Trina Bediako cannot keep her eyes off new horizons. No doubt, it’s in her DNA. Her father, Tilmon “Tim” Brown, has been a veteran of the baking industry for more than 50 years and served as the forward-thinking leader at New Horizons Baking Co. since 1995.
Since she became chief executive officer when her father transitioned to chairman in October 2020, Ms. Bediako along with Mike Porter, president and chief operating officer, and the senior leadership team are building on the foundation that Mr. Brown laid. They’re also taking the Norwalk, Ohio-based company in new directions.
First, on April 24 of this year, New Horizons opened its third bakery in Toledo, Ohio, with a new English muffin line that produces 2,000 dozen pieces an hour and with plenty of room to install more production lines. Overall, its seven English muffin lines — four others in Norwalk and two in Fremont, Ind. — can comfortably crank out 20 million products a week. The company also has two high-speed bun lines.
Then, exactly a month later, New Horizons announced it purchased Coalescence LLC, a Columbus, Ohio, producer of custom seasoning blends, flavors and nutritional solutions for food and beverage companies and nonprofit organizations that fight hunger. It was the first acquisition in New Horizons’ history.
“We always wanted to be more than buns and muffins,” said Ms. Bediako, a 19-year veteran of the company who previously served as president. “This industry has always been solid, but it’s changing right now. The competition is clear. There are a lot more opportunities out there.”
Both companies, she noted, supply the foodservice and sandwich assembly market, making the bolt-on acquisition a natural extension of New Horizons’ business that opens a broader array of sales opportunities.
Specifically, many of Coalescence’s customers are involved on the protein, condiments and sauces side of the food industry, which complements New Horizons’ core bakery strengths.
“It was just a business opportunity that seemed to make sense,” Ms. Bediako explained. “We have some similar customers, and they have some great ones that we didn’t have. We thought, ‘This might be a really good fit.’ ”
For Mr. Porter, a lifetime baker and AIB International graduate who’s worked for New Horizons for most of his career, the main objectives now involve not only expanding the business but also transforming the company.
In addition to New Horizons Baking, a supplier to a major quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain, its holding company owns Genesis Baking that’s known as the “the baker’s baker” and co-manufactures baked goods for other third-party customers. Founded in 2008, Genesis follows the mantra that “each day brings a new beginning,” according to Mr. Porter.
“We are mainly an English muffin and bun supplier; however, one of our core values is creating our own horizons,” he said. “We don’t wait for business to come to us. We want to create our own opportunities and ultimately become a market disruptor. “
Like many bakeries with foodservice exposure, New Horizons found itself on a rollercoaster of highs and lows over the past couple of years. In 2019, it experienced record sales, and then the pandemic hit.
“COVID taught us a lot,” Ms. Bediako recalled. “Our lowest point was the last week of March 2020. I believe we were down 50% in sales, and that was scary, but through it all, we did not have to lay off or furlough anyone.”
In addition to setting up safety protocols to protect employees, the company supported its workers until the resilient business rebounded.
“Sales in 2020 were slightly lower, but we kept our commitments in spite of COVID,” Ms. Bediako said.
The company also focused on the future, purchasing equipment for the Toledo bakery last year.
“We didn’t stop growing through it all,” she added. “We were dealing with the pandemic, and we continued our plan to add to Toledo. At some point, we asked, ‘Should we be doing this?’ Well, heck yeah, we should be doing it.”
Today, that perseverance has paid off. The 61,000-square-foot Toledo facility is outfitted with enough infrastructure for bulk ingredients, chilled water, electricity, packaging capacity and more to support up to three additional production lines, said Rob Harrison, director of operations.
Mr. Porter calls the Toledo operation “our flex plant” for several reasons. First, it eliminates the ebbs and flows that come from customer demand and seasonal fluctuations at the Norwalk and Fremont bakeries. Designed for additional lines, the bakery’s available footprint and land for expansion will provide a pathway for growth.
“It allows for better stability, planning and predictability,” he explained. “We say, ‘A predictable business is a profitable business,’ so we want to be as predictable as we can be. Having this line here in Toledo allows us to stabilize the workflow in those plants while allowing for proper preventive maintenance and sanitation on a weekly basis.”
Moreover, Mr. Harrison said, the Toledo bakery serves as a contingency supplier for English muffins to key QSR accounts.
“We help each other out as needed to fulfill orders, first and foremost, but if there are some cost synergies with running certain products in specific plants, we try to capture those as well,” he said.
Yet another benefit involves labor, specifically workforce recruitment and retention, for the nearly 500 employees at the company.
“Right now, we’re making an effort to figure out the new workforce, which wants to work three or four days a week, not five, six or seven days like the old bakeries do,” Mr. Harrison said. “We have to look at how we schedule our workflow so that we meet our employees’ needs so they can meet our needs.”
Going forward, Ms. Bediako said, the Toledo bakery is certain to play a critical role in the company’s growth, wherever opportunities arise. The plant even has reserved space painted in a diagram on the plant floor, much like a miniature football field where equipment can be placed every few yards or so.
“There is a lot of opportunity here,” Ms. Bediako observed. “It could be another English muffin line. It could be production for another product, or we could do something additional with Coalescence. So, we’re looking at what the steps are going to be, and it’s pretty exciting.”
While she relies on Mr. Brown for his knowledge and expertise, look for his daughter and her management team to create their own horizons going forward.
“I am grateful and fully committed as CEO of New Horizons Baking Co.,” she said. “We are doing all we can to bring value to the industry as we intentionally and strategically plan for our future.”
Only the sky’s the limit for this baking company.
This article is an excerpt from the September 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on New Horizons Baking Co., click here.