Rise Baking Company operates bakery brands that have been around for as long as 125 years. Founded in 2013, its various divisions provide breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and scores of other products to customers across the country. With collective decades of experience held by its brands and its leaders, the producer has a unique perspective of the industry, challenges faced, and opportunities presented. Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery connected with Marla Cushing, vice president of foodservice with Rise Baking, to learn more.

Jenni Spinner: Could you please tell us a bit about Rise Baking Company—its history, the brands and products under its umbrella, and what makes it stand out from other companies in the space? 

Marla Cushing: Rise Baking Company has been a leader in the industry since 2013 and is the parent company to beloved and trusted brands like Brill, Best Maid, Henry & Henry, and Karp’s. Through our brands, Rise offers an unparalleled portfolio of baked goods and sweet treats, including cookies, muffins, cakes, pies, icings, brownies, crispy bars, and more. And, through recent acquisitions, Rise has been able to grow and flourish into new categories, expanding our portfolio to better serve our customers and exceed expectations.

We offer a robust variety of offerings, formats, and products to address the common foodservice challenges faced by our customers. As a total bakery partner, we’re able to better deliver on exactly what our customers need and enable them to exceed consumer expectations. Our deep understanding of foodservice, menu and flavor trends, labor and cost savings, and back-of-house operations is what sets our brands and service apart.

JS: Then, please tell us a bit about your career—the companies you’ve worked for, your areas of expertise, and what your role is as VP of foodservice. 

MC: I have over 20 years of experience in foodservice, having worked previously at Schwan’s, Pinnacle Foods Corporation, and Technomic, to name a few. And, with my 10+ years working with Rise and its acquired companies, I’ve spent a majority of my career in foodservice, experiencing many of the changes, trends, etc. that have most influenced the industry. As VP of foodservice at Rise Baking Company, I’ve been able to provide insights on improving back-of-house operations and keep a finger on the pulse of foodservice challenges and trends, hearing what our customers need most and ensuring our products meet those demands.

JS: Consumer interests are always evolving—could you please share your perspective on how their tastes and needs have changed in recent years, and how those trends have impacted bakery production? 

MC: Although consumer preferences and trends change and evolve, when it comes to sweet treats and staple bakery offerings, consumers always gravitate toward the classics. While other trends may come and go, classics like chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, and marshmallow crispy bars will remain the favorites of consumers. At Rise, we have perfected our suite of classic baked goods and have an expansive array of flavors and formats. We’ve also seen an increased interest in twists on the classics. Building on classic flavor profiles, adding salted caramel to a chocolate chip cookie or our turning the beloved churro into a cookie are excellent examples of how we are helping operators deliver nostalgic comfort flavors in new and exciting ways. In addition to the classics, we partner with operators to create interesting, limited-time offerings that help to create a buzz and drive traffic to locations for trial.  

Rise inside.jpgJS: How have those consumer interests impacted bakery producers like Rise and its brands, and the range of products they’ve offered? 

MC: While consumer preferences may favor the classic, comfort flavors, and bakery items, one of the ways we’ve adapted our offerings for consumer wants is to increase the convenience of our products. In response to many customers expressing a want for more convenient options, we’ve expanded our brands and have created more convenient options for many of our products, including crispy bars, muffins, cookies, and more. Whether it’s individually wrapped crispy bars or cookies or our variety of Scoop-N-Bake batter, we’ve listened to customer and consumer preferences and found new ways to delight.

JS: Foodservice and retail bakery operations both are experiencing labor shortages—can you share strategies and tools managers might turn to in order to help improve their attraction and retention of talent? 

MC: With lasting impacts from the pandemic and recent economic fluctuations, the foodservice industry has been largely impacted by labor shortages. At Rise, we’ve adapted our offerings to better fit this changed landscape of foodservice. In offering products like already-iced and decorated cakes, freezer-to-oven options, individually wrapped items, and ready-to-serve baked goods, managers can create a more efficient foodservice strategy. Additionally, tailoring our bakery offerings to each customer’s unique needs and challenges can reduce the demand on managers and employees.

JS: Could you please gaze into your crystal ball and let us know any challenges or opportunities bakers might encounter in the coming months? 

MC: Looking ahead to the future of food service and bakery, customers will need their bakery partners to be able to provide time-saving solutions and help optimize back-of-house strategies. In addition, we have continued to see a shift in consumer preferences for cleaner labels, all while maintaining the same great taste and enjoyment they have always loved. And, as younger generations enter the market, there is likely to be a trend towards more global foods and flavors.

With these evolving trends, we are continuously listening to the ever-changing needs and wants of our customers and will continue to find new and better ways to deliver the quality and service we always have.