Murray Lender, bagel guru, dies at 81

by Staff
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AVENTURA, FLA. — Murray Lender, who helped turn his father Harry’s 800-square-foot bakery in New Haven, Conn., into a national company selling packaged and frozen bagels, died March 21 following complications from a fall he suffered at his home 10 weeks ago. He was 81.

Murray, along with his brothers, Samuel and Marvin, worked in the bagel business, and Murray spent many years as chief executive officer of Lender’s Bagels, which the company claims was the first to begin selling bagels in packages to supermarkets in 1955. In 1960, Lender’s started freezing bagels for shipment beyond New Haven without worrying about them becoming stale. The frozen bagel would make its way to households across the country that had never had them.

The Lenders sold the family business to Kraft Foods Inc. in 1984, and Mr. Lender remained the company spokesman for a two-year period, making commercials and appearing on talk shows to promote the company’s products.

Kraft sold the business to Kellogg Co. in 1996, and Kellogg subsequently sold Lender’s to Aurora Foods in 1999. The company changed hands again in 2003 when it was acquired by Pinnacle Foods Group L.L.C.

In the 52 weeks ended Dec. 25, 2011, Lender’s had frozen bagel dollar sales of $12.7 million on the sale of 7.6 million units, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. The brand had refrigerated dollar sales of $28.2 million on the sale of 15.8 million units in the period. Lender’s is the top selling brand in each segment, according to SymphonyIRI.

Survivors include his wife, Gilda; a daughter, Haris, and son-in-law, Evan Cohn; two sons, Jay and Carl; brother, Marvin; and eight grandchildren.

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