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People in the News

June 25 - Benny Curl, Byrd Cookie Company’s Chairman Emeritus, Receives 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award

Category: People in the News

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

June 25, 2019 - Byrd Cookie Company’s Chairman Emeritus Benny Curl earned the Specialty Food Association’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award, which is the organization’s highest honor, at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City on June 23, 2019. The award recognized Curl for his remarkable service to the specialty food industry.

“Any time we receive an award, it’s always a team effort -- and I don’t want to lose sight of that,” Curl told the audience in attendance. “On behalf of our family, I’m very thankful and appreciative to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.”

As the owner of Byrd Cookie Company from 1987 to 2011, Curl continued the legacy of high-quality, innovative products that his wife Kay’s grandfather, Benjamin Tillman “Pop” Byrd, Sr., founded in Savannah in 1924. Under Curl’s leadership, Byrd developed a strong private label business, cultivating strategic partnerships with major national companies. 

“The Specialty Food Association Lifetime Achievement Awards celebrate individuals who have made a lasting impact on the specialty food industry,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association. “Cookie giant Benny Curl is an inspirational business leader.”

During his tenure as Byrd’s chief executive, Curl recognized the growing market for gourmet food gifts and relocated the company to its current headquarters at 6700 Waters Avenue in Savannah. His background in accounting and business helped to position the company for long-term, multigenerational success.

A longtime leader in the Savannah business community, Curl is the chairman of the board of directors at First Chatham Bank and previously served as the president of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Food and Wine Group. He was instrumental in providing educational and informative information to the state’s manufacturers, retailers and specialty food consumers. 

Curl was previously inducted into the Specialty Food Association’s Hall of Fame in 2015 and has been named an “Outstanding Southerner” by Southern Living.

Byrd Cookie Company was originally founded 95 years ago in Savannah when Benjamin Tillman “Pop” Byrd, Sr. opened a small bakery and traveled to local markets in his Model T Ford. Today, the family-owned company – now in its fourth and fifth generation – bakes more than one billion cookies each year, providing award-winning items to major retailers, airlines and customers around the world. Benny and Kay’s daughter, Stephanie Lindley, currently serves as Byrd Cookie Company’s fourth-generation owner and CEO. 

One of the largest and fastest-growing independent cookie and snack companies in the United States, Byrd bakes 16 delicious bite-sized flavors and operates successful retail stores in Savannah, Ga. and Charleston, S.C. The company’s iconic Key Lime Cooler was the first cookie to win Dessert of the Year top honors at the International Fancy Food Show. Byrd’s best-selling savory items include Benne Bits, Cheddar Crisps and Cheddar Pecan Biscuits.

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