JSB Industries may not be a recognized household brand, but children in some of the nation’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles Unified and Florida’s Dade and Broward counties, consume JSB’s muffins, bagels, corn bread and Snack’n Loaves daily. School foodservice makes up 40 percent of JSB’s business, and supermarkets and other retailers account for an additional 35 percent. Parents can bring home similar treats that their children enjoy at school from their local supermarkets.
Working to target both children and their parents makes perfect sense for this family-run, wholesale bakery operation. “It’s always been a family business; myself and my three sons are involved. They are running it now and taking it to another plateau,” says Jack Anderson, family patriarch and president of JSB Industries. The company is named for Jack’s three sons, John, Scott and Brian.
New plateaus also are nothing new for the company, which started as a commissary for the family’s sandwich shops in 1980. Eventually, Jack decided to leave the sandwich business and focus solely on wholesale baking. The first plant was only 1,500 sq. ft., and JSB quickly upgraded to a 15,000-sq.-ft. plant in 1986. Expansion came through organic growth and acquisitions; JSB purchased a small bagel company and another wholesale bakery.
JSB purchased its current 85,000-sq.-ft. building in Chelsea, Mass., in 2000. “We were operating out of three locations, and each location was working on its own merit and its own overhead. When the opportunity to buy this building came along, we saw that it could develop into the plant that we needed,” Jack says.
The bakery features four major production lines feeding two packaging rooms serviced by 180 production employees. Each packaging department has the capability of handling two production lines at the same time. Three of the production lines run six days a week and 18 to 24 hours a day. The newest line, installed late last year, runs 12 to 16 hours a day.
The new line includes a proofer and 60-ft. tunnel oven that runs both bagels and muffins. Once the products leave the oven, they go through an ambient spiral cooler, and then into a blast freezer spiral that feeds into a new packaging room.
Strong supplier relationships
For the latest expansion, JSB relied heavily on its partnerships with equipment manufacturers. “We just built a line that cost us in the neighborhood of $2.5 million,” Jack says. “For the latest expansion, we turned to our reliable equipment manufacturers, C.H. Babb and Capway Systems. They’ve been a good source of support in our expansion, and we look for that.”
The bagel line, installed about six years ago, runs 12,000 to 14,000 bagels an hour. Dough is fed through the chunker, divider and former. Then the line applies cornmeal to the bottom of the formed bagels and seeds the top. Employees then transfer them to ovens. “Our bagel is a very rustic, artisan product, so we like a cornmeal bottom. It adds texture,” says Jim Taber, operations manager, bagel production.
Fully baked bagels are about 80 percent of JSB’s bagel business. Raw bagel dough also is produced for retailers to bake off themselves, and makes up the remaining 20 percent of the bagel sales. “One of things we’re looking at in the next 12 to 24 months is upgrading the bagel line to do about 24,000 pieces an hour,” Taber adds. The current bagel line requires about five to six bakers to run it and five to six people in the packaging line.
To respond to its varied customer base, JSB’s new production line allows the bakery to make more than 30 different products daily. All of the production lines are fed from the 75,000-lb. flour silo. The 5,000-sq.-ft. storage freezer holds up to 800 pallets. “We try to turn over every 30 days,” says Brian Anderson, vice president of purchasing. “Right now, we are gearing up for school starting, so we are building up inventory.”
Production and supply strategy
While employees are cross-trained, they are segmented into either bagel or muffin production. “Bakers are product specific. Muffin bakers are only muffin bakers,” Brian says.
“Yeast-raised dough products versus batter are completely different animals, and they have their different skill sets,” Taber adds. “There really is no cross over between the two areas. But, within those areas, everybody is cross-trained.”
With the majority of sales coming from school foodservice, the bakery’s products are in 18 states throughout the country and Puerto Rico. “We strategically try to supply different areas of the country, so that small as well as large systems, like L.A. Unified, get serviced. We’re able to add two pallets for this guy and two pallets for that guy. We are interested in the small systems as well as the large ones,” Jack says.
Through its retail customers, such as Kroger, Stop ‘n Shop and other national supermarket chains, the Anderson’s estimate that their products can be found in all 50 states.
“In the retail stores, it’s probably private label more than it’s our brand,” Jack says. But for every private label product the bakery makes, it makes a similar product with the bakery’s label. “Our identity is becoming more and more established,” he adds.
Expanded product line
The bakery is primarily a muffin and bagel manufacturer, under the Muffin Town and Aesop’s Bagels banners, with 2 million pounds of dough produced every month. Of those 2 million pounds, 1.5 million pounds are muffins and a half million are bagels. About 85 percent of the bakery’s sales come from muffins and corn bread, and the remaining 15 percent is from bagels.
Under the Muffin Town name, JSB offers whole wheat muffins, vitamin-fortified muffins, snack loaves, corn bread, English muffins and donuts. The Aesop’s Bagel banner features baked and raw bagels and Bagel Stuffers™, which are bagels filled with cream cheese or pizza toppings. All JSB products are trans fat-free, and the bakery is focusing on providing more healthful options in all segments, Brian says. “We’re starting a Smart Choice™ whole grain line of products with added vitamins and minerals. When you visit our Web site, www.muffintown.com, you can see photos as well as get nutritional information,” he adds.
For some products, such as English muffins, the bakery outsources production. Partnering with other bakeries led to JSB’s foray into bagels. While dough-based bagels might not seem like a natural product extension for a batter-based muffin producer, the Anderson’s were outsourcing bagel production when the opportunity arose to purchase Aesop’s rather than outsource.
In total, JSB produces about 400 SKUs. “We do have a specialty products line that is really just getting off the ground,” Taber says. “One of our next phases of expansion will be a raw dough pastry line, where we do different raw products that aren’t baked and are flash frozen. That is about 12 to 15 months away.”
Last year’s expansion also included a new test kitchen for R&D, which is extremely important for the bakery’s private label and co-packing business. “It’s one of the values that we really add to our co-packing relationships,” Taber says. “We are so nimble, and we do manufacture so many different kinds of products. We can quickly take a customer’s idea and turn it into production. We’ve developed a really strong team around product development.”
Part of that strong team is the bakery’s personal relationship with vendors and ingredient suppliers. JSB’s R&D staff often sits down with the customer and suppliers to iron out the details of getting the customer’s product idea to market, Taber adds.
“Every year we try to take on a little more,” Jack says. “Muffins are still our nucleus, and we still thrive on the muffin business. We feel that we know as much about the muffin business as anybody because we have been in the business for a long time.”