In April of last year, Last Crumb—the direct-to-consumer L.A. purveyor of ultragourmet cookies—made its first email drop to 300 initial subscribers. Within minutes, the entire inventory—two dozen boxes at $140 each, or $12 per cookie—was snapped up. Each cookie bore a smirking meme on its wrapper; “a generous vanilla milk swirl because we f**king love you” was typical. Adoring customers compared unboxing them to a hyped sneaker drop. Instagram lit up, and influencers were clamoring for more. Within weeks, each subsequent drop was spoken for in minutes, all without a single ad.
Then, in late May, major buzz struck. Derek Jaeger, Last Crumb’s cofounder, got a call from one of his business partners. “Holy shit, guess what happened?” Jaeger recalls him sputtering. “Chrissy Teigen got her hands on a box and posted [on Instagram] within like a second.” That day, Last Crumb nearly tripled its email list, adding 10,000 new subscribers.
A truism of entrepreneurialism is that obsession with a niche product can spark extraordinary opportunity. Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, and Julep proved the might of the direct-to-consumer model. Last Crumb is a case study in how even something as prosaic as a cookie can be transformed into a status signifier by provocative digital storytelling and drip-by-drip promos.
During his stint as a chef in San Diego a decade ago, Jaeger—who, at 37, pumps iron and looks like he’d run from a batch of cookies—fell in love with the science of food—“what makes the mouthfeel, the pleasure of tying it all together,” he says. Jaeger moved on, launched a marketing company, but still loved baking cookies at the end of the day “as a release.” He’d bring them to parties. “People would say, ‘You should do something with these.’ ”
In January 2020, Jaeger joined forces with Alana Arnold, 32, an L.A.-based digital marketing expert, and Last Crumb was born. “The flavors had to be perfect,” recalls Arnold. “The best chocolate chip cookie. The best birthday cake cookie.” (Jaeger won’t divulge trade secrets but suggests that Last Crumb’s unusual three-day dough prep was the breakthrough.) The partners hired Truffl, the posh Wilshire Boulevard branding agency, to fashion a fabulous box, and recruited a CEO, Matthew Jung, 35, who had scaled up and exited a surfing brand.
After the Teigen triumph, Jaeger wanted to see “who our apostle customers were—if people are willing to spend four figures on a future box of cookies.” Thus was hatched Last Crumb’s VIP tier.
“It’s like a nightclub,” Jaeger says. “We have a huge waiting list.” A sweet grand earned VIP members the means to jump the line, along with heirloom packaging and seven prepaid boxes of cookies. Nearly 1,000 people clicked on the offer—a million dollars for future cookies. Juiced with the VIP cash and $1 million in VC funding, Last Crumb has since expanded to 30 staffers and secured a facility in Pasadena to increase production.
So do these f**king cookies live up to the breathless buzz? The consensus of an informal taste test declared them oddly underbaked and sickly sweet, more like cookie dough. But that’s beside the point. With a surgically executed aura of scarcity, Last Crumb turned cookies into the equivalent of a Melania NFT or Supreme sneaker. The more apt question is: How will we satisfy the next $1,000 craving we didn’t even know we had?
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