How One Family Business is Removing the Stigma Around Fruitcake
If you think you don’t like fruitcake, the folks at Southern Supreme say you should try their version of the treat. Chances are, it’ll change your mind.
“We’re changing the image of fruitcake and people’s attitudes toward it,” says Belinda Jordan, whose parents, Berta and Hoyt Scott, established Southern Supreme in North Carolina just over 30 years ago. “Every single day, we have people who come in and say they don’t like fruitcake, and they end up loving ours. That gives us a great feeling, and it lets us know we’ve done a good job.”
Based in Bear Creek, Southern Supreme began when Berta, who worked as a beautician, began selling her signature fruitcake to her clients during the holiday season.
They loved her recipe – which has remained unchanged and includes dates, raisins, pineapples, red cherries, pecans and English walnuts – and they encouraged her to pursue her dream of owning her own business and selling the cakes.
Berta and Hoyt started Southern Supreme by setting up shop in Belinda’s garage, building a small kitchen and hiring people from the community to help grow the operation.
“I may have had the idea, but I’ve had a lot of good help since day one,” says Berta, a Chatham County native who grew up baking with her mother and sister.
The Scott family and their employees introduced Berta’s fruitcake to the general public at the annual holiday show, A Carolina Christmas Show in Raleigh in 1985, and it quickly became clear the business was going to take off.
“We passed out samples, and people loved it,” Belinda says. “We weren’t surprised; our fruitcake is very nutty and moist, and it’s made with just enough batter to make it all stick together. Every ingredient perfectly complements the others. There’s still nothing like our fruitcake on the market.”
Southern Supreme Grows
It didn’t take long for Southern Supreme to outgrow Belinda’s garage, and today the business is in a 50,000-square-foot facility that includes five kitchens.
Although they’re not situated in a highly trafficked area, people still come from near and far to taste their fruitcake.
“Mama [Berta] was afraid no one would come out and see us, but we haven’t had that problem,” Belinda says. “It’s like that old saying: ‘If you build it, they will come.’ ”
Along with fruitcake, Southern Supreme currently offers nearly 100 different products, such as chocolates, cookies, gourmet nuts, cheese straws, jams and jellies, and more. Many of their ingredients are sourced locally.
“We buy local products whenever possible,” Belinda says. “Our cheese straws are made with North Carolina extra-sharp cheddar cheese from the Ashe County Cheese Factory in West Jefferson, and we buy our peaches and strawberries from North Carolina growers. Plus, we buy lots of North Carolina peanuts.”
Each product is packaged and available to customers across the U.S. via their mail-order catalog and online shop, but those who come to the Southern Supreme store and showroom can enjoy complimentary product samples, coffee and more, making a visit well worth the trip.
“We’re out in the middle of nowhere, but that hasn’t stopped us,” Belinda says. “We have groups who come by the busload to tour our facility and see how our products are made.”
The Holiday Hustle
According to Belinda, Southern Supreme’s busiest season begins in mid-August and runs through the holidays.
The company employs approximately 125 people during this time to ensure their customers receive their goodies in time for Christmas.
“Our products have a long shelf life, usually lasting at least six months but often longer than that,” Belinda says. “Many people buy our products to give as gifts, especially our gift baskets and boxes, so we want to make sure they stay fresh for a long time.”
In addition, Southern Supreme has traveled to more than 15 Christmas shows each season for nearly 25 years, offering samples of their products and expanding their customer base across the state and beyond.
“Once people taste our fruitcake, they want to come see us,” Belinda says. “We’ve had somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 people come to our showroom per day during the holiday season.”
No matter how big Southern Supreme becomes, customer satisfaction remains the company’s No. 1 priority, and they appreciate the opportunity to share their long-held family tradition.
“Above all, we want happy, satisfied customers, ” says Lisa Scott, Berta’s daughter-in-law and office manager at Southern Supreme. “That’s our goal every day.”
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– Jessica Walker Boehm