CLIFTON, N.J. — For brothers Spiro and Nicolas Sayegh, a little bit of love makes their world go around. After three decades in business, that inspiration for baking allows the two founders and managing directors of International Delights to create a world of difference when producing its top-selling croissants, Danish, muffins, scones, brioche, puff pastry and other fresh and frozen sweet goods.
“We like to say, ‘If Spiro and Nick don’t love it, we don’t make it,’” noted Robyn Spritzer, director of marketing for the Clifton, N.J.-based company. “If it’s not something we enjoy, we’re not going to share it with anyone else.”
Because love is subjective and often changes over time, the bakery focuses not only on new products but also on the constant improvement of existing ones.
“It’s not, ‘This is how you make it, this is how it’s made, and it’s done.’ It’s, ‘How can we make it better; how can we improve the ingredients to make them cleaner in today’s transparent environment to consumers?’” Ms. Spritzer explained. “It’s all about ingredients everyone recognizes. It’s all about taking a good product and making it great and taking a great product and making it excellent.”
The company has compiled a team of five food technologists and two chefs to tweak formulas and develop whole grain pastries or non-G.M.O. sweet goods with fresh fruit and ingredients that leverage the latest trends.
“This is not a bakery,” Spiro Sayegh explained, walking into the R.&D. department. “This is a playground. We come here to have fun.”
Those fresh products are baked for more than 5,000 premier hotels, chefs, delis, caterers and other customers. Its fleet of step vans blanket New York City while a direct-store-delivery system of independent distributors services the surrounding tri-state region from Hartford, Conn., to Montauk, N.Y., and throughout New Jersey to Philadelphia.
“You would be hard-pressed to walk a block in New York City without running into our products,” Ms. Spritzer said.
In fact, International Delights distributes baked foods 365 days a year. Nicolas Sayegh said there was only one time in its 32-year history when the company didn’t make shipments, and that was in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the area. For him, that commitment to service, coupled with executing product quality and showing loyalty to customers, vendors, employees and distributors, remains the heart of the business.
“One of the keys to success in the industry is having a really well-defined mission and to be able to stay strategically focused on what our vision is and when to compromise or pass on fads,” he said.
Because daily delivery accounts for the bulk of its business, International Delights built its 180,000-square-foot bakery eight years ago to combine semi-automation with full-throttle production that the company touts on its web site as “old world meets new — the art of baking and the science of innovation.”
On the artisan side, three Rheon makeup lines rely on short runs and multiple changeovers to feed 16 Revent double rack ovens with a wide assortment of made-from-scratch baked items.
The plant’s highly automated section houses a Rheon line that cranks out 180 croissants a minute. This year, the company plans to foray regionally and nationally with frozen items, including frozen dough, fully baked, pre-proofed and individually wrapped items. During Baking & Snack’s visit, International Delights also was upgrading its Comas line with a new cup denesting system and conveyors that lead into a second tunnel oven to ratchet up its muffin and pound cake production while expanding packaging capacity. Additionally, it recently added a 600-pallet storage freezer that provides the launching pad for the bakery’s next strategic plan.
“We’re getting ready to move big time into frozen dough and frozen baked products,” Nicolas Sayegh said.
From an ingredient perspective, the vertically integrated operation makes its fillings, icings and jams from scratch. It even roasts its own nuts. For the retail market, the company recently introduced its Spread Delights line that includes a chocolate hazelnut and an almond spread as well and raspberry jam with 70% fruit content. Ms. Spritzer noted the single-serve, easy-squeeze stick packs allow consumers to transform traditional baked foods and snacks into gourmet treats to their own preferences.
“Spiro tried raspberries from 14 different sources to create the perfect jam,” Ms. Spritzer said.
Other points of differentiation include sweet and savory fillings produced in-house for its filled croissants, Danish and puff pastries. A proprietary levain system incorporates up to three tons of sourdough a day into dough-based items to enhance flavor, provide cleaner labels and extend shelf life naturally.
Overall, its two fresh brands include high-end iDelights pastries — which come in large and medium sizes for hotels and minis for caterers — and Délices (French for delights) premium artisan collection.
Its individually wrapped, 21-day shelf life Oven Delights serve the convenience market. Classic New York-style pastries are also sold under the Voila! Bakery brand acquired by the Sayeghs four years ago. All products contain no artificial colors, high-fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oil.
“They are individually wrapped because this provides the greatest opportunity for growth and also the potential for wider frozen distribution,” Nicolas Sayegh said.
As a part of its mission, International Delights promotes traditional and globally inspired baked foods that contain nutritional benefits and emphasize superior taste.
“It’s about being innovative all the while respecting tradition and culture and creating comfort food,” Spiro Sayegh explained. “We’re making foods that people love and that have been established over hundreds of years. If you make them the way they should be done, people will buy more of them. That’s our belief.”
This article is an excerpt from the February 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on International Delights, click here.