Simplicity defines the Tucker facility. The production lines are designed based on what the company had access to as well as the Hayward operations. Anywhere the team was able to streamline, the production is streamlined.

For example, the facility already had equipment onsite that Sugar Bowl Bakery was able to adapt to its needs.

“The first production line, we had the ability to take a line that was a batter line making round cakes and reuse it for our products,” explained Garrett Pounds, senior director of maintenance and engineering at Sugar Bowl Bakery. “Round cake isn’t exactly what we do, but it met some of the equipment we needed.”

The company repurposed the line’s continuous mixing system, oven and spiral freezer for its smaller batter products.

The facility currently has two production lines up and running: a batter line that makes Brownie Bites, Madeleines and the company’s Duet product and a Fritter line. There are plans and space to add a second batter line and a laminated dough line. With these capabilities Tucker will not only support the Hayward facilities to serve customers domestically, but potentially international customers as well.

At the top of Tucker’s L-shaped footprint, flour and sugar are stored in silos and automatically metered for production. Minor ingredients are weighed into batches by operators.

On Line No. 1 a Pfening bulk system and Tonelli fat melter feed an E.T. Oakes continuous mixing system.

This is a departure from the vertical batch mixers Sugar Bowl Bakery typically uses in its process, but this system was available and ready to be repurposed for the batter line, making startup simpler. The dual mixing system has two mirrored sides that together can turn out 9,000 lbs per hour of batter. The batter is automatically fed to a new Hinds-Bock depositor. These two systems communicate to ensure the depositor has a constant level of batter in the hopper. 

To keep the startup simple and on time with COVID-19, it was important to the company to partner with equipment suppliers that it had worked with in the past. Hinds-Bock has been that depositing partner multiple times before, and Sugar Bowl Bakery was confident in the supplier’s knowledge of its products.

“We went with a depositor that represented an upgrade to our prior models,” Mr. Pounds said. “This unit is driven by servo motors compared to the air cylinder-driven units we have on our other lines.”

The depositor portions batter across 18 rows into pans for the company’s 1-oz and 0.7-oz Brownie Bites, Madeleines and Duets. These pans are fed into a 100-foot Baker Perkins tunnel oven that the company acquired with the facility. Babbco, which has a long-standing relationship with Sugar Bowl Bakery, evaluated the oven for its use on the batter line.

“We didn’t change the engineering of the oven, but we did a pretty extensive mechanical, electrical and controls rebuild to make sure reliability is there and that from a quality perspective everything was fully functional,” Mr. Pounds explained. “We also made sure all the components were up to speed on safety requirements.”

Once baked, proper cooling is important to depan these small, delicate products. A Babbco cooling system brings product down in temperature immediately after baking. Product can then be depanned before entering a spiral freezer that is set to cooling temperatures. As product inclines to the spiral conveyors, pans travel to new CBF pan conveyors to be cleaned and sprayed with the new Axis Automation oil sprayer before starting the process over again.

After 45 minutes cooling on the spiral freezer, product is ready to be packaged. The packaging department in Tucker is a largely manual process, but that will change. Brownie Bites, Madeleines and Duets are hand-packed into PET clamshells. Sugar Bowl Bakery has plans to install Syntegon wrappers later this year.

[Related reading: COVID-19 brought new hurdles to Sugar Bowl facility startup]

“We discussed this in the planning stages,” Mr. Pounds said, explaining the choice to forego automated packaging lines in the beginning. “We prioritized simplicity, which is one of the key values of our company versus the complexity of automation, especially at startup. We are working with new employees and leadership, and we didn’t want that complexity at startup. On the processing side, we have almost full automation because that’s the right way to do it. But in the packaging room, we’re looking to layer in that complexity and automation as the site grows and builds capability.”

The second production line is less automated and produces the company’s Fritter products. Installed in January, Line No. 2 can turn out 250 pieces per minute at 4 oz a piece. Two BES mixers start things off by mixing up the dough, which is then manually sheeted on a Tekno sheeter. The dough is sheeted onto a roller and is then unwound onto the Canol makeup table. Here flavors are added: cinnamon and apple for Sugar Bowl Bakery’s Apple Fritters, which are its top seller. The bakery also does seasonal varieties: cherry, blueberry, lemon and pumpkin. The filled dough is portioned by a Vemag dough divider from Reiser and proofed before entering a custom fryer. Fritters travel through a waterfall glazer. The glaze is set by a spiral freezer, currently set to cooling temperatures.

In the meantime, product from both lines is loaded manually into the tray, which travels through a weight checker, metal detector, and is then labeled and palletized. Finished packaged product is frozen and stored in the facility’s onsite freezer warehouse, which was a must-have when Sugar Bowl Bakery was looking for a new site. Tucker has a total of 70,000 square feet of warehouse space, 32,000 of it dedicated for freezer storage.

Sugar Bowl Bakery’s Hayward headquarters schedules production for all three of its bakeries about two weeks ahead. The Netsuite ERP tracks ingredient and finished product inventory.

“It’s a system we’re familiar with, and we already have good systems in place with the ability to track where that pallet of sugar came from and where it was consumed and having to track that back,” Mr. Pounds said.

The facility only runs two shifts, and every night the sanitation staff does a full cleaning cycle. In adherence with its simplicity value, the bakery does not do any changeovers during production. This cuts back on downtime and streamlines sanitation.

“The production runs during the day are going to be all Brownie or all Madeleine for both shifts,” Mr. Pounds said. “We don’t switch between the products in one day. We may switch formats from one day to another but that will be with a full sanitation cycle between.”

Like Sugar Bowl Bakery’s facilities on the West Coast, the Tucker plant will be an SQF Level 3, which is easier to achieve with a plant that was once a bakery. The company’s lean processes that it implements in Hayward to keep production running as efficiently as possible aren’t quite in place at Tucker, but they will be.

“We’re developing the fundamental systems we need before diving into those tools, but we’re using and building those daily, weekly and monthly tracking systems so we can build off that foundation,” Mr. Pounds explained.

Sugar Bowl Bakery has laid itself a firm foundation with the Tucker facility. Joel Feldman, president and chief operating officer of Sugar Bowl Bakery, anticipates four production lines will be operational in less than two years, enabling the future growth of the company.

“We want to see our brand awareness grow,” he said. “We want to increase our distribution footprint, which is a huge part of our Tucker investment, and then just continue to drive growth in a sustainable and profitable way. Most importantly, we want to take care of our family of customers, suppliers and employees.”

With four production lines fully operational in Tucker, Sugar Bowl Bakery will continue to grow the way it always has — in a methodical, disciplined way, looking for places to streamline and simplify. By sticking to its core values whether on the production floor, R&D lab or customer service, Sugar Bowl Bakery expects a future of sustainable investment.

This article is an excerpt from the April 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Sugar Bowl Bakery, click here.