Above pictures: Gold Standard Baking's new line allows it to consistently produce its croissants while increasing capacity by 40%
After cooling, Gold Standard Baking's new line divides the laminated dough into five lanes for forming. The system can produce 5,000 lbs. per hour.
There is no manual for purchasing a bakery. No how-to-guide or tips for best take-over strategies.As a result, many new bakery owners-spend considerable time learning the business and then developing a strategy for the future guidance of the company. For Chicago-based Gold Standard Baking and its owners, Yianny Caparos, George Caparos and Constantin Caparos, time was not an option. When the owners acquired the 70,000-sq.-ft. bakery from East Balt Commissary in July 2002, they knew what the company needed: increased sales.
And not only did the company need to increase its sales, but it also needed to accomplish this task quickly and effectively. However, how does an established company jolt its sales in a mandated short period of time? For Gold Standard Baking, the solution was to place an intense focus on research and development, expand its markets and install an automated laminated dough line.
"When we took over the company, our initial focus was to grow sales," Yianny Caparos, Gold Standard Baking's president and owner, says. "We had to diversify the croissant category to sell more in order to invest in new equipment."
This three-part strategy is in full swing at the company's Southside Chicago plant. Less than two years after taking the reins of Gold Standard Baking, the company's owners have introduced two new products and installed an automated laminated dough line that processes 5,000 lbs. of dough an hour and increases the company's capacity by 40%. The company also has diversified its business by expanding its markets served to include foodservice, in-store bakery/deli and convenience stores.
When the new owners took control of Gold Standard Baking, the company focused mainly on foodservice. Today, foodservice still accounts for a lion share (70%) of the company's business, but the in-store bakery/deli (20%) and convenience store (10%) channels are growing rapidly.
To service its existing customers and expand into new markets, the company is actively pursuing ways to expand the croissant category. "We don't want to create products that other people are already selling," George Caparos, Gold Standard Baking's director of sales and owner, says. "We are in a creative R&D mode of creating new products, but within the croissant spectrum."
As part of its quest of growing sales through quality innovative laminated dough products, Gold Standard Baking has added two new croissant items to its product portfolio: a thawand-serve butterflake croissant roll and Croissant Crisps™.
The company's butterflake croissant roll was introduced to in-store bakeries last November. The product's formula resembles a standard croissant formula, but instead of being rolled into a crescent shape, it's formed to mimic a roll. Because the product uses laminated dough, it naturally tastes as if someone buttered the product.
"On the in-store bakery/deli side, this product sold great because our customers wanted to market something new and unique," George Caparos says. In fact, one of the company's customers ordered 25,000 cases of the product just one month after it was launched.
For its next product launch, Gold Standard Baking strayed from conventional thinking and developed a product made from croissant dough that had the texture and mouthfeel of a bagel chip. Croissant Crisps™ most closely resemble a churro, but they contain a filling twisted into a strip of croissant dough. The company developed this product to serve convenience stores and coffee shops.
"Instead of selling a croissant that everyone else makes, and that leads to a price war, we look to create things that we can package and market differently," Yianny Caparos states. "That way our customers have something new and unique to take to the consumer."
To manufacture its new products as well as its existing line of croissants, Gold Standard Baking upgraded its manufacturing facility by installing an automated laminated dough line. In searching for the ideal line, the company defined three needs: flexibility, precision and durability.
After an eight month review process that consisted of international travel, countless meetings and innumerable tests, the company decided to purchase a Rademaker croissant line. The ushaped laminated dough line automates the entire manufacturing process from the dough hopper to the forming of the croissant. This advancement in technology is a far cry from the company's old production line. "Before, we had somebody smear butter into templates, and then someone took the templates and laminated the butter in by hand," George Caparos says.
Besides automating the production process, the new line also provides the company with the flexibility it needs to continually innovate the croissant category. The line's flexibility is derived from a unique drop-down conveyor located after the dough has been extruded, laminated and cooled.
When running its standard croissants, products are formed in a traditional croissant manufacturing method. However, for its new products such as butterflake croissant rolls and Croissant Crisps™, a drop-down conveyor automatically drops the products to a separate conveyor running perpendicular to the line. This conveyor transports products to a separate series of formers and moulders that can shape the dough to accommodate the company's new and unique products.
Less than two years into the new owners' tenures at Gold Standard Baking, the company already has invested heavily into new equipment and research and development. And, this represents only part of the company's plan to propel the bakery forward. Currently, the company produces only thaw-and-sell products, but it has plans to invest in a freezer to capture market share in the frozen dough category.
The company also plans to increase its exposure in alternative channels such as convenience stores and in-store bakeries/delis. However, one area that the company refuses to expand into is non-laminated dough products. "We don't want to be the big baker that supplies everything," Yianny Caparos says. "But we do want to become a decent size baker that supplies high-quality laminated dough."
The company is banking on its commitment to innovative products and equipment to realize this goal.