For Turano Baking Co., Berwyn, Ill., its family namesake, Turano, and brand is a household word in the Chicago metropolitan area. Moving into its 50th year in 2012, the family-owned and operated bakery has very successfully sailed into the 21st century and into the national bakery scene. Its progressive style keeps its tasty Italian/European breads, sliced breads, buns, rolls, sandwich breads and specialties (such as its signature 2-lb. rustic round Pane Turano loaf) in the minds of the local community and now, in the national consciousness.

Continuing to follow European traditions to bake the freshest, top-quality Ciabatta, Focaccia, Chicago-style French breads, hearth-baked peasant breads, sliced breads and rolls with artisan quality, the Turano family has grown, and management is carefully and thoughtfully “passing the torch” onto Generation Three. Practically raised in the bakery, the third generation knows what it’s doing. Sharing favorite family recipes from past generations, the company now operates four production facilities, distributes nationally and maintains authentic time-tested techniques to ensure that delicious, old-world flavor. Yet it does so with sophisticated, customized production equipment and high-speed technology.

Turano Baking’s product line has grown extensively throughout the years. Its enormous line of 450 stock-keeping units (SKUs), including specialty breads and rolls, is delivered fresh daily throughout Chicagoland, southern Illinois, Wisconsin and northwest Indiana and parts of Iowa as well as across the United States on a frozen basis.

Today, 90% of the company’s business is devoted to foodservice bakery products and 10% is in retail. The local fresh delivery business breakdown comprises 75% in foodservice and retail comprises 25%. The Turanos have 90 truck routes in the Chicagoland area and 10 in the Milwaukee area. Products for national distribution are handled via food distributors, retailers and both large and small restaurant chains.

Shelf life varies with the product; the fresh-baked bulk items have a one-day shelf life, the retail products have a five- to 10-day shelf life and the packaged foodservice products typically last five days.

Beyond the Berwyn production facility headquarters, Turano Baking operates an additional frozen products plant in Bolingbrook, Ill., and recently opened facilities in Villa Rica, Ga., and Orlando, Fla. The Berwyn headquarters also incorporates Mamma Susi’s, a popular storefront bake shop, named after the family’s matriarch, where visitors can buy classic Italian pastries, cookies, freshly baked bread and other treats that are baked in-house and by hand.
Some of Turano Baking’s newest products, introduced in the fall of 2011, consist of garlic bread and garlic parmesan bread in six-color printed bags; and croutons in Asiago cheese, Ciabatta, Pesto and Bruschetta varieties, packed in brightly printed 4.5-oz. standup bags.

Partnerships back in the day
Since 1962, the dynamic company has crafted up more and more varieties of fully-baked and now baked/frozen breads and rolls. Bakery founder Mariano Turano, born in Calabria, Italy, grew up in a community with a stone oven on which his family baked breads. He used his early baking skills to bake bread during World War II, and came to the United States for the first time in 1955. A few years later, he moved to this country, struggling to make a living, speak the new language and build a future for his family, which includes sons Renato, Umberto and Giancarlo. He held various jobs, such as those in his brother’s grocery store, often baking in the store oven.

His artisan-style bread became so popular that Mariano began delivering to homes, transporting the bread by car, developing a dedicated clientele and long list of loyal friends. The business kept growing and he was able to purchase an existing bakery in Chicago that had been called Campagna. He kept the name and opened for business as Campagna Bakery, Mario Turano and Sons. In 1965, he and his brothers opened a 2,000-sq.-ft. bakery in Berwyn, with a maximum output of 200 loaves of bread per day.

“My grandfather initially opened with the intention to meet his then-current neighborhood demand,” explains Lisa Turano, vice president, legal. “He had tremendous foresight. Grandfather’s business was really relationship-based. People would literally come in to have coffee at the bake shop and buy a pound of cookies and two loaves of bread. He was really building many relationships.”

From coast to coast or ‘crust to crust’
In the 1970s, the Berwyn bakery expanded westbound and eastbound, and Mariano’s sons Renato, Umberto and Giancarlo, began managing the business, nurturing their father’s vision. The brothers then decided to take on the wholesale market and also launched Mamma Susi precooked, panned Focaacia pizzas. Customer demand prompted the brothers to make their tempting breads available in neighborhood grocery stores. They also installed a pair of flour silos that can each hold 100,000 lb. of product, and in 1985, they enlarged the plant again to make par-baked breads for national distribution.

It is these three second-generation brothers who developed the business into what today can be considered a baking empire, which has annual sales of approximately $200 million.

The bakery continued to run out of space, so it was updated or expanded even further, points out Joe Turano, director of operations-Midwest. “We’ve had at least three major expansions here and there have been minor expansions as well,” he says.

“The next major expansion was from 1999 to 2001, when we were able to expand the production facility east and westward, so we built a new building and added two more production lines, which doubled our total output and also doubled the size of our shipping dock. The biggest gain there was being able to have three transport dock doors for the large trailers so that we could easily accommodate deliveries and shipments in semi trucks.”

Customers outside of Turano Baking’s daily delivery reach were also demanding more and more. So in the 1990s, Renato, Umberto and Giancarlo also added the Bolingbrook location (known within the company as Turano-Knead Dough Baking Co.) on 10 acres of land. Now a 220,000-sq.-ft facility, Bolingbrook has two production lines initially and plenty of cold-storage capacity and freezer space that allowed Turano Baking to move into the frozen business in a big way. Within five years, three more lines went into the Bolingbrook facility, which now provides full-baked products including bread sticks, premium hamburger buns and premium European baguettes, submarine rolls and dinner rolls.

Approximately 95% of the product made in the Bolingbrook location is frozen and sold nationwide, so all frozen shipments, including those from Berwyn, originate out of Bolingbrook, says Joe Turano.

Laughs Lisa Turano, “Our fathers have taken the business across the country, from crust-to-crust, so-to-speak. When my grandfather first purchased the bakery in Berwyn, he initially opened it with the intention of meeting the then-current neighborhood demand. He truly was a visionary. But I don’t think he could have predicted what this bakery was going to become.”

Southern flavor
Expansions outside of Illinois took place in 2008 and 2009, when the company opened production plants in Georgia and Florida, respectively. Both of the expansion opportunities arose at the same time, says Giancarlo Turano II, national sales manager. “The Florida facility ended up opening a year later than Georgia,” he says.

Why have two plants in the South?

“The thinking was customer-driven,” he says. “Georgia was an opportunity to not only serve a specific customer that really helped us grow into that facility but logically, it made sense to expand there and serve the Southeast and Southern portions of the United States. The Georgia facility really is a frozen extension of our Chicago plants.”

Able to generate 100 million lb. of bread each year, the Villa Rica, Ga., plant provides another shipping point geographically, which was part of the plan.
“We have two production lines there so far,” says Giancarlo Turano II. “The [bun] plant in Florida was also customer-driven, because there is a geographic need to be in Orlando. The plan was just to have one facility in the southeast, but two different opportunities arose. Orlando serves some major quick-service restaurants with one high-speed bun line, and McDonald’s is the anchor.”

Turano Baking is gaining popularity in Georgia and the Southeast, especially with its artisan and European style of products, he points out. The area also welcomed a new site with the chance for more job openings.

“We’re selling more and more product there each year,” Giancarlo Turano II mentions. “The customers have sophisticated palettes, and are looking for higher quality and unique breads.”

Currently on a unit basis, the Berwyn location accommodates 30% of the total output, and Bolingbrook contributes about 25%, estimates Joe Turano. Georgia adds another 25% of total output and Florida 20%. “The southern facilities have allowed us to introduce high-speed pan breads, traditional and premium pan breads and high-speed hamburger buns for quick-service and retail outlets,” he says.

Growing by the minute
Back to Berwyn. The headquarters location, also known as Campagna-Turano Bakery, now occupies 185,000 sq. ft. of production space. It houses six production lines that churn out 150 to 200 SKUs overall and produces 150 SKUs fresh daily. Three of the lines are fully automated and three are semi-automated. All of the facility’s packaging is performed in-line with production. “We expanded this plant several times,” Joe Turano says.

“We’ve been mass-producing the Pane Turano, which helped build the company, on a fully automated basis for 12 years,” explains Joe Turano. “Before that, it was made semi-automatically with some hand work involved for rack proofing and manually pressing of the dough. We built a fully automatic production line to produce here in Berwyn in 2000.”

Staffed with 407 employees, the Berwyn location processes up to 1 million lb. of flour each week and nearly 1.5 millions lb. of dough each week. Operating seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with shutdown hours that vary throughout the week depending on what’s being produced, the plant and headquarters site primarily serves a seven-day fresh-delivery system, says Joe Turano.

“In fact, all four facilities run at least five days a week. We service 50 states, one way or another with our lineup,” he points out. “We’re starting to grow the retail product line on a state-by-state basis. We ship product from Berwyn to the cold storage facility in Bolingbrook each day to freeze.”

A fully functional kitchen at the Berwyn office also recently enjoyed an upgrade of appliances, marble counters and cabinet space. This is where corporate chef Paul Brigante makes lunches, tests new recipes and new products, produces videos for the company’s website featuring dishes he develops throughout the year, and teaches recipes so that the whole family will be coming back for seconds. A product innovator who has been with Turano Baking for nearly 20 years, Brigante assists restaurant customers in developing or improving menus. “Paul does a tremendous job of menu designing and consultation, so we bring customers in to meet him and he’s able to introduce our products in tandem with our route sales people and our local sales team,” Lisa Turano adds. Another advantage that Joe Turano points out is the company’s staff of employees. “Our employees and management team are wonderful,” he says. “Our management team has been with the company for years and has grown with the company as we’ve grown. The employees are extensions of the family.”

Automating artisan
Turano Baking is also blossoming with new technology, electronic processes, social media and other contemporary developments. For example, it’s creating some new artisan products on high-speed lines, says Joe Turano.

“Perhaps the term ‘automated artisan’ is a better way to describe it,” he says. Technology is catching up with hand-crafted processes, and the company has been able to automate some of the things that could only be done by hand earlier.

“It was a major goal to reproduce our original Pane Turano [2-lb.] automatically,” recalls Giancarlo Turano II. “The bread used to be processed by hand. Now, that’s automated. Artisan to me is a quality indicator—it isn’t a typical sub roll or hamburger bun—it takes old-world techniques and recipes and creates something unique, top quality. But it can be automated, because there’s no way you can create some products by hand in the kinds of volumes we need. We can make something special using automation.”

The driving force behind strategies like this came from family patriarch and company owner Mariano Turano, he adds. “Our grandfather knew the company would be able to expand into a frozen basis, but the technology wasn’t there at the time. He knew it would catch up. One of our fathers’ and uncles’ goals was to invest in the technology to automate some of these processes so that we could maintain the quality of the product and make it available to the whole country.”

In fact, Mariano Turano remained as the chairman of the board until he passed away in 1989, Lisa Turano remembers. “He was made chairman in 1984 and still came in to work every day, still held an office, still met with our fathers and had great ideas. It was their fortune to have him, and it’s ours to have them.”

Beyond bread
The second-generation—Tony (Umberto), Ron (Renato) and Giancarlo—have artfully put a succession plan into place with the third generation, which includes a large lineup of cousins, brothers and sisters.

“We’re implementing this plan gradually, and our fathers and uncles are very supportive of it,” Giancarlo Turano II explains. “They want to see it happen.”
Generation Two has blended a brisk bakery business with family, tradition, quality and customer service, which will remain the foundations of the business, adds Joe Turano.

“QSV² has always been our motto, which stands for Quality, Service, Value, Variety. The motto was created by our dads and uncles for the company’s 25th anniversary. Since then, we have been living and operating with that motto. Customers and family always come first, and we have the best role models you can imagine.”

He says the management team takes its fathers’ and uncles’ advice and their guidance quite seriously and appreciates their patience.

“They give us the space to make our own decisions,” Joe Turano says. “We lead our departments as we need to. We’re very fortunate that they’re working with us along the way, so that we can learn and take the opportunities.”

Generation Three says their fathers and uncles have wonderful ideas and experience.

“They drive a lot of our product development,” notes Joe Turano. “They have vision, just like our grandfather, and have developed the company to be ready for the marketplace today. We’re very fortunate to be in this position.”

The second-generation brothers were ahead of their time with various product introductions. The second product they introduced at the retail market was Mamma Susi pizza, recalls Giancarlo Turano II. “They started growing that part of the business through grocery markets. But back then, they didn’t know that frozen pizza would become what it is today. They knew that a lot of our variety breads and submarine rolls would have a place in the market, but it was a matter of American tastes catching up to those of certain other parts of the world.”

Some of the company’s new value-added products, such as the croutons, incorporate dramatic new bag graphics. The products aim to take the unique breads Turano Baking is known for and use them in different ways.

“We’re expanding beyond bread, into value-added product lines,” Giancarlo Turano II emphasizes. “It has been very successful so far. The retail market here in Chicago has accepted our brand for being a quality bread in general. Now, we’re offering another upgrade, with artisan croutons in three flavors that are made of our Ciabatta and Focaccia breads. The garlic breads are interpretations of what the sort of flavors we look for and the packaging is all new.”

Top trends
Top sellers include the French breads, Ciabatta and peasant Italian breads, but hamburger buns are equally popular, as are the bakery’s premium hamburger buns and baguettes. Still, the third-generation Turano management team isn’t afraid to jump into new trends. It sees the need for lower-calorie products, pretzel breads, breads that lend themselves to more flavors and better-for-you, healthier products.

“These are a few directions in which we see things going,” Giancarlo Turano II points out. “Just trying to add a bit of eye appeal and more value through unique flavor profiles is key.”

There’s a need for lighter, airier products that are tender to the bite, continues Joe Turano. “We get a lot of requests for things that are lighter. People want to consume less per serving but still have their bread. They also want more whole grain, which is a trend in Europe, where European consumers accept more grains or whole wheat in a regular, standard product, without it being 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain. And we’re also going to see a lot of hybrid-type products in the next five years. Our whole-wheat flour output is in double digit growth each year.”

Now that it’s turning 50, Turano Baking will celebrate with its customers and employees all year-long. Product development and customer service have always been its focus, and the family has always supported product development. “It’s what drives the company,” concludes Joe Turano. We’ve developed versatile product categories for quick service, causal dining, fine dining restaurants and hotels. We have the dedication necessary for whatever that type of product is coming next, and our sales force is very multifaceted. For the future, we expect to keep producing the quality we always have, to continue to develop new products and drive our company. There are many opportunities with national distribution as it continues to grow.”

Sharing a lot of amusing stories, the third generation of Turanos have fun together managing the bakery.

“It has always been our life,” says Joe Turano. “We worked in different positions, and learned various jobs. What’s great is that no one forced or pushed us into working in this business. We were encouraged to do other things, but somehow, we all came back here.”

Lisa Turano agrees: “Our dads raised us and gave us all wings. Alternatively, we all grew roots and stayed here because the nine of us all have something very different to contribute.”