Supplying bread and rolls to restaurants, hotels and country clubs often requires an artisan bakery to be ready to try anything new. Chefs want to differentiate themselves, and that is especially true in New York City. And as Mariusz Kolodziej, founder and chief executive officer of Hudson Bread, North Bergen, NJ, pointed out, the bread on the table is one of the easiest places to stand out.

“Chefs come to New York because they are trying to establish their name,” he said. “They want to be recognized by the way they serve the food and the uniqueness of what they put next to the plate, which is usually a bread, so we get many requests for new and exclusive products.”

The reality of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’s impact on the foodservice business, however, has made meeting every chef’s every whim more difficult. To keep the bakery running, Hudson Bread had to rationalize SKUs from 250 to 125. That wasn’t so much of a problem at the time because foodservice customers evaporated. However, as those customers return, Hudson Bread grapples with supply chain issues. Ingredients that don’t come in on time and rising logistics costs have spurred the team to be more judicious about what they say yes to.

“A question that has come out of the past two years for us is ‘What actually makes sense for our business?’” explained Ray Million, vice president of operations, as he reflected on how the bakery thinks about niche products and production. “We will entertain any idea, but it has to make sense for our production.”

Products that fit nicely into Hudson Bread’s capabilities are easier to accommodate. Those that require a conversation with an equipment supplier about a new investment get harder. And then there’s the length of the production run. Without a minimum production run, the consistency might not be there. The bakery’s new frozen capabilities, however, gives it a lot more flexibility to say “yes” to new products if the customer is willing to accept a frozen ones.

“We will offer our customers every opportunity and see how we can provide them what they’re looking for, but it might be a frozen product rather than the fresh one they’re used to,” Mr. Million said.

At the end of the day, those niche products must make financial sense, too.

“If you want quality, artisan and special, then you have to be willing to pay for it,” Mr. Kolodziej said. “If you want the generic product price, we aren’t the bakery for you.”

This article is an excerpt from the April 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Hudson Bread Co., click here.