Across much of today’s bakery industry, two “big picture” megatrends continue to influence purchase patterns and product development: indulgence and clean label.

For some product categories and eating occasions, people have a distinct desire for indulgence. They simply want the best possible eating experience. It’s a reward or a special occasion, and they’re not counting the calories.

But the idea of clean label continues to factor into the public’s food consciousness. More shopper demographics are reading labels, and bakers need to provide clean ingredient decks.

In order to learn more about how bakers are addressing these driving industry influences, we spoke with Carrie-Jones-Barber, CEO, Dawn Food Products, Jackson, MI.



Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: How is Dawn Foods navigating the balance between indulgence and better-for-you trends in today’s bakery industry?

Carrie Jones-Barber: For Dawn, the way in which we innovate, whether it’s indulgent or better-for-you, it has to taste good. That’s critical to us. We’ve been in business for almost 100 years. My dad’s mantra is, “If it doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to sell.” But when the consumer wants something that’s a little healthier, they’re reading the label.


DJP: And along those lines, can you talk about Bakers Truth a little bit?

CJB: That’s our clean label line. No artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives, and no PHOs or high-fructose corn syrup. This product line is also easily integrated into our customers’ offerings with no change to their processes. Right now, the line encompasses mixes and bases for crème cakes, brownies, yeast doughnuts and cake doughnuts. We’re also currently working on fillings. It was designed for any baker to be able to provide a label that is recognizable. The other piece is our technical and market expertise we bring to our customers. Depending on their consumers’ needs, we can take our insights with this product line and help them drive what their consumers are looking for.


DJP: How does Dawn Foods collaborate with its customers?

CJB: At our very core, we have five values, and one of those values is relationships. We believe the most successful companies are the ones that prioritize relationships. We want our team members to come to work every day and think of Dawn as a fun place to work. We’ve got incredible technical knowledge, and when our technical teams go to our customers, they bring ideas. A lot of the time, we take our base ideas and they add to them. It’s a co-creation process. And by having them come to our new Innovation Studio in Jackson, the amount of time spent developing new products is remarkably shortened.


DJP: Another area that ties into indulgence is the idea of “premium” products. How does Dawn help its customer base craft “premium allure” for their products?

CJB: I have always been impressed with the quality of the people that we have at Dawn. They understand where to go to get those “premium” components. Again, it goes back to those relationships—to our technical experts and food technologists. Sometimes, when you think about premium, it’s not just what goes into it, it’s what that product looks like. Not only does the product need to taste good, it must be absolutely stunning.


DJP: Where does Dawn find its inspirations for product ideas or concepts to work on with customers?

CJB: Our research and marketing teams comb through extensive data and are always listening intently to what consumers are saying. Some customers want global inspirations, and we can deliver that—such as “No Passport Required,” one of our 8 key global trends. It might have a little bit of Asian or Mexican fusion. That’s what our teams do. They look for inspired combinations. Our teams do a fantastic job with a global perspective in mind. Also, our publication Batter Up is a way to share these ideas with our customers and talks about the art and business of baking (click here for the Spring 2018 issue).


DJP: Dawn Foods has been around for nearly 100 years. Over the past century, how has the company changed? What’s next in terms of growth?

CJB: Dawn actually started as a small bakery in Jackson, MI. We were a mix company—primarily doughnuts. My dad was a visionary, though, and said, “It should be all about the bakery, not just bakery mixes.” We used to be called the Dawn Donut Company. He changed the name to Dawn Food Products, which gave us that umbrella to be able to provide many more items. Then he began making strategic acquisitions, and we really grew a strong distribution model. I think that’s one of the key ways in which we have changed, because now we can understand the customer all the way from ingredient manufacturing to distribution. Those touchpoints and having those relationships has really been a strong part of our business—and that’s an area where we’re continuing to focus. How will we grow? We have production in Europe, and that’s an important area for us. Focusing on our European growth is a very important part of our business, as well as in Latin America. We’re moving outside of just Mexico and into other South American countries, as well.