“There are a lot of bakeries out there just like us, and we’re all making similar products,” Bob Calise, Calise & Sons Bakery Inc.’s vice president, says. “Our goal is to differentiate ourselves from everyone else.”
Easier said than done. The Northeast and New England regions are flooded with intermediate sized bakeries that produce specialty breads and rolls. This situation begs the question, “How is one bakery different from its rival?”
The easy answer: quality, consistency and service—all areas that Mike Calise, Calise & Sons Bakery’s president, says the company excels at. The hard to find answer, though, is hidden in the walls of the Lincoln, R.I.-based bakery and out on its distribution routes. Simply put, Calise & Sons Bakery is flexible, smart and innovative enough to stay ahead of rival bakeries with similar product lines.
The grandfather of the current owners, Bob and Mike Calise, founded Calise & Sons Bakery in 1908. The bakery started as a retail operation, making door-to-door sales of Italian bakery foods. In the early 1970s, the current ownership took over and changed the strategy of the bakery, focusing on wholesale distribution to restaurants. This business boomed, and the company went through a series of expansions and moves that brought the company to its Lincoln location, and a 67,000-sq.-ft. plant that houses four production lines for the manufacturing of specialty rolls and breads.
The company’s history, like its products, is rather common for the Northeast and New England markets. However, the company’s operations are atypical, relying on a combination of flexibility and redundancy—two attributes that rarely go together. Calise & Sons Bakery possesses these attributes, and uses them to excel in four distinct areas: business diversity, manufacturing, innovation and distribution. These areas differentiate Calise & Sons Bakery in a crowded marketplace.
| Calise & Sons Bakery bought a new horizontal mixer to accommodate increased business. |
Calise & Sons Bakery’s sales are mixed between many large accounts in multiple channels. Although this sometimes creates complexities on the distribution dock, this diversity allows the company to succeed despite twists and turns in the industry and with the bakery’s clients. For example, the company recently lost a significant piece of business due to a client’s consolidation of vendors. “We were doing about
$2.5 million in sales with the company,” Bob Calise says, “and our sales went down for the three weeks after we lost that business.”
However, Calise & Sons Bakery’s diversified client list allowed the company to rebound almost immediately, and after the initial three weeks, the company never recorded another sales loss due to the lost client. The company’s quick rebound is attributed to its diverse customer base, which allows the company to become a category leader in multiple channels.
The company’s client portfolio is divided between direct store delivery (DSD) accounts, private label, partnerships with wholesale bakeries and distributor-based deliveries of frozen and par-baked products. The company’s unique relationship with two of the largest wholesale bakeries in the country has boosted the company’s sales and reach. Each of these relationships offers ample benefits to Calise & Sons Bakery and its partners. These two partnerships, combined with the company’s 35 DSD routes and a growing frozen and parbaked business, provide ample breathing room when certain segments of the market stagnate or fall off completely.
Although Calise & Sons Bakery’s diversified client portfolio allows the company to weather stormy conditions, the company’s varied client roster has the potential to create manufacturing, packaging and storage challenges. The bakery overcomes these challenges through a manufacturing facility that stresses flexibility and redundancy.
| Calise & Sons Bakery produces stamped and sheeted rolls. |
Ed Fraschetti of The Perfect Score Co. served as project manager when Calise & Sons Bakery moved into the new facility. “The goal was to be very flexible,” Mike Calise says. “If we need to change over, or if we have a breakdown, we can switch our production lines’ flows through conveyor transfers.”
The company’s 67,000-sq.-ft. facility contains four production lines: three roll lines and one bread line. The company stores its white flour in two KB Systems 120,000-lb. flour silos, and buys bagged wheat and whole wheat flour for the company’s growing whole wheat business.
The company’s roll line No. 1 is a picture of flexibility and redundancy. The line was installed in 2000 and its makeup section contains machinery to make both stamped and sheeted rolls, and panned and hearth products. More importantly, the line handles these tasks with minimal changeover times.
A Peerless horizontal mixer feeds dough to the Adamatic roll line, where an 8-pocket divider forms dough balls, which traverse through an intermediate proofer before stamping or sheeting. After makeup, products are either panned or automatically placed on peel boards. The company changes its makeup and panning on the fly, between production runs.
After final proofing, products on roll line No. 1 are scored by either a water splitter for diagonal cuts, or a Perfect Score scorer for straight cuts. The line’s tunnel oven is 13 ft. wide by 100 ft. long and contains a combination loader that automatically loads panned and hearth rolls. Exiting the oven, products pass through a multi-tiered conveyor system that includes a depanner for panned rolls and a bypass conveyor for hearth rolls.
Line No. 2 is similar to line No. 1, except line No. 2 only produces sheeted rolls. After makeup, the line feeds either line No. 1’s proofer and oven, or manual roll-in proof boxes. The company has the ability to run both lines simultaneously or independently.
| Calise & Sons Bakery distributes its branded products on 35 DSD routes. |
Line No. 3 was installed this year, and is an exact duplicate of line No. 1. The line accommodates both sheeted and stamped rolls, but only features a makeup line. After products are formed, they are manually transferred to a roll-in proof box, and then baked in a 13 ft. wide by 80 ft. long tunnel oven. Calise & Sons Bakery also operates a small specialty bread line that contains a makeup line and a 40-ft. triple deck oven.
The company packages its products on two UBE packaging lines and a Formost packaging line. The company installed its second UBE line this year to accommodate a sales increase of sliced products. A specially designed conveyor system provides a flexible packaging solution for the company’s varied production. The conveyor allows the packaging operator to dictate which lines feed which packaging line or the blast freezer.
From makeup to packaging, Calise & Sons Bakery has constructed a plant that changes products, speeds and flow at the push of a button. This flexibility allows the company to participate in multiple channels with a broad product roster.
Besides manufacturing flexibility, Calise & Sons Bakery also places an intense focus on sanitation. “We pride ourselves on having one of the cleanest facilities of any bakery in the United States,” Mike Calise says. “If you want to be in the food business, you have to start with a clean facility.”
For the last three years, Calise & Sons Bakery has been rated Superior in biannual American Institute of Baking inspections. The company’s sanitation program calls for around the clock sanitation, with heavy-duty cleaning reserved for Tuesdays and Saturdays, which are off days for the bakery.
Calise & Sons Bakery is modest about its ability to create and launch new products. The company fully recognizes that it cannot compete with big bakeries in terms of massive launches backed with massive marketing programs, but the company can compete on a smaller scale with competing regional bakeries.
For example, the company records strong numbers on a line of whole wheat Kaiser and sub rolls. “Nobody else was putting these types of products on the market from a bakery our size in our region,” Bob Calise says. The company launched a whole wheat Kaiser roll five years ago, and although initial sales were soft, changing bread trends have turned the product, and subsequent whole wheat line extensions, into big business for the bakery.
Although whole wheat products are turning in great sales numbers, the company’s main seller is a Kaiser roll it calls a Bulkie Roll under the Calise & Sons brand name. In recent years, the company has focused on building its brand name in the New England and Northeast markets. The company also participates in the par-baked channel, but does so cautiously. “A lot of the par-baked business is cheap business, and unless you have volume, it’s tough to make a profit,” Bob Calise says. “Our focus is on specialty products that have decent volumes and profitable price points.”
Calise & Sons Bakery’s final area of distinction surfaces in the distribution of products through its 35 DSD routes. Similar to most bakeries its size, the company delivers products five days a week, with off days on Wednesday and Sunday. Two years ago, some of the company’s senior executives visited stores on the off days for several weeks and were less than satisfied with the level of stock at the delis and in bread aisles. After this exercise, the company enacted an off day pull-out program. Although not unique in the baking industry, Bob Calise says that they are the only regional bakery of comparable size that services stores seven days a week.
On Wednesday and Sunday, the company’s route supervisors visit each store on its 35 distribution routes and put up back stock to assure the Calise & Sons brand is always in business. The large wholesale bakery distributor that carries the Calise & Sons brand also uses this pull-out strategy on off days. The company attributes significant sales increases to this strategy, and credits the plan for making the Calise & Sons brand a major player in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and other markets in the Northeast.
This practice, as well as the company’s diverse portfolio, manufacturing flexibility and innovation, distinguish Calise & Sons Bakery from a sea of competition in the Northeast and New England markets. The company says it will continue to focus on these four core areas while building its sales through branded opportunities. To accommodate planned future growth, the company already has started thinking about expanding its facility. Coming up on the company’s centennial anniversary, Calise & Sons Bakery has exhibited a knack for standing out in almost every aspect of its operations.