango season.
YSW: Can you tell us about the other features of the bakery?
ZR: We have a big display counter with all of our lovely products on display. You can watch our cake icers icing cakes and our staff swirling the icing on our cupcakes! It is a visual treat!
In terms of interiors we have tried to mirror the New York bakeries as much as we can - our floor tiling, ceiling tiles and lights are the exactly the same as the ones they use in New York and some of them are proprietary to Magnolia Bakery.
YSW: How will your bakery be different from the other bakeries that are already established across the city?
ZR: One big differentiator is that everything is made from scratch without using any pre-mixes. All the products are made on site, in small batches and have no preservatives. We have a very unique product range - I don't see any of the other bakeries in the city offering icebox bars, icebox cakes, and banana pudding. We are truly an American bakery, whereas most of the other bakeries are French-inspired.
YSW: Is this the first franchise of Magnolia in India? Why did you choose Bengaluru?
ZR: Yes, this is the first franchise of the bakery! We chose Bengaluru primarily for its foodie-centric population. There is a sizeable population of well-travelled people, expats and IT professionals who are familiar with American brands. Plus, my husband and I are based out of Bengaluru and our infrastructure is here.
YSW: How did you conduct research of customer likes and what did you discover?
ZR: We were very confident of Magnolia's products! We mainly gave out products to our friends and family during the ingredient development phase and during training, and all of them loved it!
YSW: We hear that the signature swirl on the cupcakes can take 40 hours to perfect. Is this true and why does it take so long to get it right?
ZR: Yes, it’s true that the swirl on the cupcakes can take over 40 hours to perfect! We don’t use any piping bags or moulds to create our signature swirl. It is handmade and requires a lot of practise to nail!
YSW: What are your future plans for the bakery in the next six months?
ZR: We are taking things one step at a time! We are very focused on our first bakery in Bengaluru and we want to give our customers an amazing experience. We definitely have a lot of new product launches planned out - so keep an eye out on our Instagram for those announcements!