A Perfect 10
by Dan Malovany
Depending on the competition, winning five out of 10 times is not bad, seven out of 10 might be considered pretty good and nine out of 10 is often a hot streak.
That’s still not enough for Farzad Mohebbi, president and CEO of Papa Pita, West Jordan, UT.
“My goal has been to make a great product at a fair price, and I believe we accomplish that to an nth degree at Papa Pita,” he explained. “If I take my product to 10 potential customers for cuttings, I want 10 out of 10 to pick my product over my competition. That’s a high bar to set. And then, I would like to produce it most efficiently as possible, tack on a fair margin and do my part in getting that in consumers’ hands because it’s the best product at the best price. That’s what sets us apart from the competition.”
Papa Pita strives for perfection along with an increasingly diversified product line and geographic expansion that fueled 30 to 50% annual growth during the past five years. About 75% of sales come from retail with the remainder from foodservice. Its products can be found from the Midwest through the Rocky Mountain states and along the West Coast as well as in Alaska and Hawaii. Most of its products are delivered fresh within an 800-mile distance from its bakery via independent distributors, although the company operates its own direct-store-delivery routes in Utah, Nevada and Idaho.
In addition to branded baked goods, the company also produces private label items. Its fundamental strategy involves offering premium products such as its best-selling wide-panned multigrain bread at prices slightly higher than private label but substantially lower than its competitors. All consumers, no matter what their incomes, should have access to quality, better-for-you products that feature whole grains and as clean a label as possible, according to Mr. Mohebbi. That’s why Papa Pita places one of its key slogans — “healthy made delicious” — on all of its branded packages.
“I believe what we have is far better than what’s out there, and it could meet consumers’ demands because people are hungry for a better product at a better price,” he said. “If you can create a better Starbucks with a better flavor and 30 to 40% lower prices, I guarantee that you will succeed.”
Bubba’s, Maya, Great Grains
Founded by Mr. Mohebbi’s father 30 years ago, Papa Pita today specializes in flatbreads, tortillas, bagels, variety breads and more.
In addition to its popular pitas, the bakery’s flatbread portfolio includes sandwich thins, naan, pizza crusts and lavash in all shapes and sizes under the Papa Pita brand, which sports an image of Mr. Mohebbi’s grandfather as its logo.
When Mr. Mohebbi joined the family business in 1998, he introduced bagels to Salt Lake City. Selling bagels under the Papa Pita name didn’t make sense, so the company began branding them as Bubba’s.
Soon afterward, the bakery diversified further, rolling out Maya’s tortillas, named after his daughter. It then added Great Grains breads. The company also sells Thinwich flat round breads, Bubba’s Skinny bagels and Wrapido Wraps.
Most recently, the company ventured into the sweet goods category by rolling out Bubba’s cake donuts, made in Papa’s Pita’s old bakery in Salt Lake City and packaged per dozen in an overwrapped paperboard tray with a 14-day shelf life. Bubba’s is now the company’s breakfast brand. Not surprisingly, the line’s leading seller is not a traditional chocolate, glazed or powdered sugar donut. It’s toasted coconut.
Throughout the years, Papa Pita didn’t spend much time on packaging. In fact, the company’s products came in clear packaging with a label slapped on them, giving them what Dustin Bakker, national sales director, called a “small-time bakery look.”
“A lot of people laugh about the good ol’ days when we had stickers on our bread bags,” Mr. Bakker recalled.
During the past two years, Papa Pita worked with Barth Packaging to upgrade its brand to improve its shelf appeal. Scott Barth, the company’s president, met with Mr. Mohebbi to comprehend his approach to the market, then developed packaging that reflected the bakery’s vision.
“He came out here for two days and worked until 11 p.m. and around my schedule to understand what’s in my head and how to transform our product line,” Mr. Mohebbi said. “He just nailed it perfectly.”
The bakery’s packaging today is united under four pillars — fiber, whole grain, low-calorie and protein declarations — that support the company’s “healthy made delicious” campaign.
The bakery also puts “To live well is to eat well” on the front of every bag. “We believe in that concept,” he noted. “We brought all of our brands under one banner and created a type of packaging that informs consumers of all of the products’ health and nutritional attributes.”
Each bag also declares “No HFCS. Transfats. Cholesterol.” “We threw away all of those things that should not be in bread to begin with,” he explained. “We came up with the cleanest label possible that did away with all of those terrible things that are in bread products; 95% of our product is all-natural and doesn’t contain a maximum amount of calories. We maximize fiber and whole grains in our products.”
On each bag is the Papa Pita guarantee. “If you’re not satisfied 100%, you’ll get your money back,” he added.