Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery recently was able to talk to Chris Prociv, vice president marketing and innovation, La Brea Bakery, about optimizing their packaging and some COVID-19 challenges.
Liz Parker: What has La Brea Bakery been doing to optimize their packaging?
Chris Prociv: Safety has always been a top priority for our team at La Brea Bakery, but with elevated safety concerns right now, we’ve dedicated extra time and resources to make sure our customers can be confident in the safety of our breads. Packaging is one initiative that we have prioritized to ensure this safety. At the start of the pandemic, all of our bakeries adopted even more stringent packaging procedures and policies to ensure all employees remain safe and our products remain untainted. In the same vein, our popular Take & Bake bread packaging is designed to incorporate a sealed edge, guaranteeing the bread is untouched from our bakery to the consumer’s kitchen. With sealed, secure packaging, consumers can have peace of mind knowing that our breads are both fresh and safe.
Earlier this year, we also introduced new packaging for our entire artisan bread line, creating more impact with a contemporary design that builds on our past package. The newly designed packaging, with a nod to our brand’s heritage, highlights our brand’s story on the back of the package and displays recipes as well as cheese, wine and beer pairings. All of this was based on suggestions from our consumers in focus groups. Our goal is that the packaging, which is on shelves now in grocery stores nationwide, makes it easier for consumers to quickly identify our breads in-store and on-shelves.
LP: How have they been listening to customer needs as they gravitate towards more take & bake options?
CP: Unsurprisingly, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in sales for our La Brea Bakery Take & Bake bread portfolio. With shoppers looking to make fewer trips to the grocery store, our Take & Bake breads present the perfect opportunity to buy in larger quantities and store in the freezer for later use. These breads, which come in a variety of flavors and bread types, including French Demi Baguettes, French Dinner Rolls and Ciabatta sandwich rolls, come par-baked and take only minutes in the oven to prepare. In recognition of their popularity with consumers, La Brea Bakery has plans to launch additional varieties of our Take & Bake breads in early 2021. Coincidentally we conducted focus groups on our Take & Bake product line in early March right before COVID-19 hit to talk to consumers about the products’ benefits and how to better meet consumer needs. It was there that we learned that most people didn’t know they could freeze our breads if not baked in a few days and therefore keep some on-hand as accompaniments to meals or for sandwiches as needed.
Additionally, to accommodate this increased demand for our La Brea Bakery Take & Bake portfolio, we recently expanded the operations at our Van Nuys bakery in Los Angeles to incorporate automated packaging capabilities and in-line bagging automation. The bakery, which distributes to grocery stores nationwide, is now built to better accommodate both customer and consumer needs while continuing to put the safety of employees and customers first.
LP: What other strategies has LBB employed during this time?
CP: In addition to the growth of our Take & Bake portfolio, we have seen high demand for our packaged sliced sandwich breads, including 2 varieties of gluten-free artisan sliced breads. As a staple in many households, sandwich bread has become increasingly popular during this time. With popular flavors and a five-day shelf life, our retail customers have seen an increase in demand for these SKUs, which are sold at in-store bakeries in grocery stores nationwide. A few La Brea Bakery varieties are also offered on Amazon Fresh and Prime now; as well as on Instacart for same day delivery. No need to worry that you’re not getting fresh bread if you’re ordering online.
Additionally, as retailer and consumer priorities shifted dramatically at the start of the pandemic, we adjusted our internal operations to meet our customer’s needs. We have been working closely with our retail customers to identify their preferred product offerings at this time. Based on the priorities stemming from these conversations, we have adjusted our production to focus on an increase of key, popular artisan breads, allowing us to get our foods to our customers faster.
From a foodservice perspective at the La Brea Bakery Café in Los Angeles, we have been working closely with state and local officials to ensure we are adhering to California state re-opening guidelines. We have implemented stringent cleaning and hygiene guidelines and we are one of the first restaurants to partner with Curative Inc. to offer voluntary COVID-19 test to all employees once a week. We have seen tremendous support from our local community as we continue to offer takeout, delivery and outdoor seating to ensure guests are able to get fresh breads, pastries or a meal to help with cooking fatigue.