With help from Europastry, Wenner Bakery goes beyond frozen dough

by Dan Malovany
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Wenner Bakery’s signature Knots travel toward the packaging department.

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. — Opposites often attract because they complement each other so well. Maybe that’s why Wenner Bakery’s hand-twisted garlic rolls called Knots go so nicely with totally finished, thaw-and-serve donuts called Dots from Europastry.

This seemingly unlikely pairing of sweet and savory baked foods came together in 2015 when Barcelona, Spain-based Europastry acquired Wenner Bakery, headquartered in Ronkonkoma, NY. Together, like flipsides of a coin, these two signature products reflect how tradition merges with innovation in what the company now calls “tradnovation.” That’s where the inspiration of developing craftsman-style baked foods employed with the latest in technology takes commercial bread- and pastry-making to the next level, said Alberto Alvarez, marketing director.

Over the past two years, Wenner bolstered its operational capabilities by building a 300,000-square-foot bakery in New Brunswick, N.J., which now houses three lines that can crank out up to 32,000 garlic Knots an hour as well as frozen dough, baguettes, hoagies and a plethora of specialty Old World bread and rolls.

From left, leading Wenner Bakery’s new initiatives are Patrick Gallagher, vice-president sales; Nancy Coppola, vice-president sales operations; Alberto Alvarez, marketing director; Michelle Burnett, COO; Ben Rizzitello, retail marketing manager, and Oriol Tey, president.

The new bakery complements already existing Wenner facilities in Ronkonkoma and Bayport, N.Y., and provides extensive opportunities for growth over the next five years.

The result of its continued long-term investments in automation translates into what the bakery refers to as “massclusivity.” That term describes how the combined companies turn out large amounts — or mass produce — exclusive, signature baked foods for food service, in-store bakery and c-store customers in the United States and worldwide.

Or from a sheer numerical perspective, Mr. Alvarez pointed out, massclusivity means developing the operational capability to produce up to 170 million hand-tied garlic Knots and 800 million fully finished sweet Dots on an annual basis.

“Our processes are engineered so that our products are available for everybody,” he explained. “Our products are made for all tastes, for all walks of life, for any time of day — all created in their own unique way. Each recipe meticulously follows selecting the best ingredients.”

Mr. Alvarez also noted that Wenner, which maintains its well-known name in the United States, and Europastry share a common bond in their passion for baking.

“We’re perfectionists, lovers of details, sometimes obsessive,” he observed. “Above all, we are bakers.”

Wenner Bakery offers a full line of products that inlcudes bread, sweet goods and pastries.

Two of a kind
For Oriol Tey, Wenner’s president, the bonding of the businesses is a genetic match.

“Blending the two companies has been a very easy task for me,” he said. “When we develop a new product, we develop it first just as tradition tells us this product must be, then we use production technology that enables maximum efficiency and flexibility while keeping all the qualities of the traditional product. It’s not the other way around. It’s something that is in our DNA.”

Globally, Europastry operates 20 bakeries that serve more than 50 countries on five continents, including some of the largest global retail and food service chain accounts. According to its latest annual report, the privately held company’s net sales rose 7.4% to €560 million ($660 million) in 2016, making it the fifth largest frozen baked foods producer in the world. Although Spain — and central Europe — remain its core market, Europastry’s rapidly expanding international business currently accounts for 35% of annual sales.

Europastry was founded in 1987 by Pere Galles and is still held by his successors. Mr. Galles was a pioneer in developing parbaked bread technology that remains popular around the world today. In fact, this is the reason why innovation is so entrenched inside Europastry’s culture, Mr. Tey said. During the past 30 years, Europastry has been also a leader in technologies like preproofed or ready-to-bake butter croissants, frozen donuts, and clean label fully baked bread. Europastry spends more than $70 million a year in new technology. Moreover, new products represent 5% of total annual sales.

Founded in 1956, Wenner grew from a small family-owned retail storefront in Queens, N.Y., to become one of the nation’s significant producers of frozen dough. Its product portfolio also includes no-proof-needed dough and first-day-fresh dough with a three-day shelf life.

Joining forces with Europastry now allows Wenner to offer a full line of products, including par-baked and frozen fully baked conventional and specialty bread, a wide array of sweet goods and European-style croissants, pastries and Danish. Internationally, Europastry’s portfolio includes more than 2,000 stock-keeping units, of which 400 are available through Wenner Bakery in the United States.

“We’re not just a frozen dough company,” noted Nancy Coppola, vice-president of sales operations, who’s worked at Wenner since 1975. “The perception is changing; we’re a full-service bakery now.”

With its new parent company, Wenner also touts itself as having “European heritage and American soul.” For Mr. Tey, that mantra means merging the best in baking from both continents.

“In Europe, we have the heritage of baked goods from Spain, France and Germany, and we adapt all that knowledge to the American palate,” he said.
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