Bakers, cake decorators and operators can monitor their performance on the production floor through an electronic display panel that tracks production of desserts and sweet goods as they’re made.


Built for expansion

Just Desserts invested millions of dollars moving production from its aging and cramped operating Oakland facility into a renovated 75,000-sq-ft building located on 7 acres in nearby Fairfield, CA, a short drive from Napa Valley. The SQF Level 2-certified facility opened in May 2015 — a short six weeks after closing the Oakland operation — and is specially designed with separate storage areas for properly handling and segregating organic, vegan and allergen ingredients.

The brownfield bakery — which is USDA Organic Certified through California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) — also houses an 11,600-sq-ft freezer that’s three times larger than the one at Oakland. The extra capacity allows the bakery to freeze its products — which contain no artificial colors, preservatives or trans fats — almost immediately after packaging to seal in freshness. In-store bakeries just need to slack out the labor-saving desserts and sweet goods and put them on display.

During 2016, in its next phase of investment, the company purchased a new Tonelli planetary mixer and a Babbco impingement oven to double throughput, lower cost per unit and, most importantly, strengthen consistency and heighten quality from batch to batch of its delicate bites and other products. “Getting the mixing and the baking right was the most important part of the process,” Mr. Mendes said.

To compare the original production line with the new PLC-controlled oven that can handle up to 150 different recipes while reducing bake time by 35% from the older direct-fired oven, Mr. Mendes used the analogy of an old-time television set. “It’s like going from black-and-white to color,” he said. “On the older oven, you could only use temperature and time to adjust the quality of the bake. Having the added capabilities available of the impingement baking controls on the new oven allows us to modify the process in real time. We can also interface remotely with Babbco to have their engineers monitor the oven performance, allowing us to obtain greater efficiencies while maintaining quality.”

During the next 18 months, the company will be looking to further automate depanning, cooling, decorating and packaging. While the first stage focused on maximizing the quality and consistency of current and new items, Mr. Mendes anticipated the next round of upgrades would likely provide an even greater return on investment by reducing labor and increasing yield in the packaging and decorating areas.

Such savings will allow Just Desserts to bolster its marketing initiative to build its in-store bakery brand, educate consumers about organic and vegan and expand its national presence within the in-store bakery channel even more.

Read on to continue the tour.