The original article by Alan Dorich was published at Food & Beverage Canada, Summer Edition, 2013, pp 27-29
Doing business in the food industry can be challenging. Upper Crust has quadrupled its business in the last three years with a focus on innovation, speed to market and customer service. “To sum it up, it’s about being better, faster and more cost effective than competition,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark Hornick says.
He explains that the operation is part of an alliance of baking companies, which includes Fiera Foods, a global manufacturer of frozen bakery products.
Based in Toronto, Upper Crust manufactures pastries, croissants, bagels and artisan breads that are carried by all of the major national U.S. and Canadian retailers. Additionally, the company provides products to many of the national foodservice companies and restaurant chains in Canada and the United States.
Upper Crust’s current owners acquired the company in 2008. “At the time, its sales were around $25 million,” Hornick recalls, noting that the sales have since quadrupled to over $100 million.
The company has nurtured a culture based on innovation, product quality and customer service, Hornick says. “These are areas that we feel Upper Crust as a company has a competitive advantage, based on the people, equipment and infrastructure that we have,” he says.
With this strategy, Upper Crust developed its Bon Appé brand of pastries and bread, which “promote a positive taste experience with European-style craftsmanship and flair,” Hornick says. “It’s been taking hold with retailers and foodservice customers alike.”
GOOD FOR EVERYONE
Upper Crust plans to double its sales in the next three years, Hornick says. To reach that goal, he says, the company will need to stay focused on quality and continue to develop its assets.
This includes the addition of a new bakery facility with warehousing and production spaces, as well as state-of-the-art equipment. Hornick says Upper Crust will invest more than $40 million in the plant, which will increase productivity and quality, and reduce baking times.
“We’ll be able to produce [items] that will be able to compete globally with best-in-class products,” Hornick says, noting that it also will enhance the firm’s level of innovation. “Some of [the products] will be unique, period.”
The facility also will create approximately 200 new jobs at Upper Crust, as well as ancillary jobs related to the facility’s construction. “The volume from the production increase also will create jobs in the support sector,” he adds. “It’s all good for everybody concerned.”
To maintain a leadership position, Upper Crust needs to continue to employ the right people, Hornick says. However, “We are continually focused to recruit the best people to fuel our growth,” he says.
Additionally, after Upper Crust hires them, it needs to ensure it strengthens their skills. To do that, “We have very solid training programs [centered] around understanding customers, and understanding bakery equipment and technology to improve the capabilities we have here,” Hornick says.
The company also brings in outside consultants to train its workers in emerging technologies. “[We have] to always be ahead of the curve with regards to bakery competition,” he says.
PLANS FOR SUCCESS
Looking ahead, Upper Crust plans to continue on its route of being “one of the fastest-growing bakery companies in the world,” Hornick says. “As long as we continue to be well accepted by consumers and customers alike, the future looks pretty bright.”
He adds that Upper Crust expects to grow its Bon Appé line with new cookies, brownies, muffins and other bakery products. “We will bring revolutionary new products to enhance the customers’ bakery experience,” he says.
“Companies can only grow when they have innovation and [strong] customer service,” he continues. “We’ll continue to drive [both] to make sure we’re successful for a long time.”