Bridor brings French quality to the U.S.

by Dan Malovany
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Bridor brings the culinary essence of classic French artisan baked goods to millions of consumers daily.

In 80 countries, Bridor brings the culinary essence of classic French artisan baked goods to millions of consumers daily. But spreading the taste of France across the world requires a global perspective.

In France, for instance, the traditional croissant is the perfect accompaniment for coffee. No extra butter is necessary. Don’t even ask unless you want to be tagged as a touriste. Then again, they probably know it already. In the States, however, croissants come in all shapes and sizes, filled with chocolate, fruit preserves, cheese, or ham, egg and cheese. A croissant serves as a snack or, in some cases, a substitute for bread, buns, rolls or even an English muffin on a breakfast sandwich.

As a global company, Bridor takes its expertise and adapts its baked goods to local tastes — whether in Japan, India, Brazil or myriad other countries. While sharing the influence of artisan French baking, hopefully beyond fast food in the U.S., tailoring a product line to local cultural tastes is a significant key to the company’s success in so many markets.

Olivier Morel, Bridor USA senior vice-president of sales.

According to Bridor USA senior vice-president of sales, Olivier Morel, the key to growth in the U.S. premium baking industry can be summarized in two words: innovation and quality. Mr. Morel’s 20 years of experience in the specialty foods category around the globe also give him an appreciation of how to best meet customers’ needs.

In the case of Bridor, it’s all about bringing even more of its premium European pastries, croissants and breads to foodservice operators and retail customers. Having just completed a $32 million expansion of its Vineland, NJ, baking facility, he said, “Bridor is on a roll to do just that.”

Baking & Snack: What spurred the expansion for the new laminated line in New Jersey?

Olivier Morel: Our expansion was prompted by continually increased demand from major U.S. operators for our high-quality products. The expansion lets us get closer to our customers and meet their needs — all while delivering the European craftsmanship and quality that sets us apart from other commercial bakers.

Is the new line modeled after production lines that you have in France?

Yes, the line is highly influenced by the lines Bridor has developed in France over the past few years. It was created in collaboration with our European engineers and long-term equipment suppliers, making it very different from and superior to traditional U.S. production lines. It is similar in terms of process but has more flexibility, therefore enabling it to produce a wider range of products.

How did Bridor leverage its global expertise in starting up the new production line?

In addition to creating a production line that mirrors our lines in France, we have brought in experienced Bridor bakery managers from Europe to supervise and train our U.S. staff. We have also brought on a full-time master baker from France to ensure that all current — and future — products are consistently baked to European standards.

How has the U.S. market changed since Bridor came to the States in 2002, and how has Bridor responded to these changes?

One major change that has benefitted Bridor is that while price is still a major factor, more and more of our customers recognize that Americans are willing to pay for premium products. The market has become more health-conscious and more demanding for natural, quality ingredients, often locally sourced, which is another specialty area for Bridor. The U.S. market is also highly driven by innovation. This is an area where Bridor USA excels. In the past year alone, we have introduced several products and have additional launches planned for the coming months.

Everyone talks about health and wellness, so why is the demand for croissants and Viennese pastries so strong in North America?

Food has been and will always be one of life’s simple pleasures. People will always be willing to indulge themselves on baked goods that are “worth it” — meaning that they taste as good as they look and are made with the highest quality, natural, pure ingredients. Consumers are also getting smarter about what they eat, and many realize, for example, that a croissant can contain fewer calories than a muffin. So they can make smart choices to eat the quality foods they desire.

Croissants often contain fewer calories than muffins.

How is Bridor addressing the health and wellness trend and the movement toward snacking throughout the day?

Bridor is fortunate that we have always used quality ingredients, including whole butter, in our products. The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it will require manufacturers to phase out partially hydrogenated oils over the next three years, which may affect our competitors, but not Bridor. Many health experts actually recommend eating small meals or snacks throughout the day, and we offer many mini baked goods to our customers. This is a big trend, and we have other innovative products in the works.

How has the company adjusted its classic croissants and assorted pastries to the American palate?

Americans like laminated dough products such as Danish with fillings. We have developed a range of products to fulfill these needs. Most importantly, our fillings are made in-house with fresh, locally sourced vegetables and fruits, which is also important to the U.S. consumer. Americans love cinnamon, which is hardly known in France, so Bridor USA developed a cinnamon brioche. This is but one example of how we continuously “feed” the American palate with European craftsmanship, made in America.

How are the artisan breads you sell in the U.S. different from what you sell in Europe? Your U.S. product portfolio seems much more diversified.

That is correct because the U.S. market requires more innovation. The operators also value the ease of use, so our soft artisan products come already sliced. It is just the right balance between crust and crumb, resulting in bread that is thinner, easier to eat and less filling — perfectly adapted to the American palate. It could sell in Europe.

Likewise, how does Bridor leverage its global expertise to bring new product concepts to the North America?

The company is based in Brittany, and one of the local traditional specialties is the kouign amann, from the words cake (kouign) and butter (amann). It consists of soft buttery dough topped with a crispy, caramelized sugar coating. The confection is now being made by some top pastry chefs and popping up in bakeries and restaurants. We are currently working on how to bring this item to the American consumers.

Where do you see Bridor USA five years from now?

With our significantly increased production capability in the U.S., Bridor will be a formidable player in the U.S. premium bakery market, just as we are throughout Europe. The bakery market is absolutely shifting toward high-end, premium products, and only a few players have anything close to Bridor’s European baking expertise and production capacity.

What makes Bridor different from other bakeries in the U.S.?

What sets us apart in the States is our ability to deliver European craftsmanship — baking with techniques and quality ingredients as we have for centuries in Europe — with state-of-the-art production capabilities in the U.S..

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