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Vincent Gruppuso, 67, founder of Kozy Shack pudding co.

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Associated Press / January 14, 2008

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. - Vincent Gruppuso, a former bread deliveryman who created a multimillion-dollar pudding company, has died. He was 67.

Mr. Gruppuso, the founder of Kozy Shack Enterprises, died Dec. 29 at his home in East Hampton, N.Y., said Suzanne Cruse, the company's corporate counsel. Mr. Gruppuso died of complications of diabetes.

When Mr. Gruppuso delivered bread in the mid-1960s, one of the stops on his route was the Cozy Shack delicatessen in Brooklyn. He took an instant liking to the creamy rice pudding sold there, and started selling trays of the pudding at his other stops. In 1967, he bought the recipe and started his own business in Queens.

Four decades later, the company now has more than 400 employees with plants in Hicksville, N.Y.; Turlock, Calif.; and Lough Egish, Ireland. The pudding is sold at supermarkets in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

"Who knew that he could turn pudding into a sexy product?" Cruse said Friday. "He really was an entrepreneur."

In 2006, the Dining section of The New York Times named Kozy Shack rice pudding on a list of its "Grocery Gems," and wrote that "rice pudding, like baked beans, has slipped out of the culinary spotlight, but this version makes up in flavor what it lacks in glamour."

Mr. Gruppuso leaves his former wife, Virginia Pantaleo; three daughters; a brother; and five grandchildren.

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