Who Is the 'Dot' Behind Dot's Pretzels?

Meet the woman behind everyone's favorite buttery, spicy pretzels—and don't call her Dot.

A bag of dots pretzels along with a profile of a woman with a question mark on top sit on a pretzel stick patterned background.
Photo: Tyrel Stendahl/Allrecipes

Spicy, sweet, and totally irresistible—to know Dot's Pretzels is to love them. From memes about their hard-to-put-down quality to TikTokers professing their love and brand loyalty, there's no denying the snack has a seriously devoted following. But who's the 'Dot' behind Dot's Pretzels? A real person or culinary myth? It turns out she's a small-town woman with a big-time success story.

Meet Dorothy Henke, the 'Dot' of Dot's Pretzels

Dot aka Dorothy Henke is a born and raised North Dakotan who grew up on a dairy farm and learned how to cook from her mom, according to a 2020 Forbes interview. As legend has it, the idea for Dot's Pretzels began when Dorothy tried homemade Chex mix at a wedding back in 2011. She loved the pretzel pieces in it, but didn't love the coating, and thought to herself, I could make this even better.

Dorothy bought some buttery pretzels from the store and started experimenting with spices from the local Sam's Club. Her husband loved them instantly, and when she started sharing with friends and family, the requests started pouring in.

A turning point came when she put together bags for a relative to hand out to clients during the holidays. “Her phone rang off the hook, asking where they could buy more of these pretzels,” said Henke in the Forbes interview.

Dorothy and her husband started making big batches in their home kitchen, buying every local grocery store out of pretzels, and selling the seasoned snack at local football games. But the demand was too high. Dorothy started renting out a local grocery store’s commercial kitchen to ramp up pretzel production. From there she'd package them up and deliver them to local gas stations and hardware stores. 

When it came time to pick a name, Dorothy was torn. She actually hated the nickname, 'Dot' or 'Dottie'. Henke said in a 2020 interview with Mpls St Paul Magazine, "I never liked Dottie. I was called Dottie at one of my jobs—hated it. They had another Dorothy. Everyone calls me Dorothy. My husband calls me Dorothy. He calls me toots, too!"

But Dot looked better on the bag, and ultimately it helped the real Dorothy—a naturally shy person—stay behind the scenes.

Dorothy Henke, the founder of Dot's Pretzels, in her kitchen, pouring pretzels into a bowl

Courtesy of Dot's Pretzels

A Recipe for Success

After a particularly great showing at the 2012 Pride of Dakota trade show, the pretzels took off. Henke attributes their success to two things: 1. Word of mouth, and 2. That taste! Skeptics at the trade show would pass on samples, claiming they weren't pretzel fans, but Dorothy would insist.

"Then they’d try it and we’d see their faces light up. That’s when we thought we really do have something here. We started to see the possibilities.”

That recipe is top secret, by the way, and has been since the start. The pretzels still start the way they did back in 2011: with butter-flavored pretzel sticks, or spinzels, as they're called. The magic is in the coating, loaded with a myriad of different spices and seasonings. It's hard to put your finger on their taste, sweet, salty, savory, and spiced but not spicy, but whatever it is, it makes the pretzels taste truly unique—and pretty hard to put down once you start.

The last ingredient in the recipe for success? Hard work. Raised on a working farm, Henke was no stranger to hard work. She cooked up Dot's Pretzels in what was supposed to be her retirement, working long hours in the kitchen to make them, then getting them into the hands of store owners across the Midwest, and eventually nationwide.

And the hard work paid off. In December 2021, The Hershey Co. acquired Dot's Pretzels for $1.2 billion. Now that's a lot of pretzels. As far as we know, Dot's' headquarters will remain in North Dakota, with manufacturers in Arizona, Kansas, and, of course, North Dakota, proving Dot is a true hometown hero.

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