Aladdin Bakers always makes it look so easy when it comes to rolling out new products. In fact, the Brooklyn, NY-based company has earned a fabled reputation for firsts. As the company website says, “We can follow the industry, but we prefer to lead.”

The bakery initially introduced rack oven-baked, steamed, soft bagels in the 1980s — an innovation on the New York-style version — way before most everyone in the nation knew what they were.

It did it again a few years later by taking a tortilla-based product and making changes, creating what is known today as a sandwich wrap. Within a few years, the company then introduced to the market a pre-grilled wrap.

And then Aladdin Bakers pushed out paninis before that trend took the foodservice industry by storm. Joseph Ayoub, the company’s owner, recalled how he found a company that did grilled vegetables, applied the technology to baked goods and taught local businesses how to press a panini using one of its flatbreads.

“We’ve been trendsetters in the industry forever,” Mr. Ayoub said. “And every few years, we’ve come up with a new product line.”

Today, Aladdin Bakers’ portfolio includes more than 100 different SKUs ranging from pocket pita, flat pita, bagels, wraps and paninis to dozens of varieties of handmade Old World artisan breads.

Additionally, its highly automated baked snacks division produces flatbread crisps, pita chips, matzo snacks, cornbread chips and even flavored crunchy breadsticks, which are under private label and the Baked in Brooklyn brand.

“We call them ‘snack sticks’ not bread sticks,” Mr. Ayoub said. “They come in sesame, honey mustard, smoky barbecue and dill, among others. We made them a fun, interesting product.”

[Related reading: Aladdin Bakers expands to a national retail market]

To meet demand and expand its presence in the retail channel, Aladdin Bakers has steadily invested in automation.

In addition to three tortilla lines, the bakery  added a Lawrence tortilla and wrap line five years ago that can turn out 20,000 pieces an hour, ranging from 6-, 8- and 10-inch, hot-press tortillas to 12-inch “premiyumm” wraps that come in 14 naturally flavored varieties.

Earlier this year, Aladdin Bakers ratcheted up its operation when it installed a new fully automated Rademaker sheeting line.

That system can produce a wide variety of products, including up to 500,000 lbs a week of branded, private label and co-manufactured baked snacks and crackers.

“Our diversification over the years has led to our ability to serve our customers however the market changes,” noted Theresa Watkinson, chief operating officer. “We’re constantly improving our operations, and it’s times like these that we are very grateful for what we have done over the years.”

Additionally, the bakery bolstered its packaging capabilities with vertical form/fill/seal bagging for its array of snacks and horizontal overwrapping for a host of baked goods.

“Expanding our retail presence is the one thing we had been working on, and it’s our next push.”

- Theresa Watkinson, Aladdin Bakers

The timing couldn’t have been more prescient, especially when coronavirus (COVID-19) shut down many parts of Aladdin Bakers’ surrounding core market in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania earlier this year.

“That’s really been a godsend considering what is going on with the pandemic,” Ms. Watkinson explained. “It was already in place. If we had to run around when all of this was happening and try to get packaging, I don’t think it would have happened, especially being in Brooklyn.”

During the past few months, Aladdin Bakers persevered through the worst of the crisis and supplied bread and other products to local schools and grocers and its national private label accounts.

As the metropolitan area opens up, Ms. Watkinson pointed out, foodservice outlets now need individually wrapped baked goods to sell or put out as a part of a breadbasket at lunch or dinner.

Boosting packaging will also become a major part of its retail initiative with its baked snacks, which have up to a 12-month code date, along with its wraps and paninis that offer several months of shelf life.

Already, the company’s retail products can be found in the Big Apple as well as in supermarkets, corner delis and gourmet shops in the region.

Now, the bakery is positioned to take another step as it looks to the future.

“Expanding our retail presence is the one thing we had been working on, and it’s our next push,” Ms. Watkinson said. “We’re looking for new branding and see new opportunities. We have a nice distribution network, but we plan to go further nationwide with our retail products. That’s where our next initiative will be.”

This article is an excerpt from the February 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Aladdin Bakers, click here.