Lender’s Bagels, the iconic food brand that transformed the bagel industry with the invention of the frozen bagel, is celebrating its 95th year in business. The brand was founded by Polish immigrant Harry Lender who introduced America to his bagels in 1927 and went on to grow his small, family-owned business into one of the country’s best loved food brands.
With help from his three sons – Sam, Murray and Marvin – Harry grew Lender’s Bagels into a thriving local business which sold its signature, crispy on the outside yet chewy on the inside bagels to individuals and the local bakeries, delis and restaurants in the New Haven area.
Ironically, it was the success of his bagels that forced the company to take steps that would revolutionize the bagel industry, according to food historian Colin Caplan.
“The Lenders were finding it increasingly difficult to produce as many as 6,000 bagels for Sunday morning, while demand for them ebbed on other days,” he said. “So, the Lender brothers pioneered the freezing of fresh bagels that could be thawed and heated. This was a huge development in the industry. Suddenly, it became possible to enjoy fresh bagels any day of the week.”
The Lenders also introduced another innovation – pre-sliced bagels. Together, these innovations allowed Lender’s to expand its operations and reach new customers across the country.
When Harry Lender passed away in 1960, his sons Sam and Marvin took over operations and Murray led marketing and sales, injecting fun-loving spirit into the family brand. The Lender-men – caricatures of the three brothers – began appearing everywhere, from television ads and late-night talk shows to the Oval Office. Murray’s marketing gimmicks, such as Green Bagels everywhere for St. Patrick’s Day helped elevate the brand to a household name, increasing sales exponentially.
“While bagels are an everyday breakfast item now, that wasn’t the case when Lender’s Bagels first started,” said Carl Lender, son of Murray Lender and grandson of Harry Lender. “Lender’s Bagels has constantly reinvented itself to meet the wants of consumers everywhere. My grandfather provided the foundation that built a strong reputation locally. My father used his marketing talent to build a strong reputation and name recognition nationally, while my Uncle’s Marvin and Sam, focused on the innovation and efficiency that made it all possible. Now, I’m excited for this new chapter of Lender’s Bagels, 100 is just around the corner!”
In 2020, Lender’s Bagels was bought by Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU). An exciting, new chapter, BBU is relaunching the Lender’s brand through improved quality, an homage to its heritage, and an updated nod to the fun and playful attitude embodied by the Lender family. The relaunch includes:
- Reformulating the bagels with healthier ingredients, including no high fructose corn syrup, to create an overall better tasting bagel.
- Rebranding that brings out the Lender’s bold, blue color and highlights Lender’s Bagels history on the new packaging, with callbacks to the beloved Lender-men and founding of the brand.
- An exciting array of bagel flavors available in the dairy case or freezer aisle at retailers nationwide - including the launch of new Lender’s Blueberry Frozen Bagels
- Reaching out to consumers directly, for the first time in more than 25 years, with a fun, bagelicious social and digital media campaign.
- Partnering with the LeBron James Family Foundation to sponsor student and family programming as well as the Lender’s Dining Hall at the I PROMISE Village in Akron, Ohio that serves families who need a safe, comforting place to stay as they work through unforeseen challenges – all with the goal of bringing people together over bagels.
Rebranded and reformulated Lender’s Bagels are being rolled out now and can already be found in the refrigerated or frozen sections of grocery stores around the country.