Despite the huge Latin and Caribbean heritage, the core of Puerto Rican trends largely come from the United States.

While social media influence can originate anywhere in the world, the traditional media influence stems particularly from the East coast.

“People here are watching TV; we’re looking at CBS, NBC and Fox, and there’s a big influence with what’s going on in the U.S. as far as dietary or food trends,” said Mario Somoza, president, Pan Pepin. “From a marketing perspective, you always have to be watching what’s going on in the U.S. because those are trends that will most likely get over here. You watch that and hedge your bets to play against it.”

This provides Pan Pepin with a crystal ball of sorts, especially when Mr. Somoza actively participates in industry associations such as the American Society of Baking, the American Bakers Association and BEMA and encourages his staff to do the same. They can tap into the latest U.S. consumer demands and pick the brains of fellow bakers as well as equipment manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and service providers.

This is critical for this bread, bun and tortilla producer that is faced with the challenge of a shrinking bread market stemming from a steady population decline. While Pan Pepin is still growing, having just expanded into a 52,000-square-foot facility on its 2.7-acre campus, it’s time for the company to consider what the next big product could be for its market.

The bakery recently installed a tortilla line and plans to add a second one. The campus also has a former window manufacturing building that was acquired in 2010; Mr. Somoza said that, as part of the bakery’s master plan, that facility can house production for whatever the next new product will be.

“There are certain trends that I know will probably take off here and develop a nice volume,” he said. “But I also have to balance that against what fits in our production operation and distribution.”

Because the master plan was written in phases, Pan Pepin has the flexibility to adapt with those market changes and adjust the plan and its timeline as necessary. That way, the bakery will be ready when the next big thing hits the island.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Pan Pepin, click here.