BOULDER, COLO. — Rudi’s Organic Bakery is fast-tracking innovation in the commercial bread space in 2021. The company plans to add more than a dozen new products across its organic and gluten-free platforms by the year’s end, bringing its total number of SKUs to 55.
“We’re going to have 15 entirely new products by June,” said Brian McGuire, chief executive officer at Rudi’s Bakery. “We’re also relaunching all of our core items with new topicals, a new fermentation process and new packaging.”
The innovation initiative follows a landmark year for the Boulder-based small batch bakery. Rudi’s Organic Bakery and its sister brand Rudi’s Gluten-free Bakery were acquired by Promise Gluten Free in May, and Mr. McGuire was brought on as CEO in July.
Rudi’s recently hired a slate of industry veterans to guide the brands in 2021, including new heads of finance, operations, marketing, food safety and compliance, procurement, sales and engineering. The new leadership team will leverage Promise Gluten Free’s expertise to modernize Rudi’s portfolio, beginning with new branding and updated packaging.
“For the packaging and branding, we sat down and looked at Rudi’s heritage,” Mr. McGuire said. “We’re pretty sure we are the first organic commercial bakery in the United States, and our heritage is in Boulder, so we were thinking about how to really embrace that and bring that out.”
The company has passed through several owners in recent years. It was purchased by Charterhouse Equity Partners in 2005 and sold to Hain Celestial in 2014 before joining Promise Gluten Free last year.
“As the brand developed through the process of transitioning from a few companies it became really fragmented, and then they added the Rudi’s Gluten Free brand,” Mr. McGuire said. “We really want to bring it all together and embrace our heritage as the O.G. of organic baking.”
For Rudi’s core lineup, that meant returning to the original formulations. Its organic bread initially was made using a centuries old practice that allowed the dough to ferment for 12 to 14 hours before the mixing and baking process began. Extended fermentation allowed for richer flavors and textures, Mr. McGuire said.
“Our core lineup used to have this process,” he said. “In the original formulas, fermentation really gave the products a great texture, a better shelf life and also added gut health benefits. When we went back and looked at our core recipes, only one of them still had that, so we’re bringing it back.”
The company also is adding an artisan touch to its core products.
“We’re not just going back to fermentation, we’re also looking at what else we can do to make these products more relevant,” Mr. McGuire said. “We started putting different cuts in. We started putting topicals on them. We basically said, ‘Let’s make these more eye appealing, because we already know they’re going to taste better.’”
The revamped products will hit shelves beginning in April and May, followed by six new gluten-free in-store bakery products, including sourdough cobs, brioche and other new loaves.
“We’re going after what we feel is a phenomenal opportunity for artisan products in the in-store bakery that are gluten-free but look and taste like a regular product,” Mr. McGuire said. “I think these are the most artisan gluten-free products out there. They give most organic and regular breads a run.”
The products appeal to more than just gluten-sensitive consumers or those with celiac disease, he added.
“Having gluten-free options is obviously important for people with celiac, but that is only 2% to 3% of consumers,” Mr. McGuire said. “What’s emerging now is you have 30% of consumers looking for what they call ‘healthier choices.’ They consider gluten-free products to be a healthier choice, but there aren’t many options that are great tasting and great looking. That’s why we targeted in-store bakery with these formulations.”
Rudi’s will follow up the in-store bakery launches with three new frozen items this summer. This fall will see a new line of organic products.
“The competitive landscape is very strong in both organic and gluten-free,” Mr. McGuire said. “For us to win, we need to make sure we’re delivering the best tasting bread. We’re improving our products every day and innovating to be more relevant and bring in new consumers.”