This New Jersey-based private-label bakery can help retailers provide high quality breads and rolls faster and cheaper. Harvest Time Bread may be a relatively young company, but it has a wealth of experience that puts it ahead of the game as a supplier of high-quality, artisan, all-natural, organic and whole-grain fully baked and frozen breads and rolls. A large part of the company’s success lies in the fact that it can supply frozen fully baked or parbaked bread products to major supermarket chains.
“That’s the part of the business that is showing a lot of growth,” said Frank Gelormini, vice president of sales. “There’s been a removal of labor at the store level at most of the supermarket chains. There aren’t a lot of trained bakers in the stores like there were 40 years ago.”
With parbaked bread products, the supermarkets ensure that they can quickly get a high quality product without the expertise of a baker. “Even the proof-and-bake products require the technical knowledge of when to remove the bread from a proof box and when to bake it,” Gelormini said. “You also need a six- or seven-hour lead time to meet the customers’ needs, which means you are second guessing the next day’s needs.”
With parbaked products, the supermarkets can react to customer demands with quality breads almost immediately. “Parbake has that same advantage over direct-store delivery, where the stores have to place their orders by three o’clock to determine the next day’s needs,” he said.
There is the added benefit of having a better tasting product using parbake rather than a direct-store delivery, where the bread is already almost a day old and past the peak of quality when it is delivered. “We are taking the bread at the peak of its quality and flash freezing it so it can be reheated,” Gelormini said. “It puts it in a lot better quality state than something that is a day old or requires the technical skills of a baker to hit it right on the head with proofing.”
A unique place in the market
“Our forte in the marketplace is our fermented dough and the fact that we are a medium-sized plant with flexibility,” said Gelormini. “We’re not as big as the Rich’s and Best Brands and Pillsburys of the world, so we have the ability to adapt to a customer’s internal needs.”
With some of the bigger suppliers, customers are limited to ordering only what is on the product list. However, Harvest Time has the ability to change its products to a degree to suit different demands.
“Our main product is a fermented dough, but we are able to change the size, shape, or appearance a little bit to suit specific needs,” Gelormini said. “We’re not a big white elephant that can’t bend, so that gives us a leg up on the competition.”
The company also has an advantage over its competition because of the experience Gelormini and many of the salespeople and brokers have in the industry. Gelormini had extensive experience as a baker before coming to Harvest Time, and many of the brokers have worked in the industry for years as well.
“We’re not in the commodity bread business,” said Rich Paolino, CEO. “We’re not the Wonder Breads of the world; we’re not set up to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds of bread in a continuous flow line that all looks alike for the retail marketplace. Our business is artisan and ethnic breads with the flexibility to come up with new products in conjunction with the customers.”
Some of the more popular products the company sells are its Portuguese rolls. “There are not a lot of us who make this type of bread,” said Paolino. “We have a variety of the rolls; we make them in different sizes and in both whole wheat and multigrain.”
The company also accounts for regional tastes when developing products. According to Paolino, northern customers typically prefer crustier breads, whereas many southern customers prefer softer breads and rolls.
“I was on the buying side of the business for 20-odd years and product development for just as long, so I know it’s important to offer a full line of experiences,” said Gelormini. “When you deal with customers, it’s important to be able to give them the resources they need as well as a product to back it up.”
As the company continues to provide its customers with the freshest and best-tasting breads and rolls available, it is also looking to expand. “Over the next three years, our goal is to come as close as possible to doubling in size,” Paolino said. “We’re dealing with modest size numbers here, so it’s not like we are going to knock off the big players, but I think we can do it through organic growth.”
Over the past year, the company has invested nearly $1.5 million in new equipment to keep up with its current growth. As it looks to the future, Paolino said the company will be backing its strategy for growth with investment in the three Cs: capacity, capability, and cost.
“We’re looking at our capacity in particular areas so we can serve the accounts that are growing quickly,” he said. “We’re also looking at bringing in people with backgrounds in process improvement, and that involves some investment.”
Paolino said the company is looking at a proactive direct marketing campaign in the next year to tout the benefits of Harvest Time to some larger grocery store chains. “We have plans for new products, and we want to convey those ideas,” he said. “But we also want the stores to know that we will allow them to differentiate themselves in their markets. We’re not trying to make everyone look alike.”