Bagel-Eating Contest Aims to Draw Attention to Start-Up Bagel Group
The second-annual National Bagel Eating Contest hopes to bring awareness to the fledgling National Bagel Association. Its CEO wants the contest to one day bookend the group’s annual conference.
Adele wasn’t the only one to scoop up awards last Sunday.
David Brunelli of Philadelphia walked away from the National Bagel Association’s second-annual National Bagel Eating Contest in New York with a $500 cash prize and the title of “National Bagel Eating Champion” for gobbling down 11 bagels in eight minutes. NBA will also gift Brunelli with a custom bobblehead, portraying the champion holding a bagel.
“Everyone was standing in awe,” said Andrew Hazen, NBA’s founder and CEO. “It was pretty impressive. This was his first time eating in a competition.”
The contest took place in two different locations—the Hewlett and Hicksville locations of Bagel Boss—and was streamed via Facebook Live. It was a success, according to Hazen.
He said that several dozen spectators cheered on the 10 competitors, who traveled from New York, Philadelphia, and Connecticut to take part in the competition. Several paramedics were in attendance too—surveilling the contestants, many of whom dunked the bagels into water to soften and loosen them before stuffing them in their mouths.
But far from being just a fun event, Hazen hopes that the annual bagel-eating contest will bring awareness and draw members to NBA, which he launched a year ago. Eventually, Hazen expects the eating contest to act as the grand finale of NBA’s annual conference.
“I envision it being BagelCon,” Hazen said. “Basically having all the manufacturers and vendors present—that really assist the bagel industry and basically have a two-day conference going through education, and the products and services that are available to the market, and then at the end have this bagel-eating contest.”
Hazen, who grew up in Long Island and worked in a bagel shop, said there’s a great need for an industry association. A good portion of the 20,000-some bagel stores around the country are family-owned. “It used to be, you just advertise in the local penny saver, hire local people, make your local product, and that’s it,” he said.
Now the business landscape looks much different, and Hazen said that some of these generations of bagel makers might not have a clear understanding on how to leverage technology to target potential customers or promote their brands via social media. And those new to the industry need best practices and other fundamental information, such as how much to pay bakers versus counter staff. Hazen said that NBA is a good fit for large bagel manufacturers, too, as well as those industry partners that purvey bagel accoutrements, such as cream cheese and lox.
“We’re trying to become the voice of bagels,” Hazen said. “We’re trying to become the network for bagel store owners and operators—for sharing, networking, education.”