Jerry Savino’s career in baking began as a child, making traditional Italian bread at his family’s business. 

“We shared a great pride on making the best Old World Italian breads,” he said. “Meaning very simply, if we felt it was not the best product, it never went out to the consumer.”

While Mr. Savino’s father knew this style of bread by heart, he had trouble explaining why his business purchased certain ingredients to make their superior breads.

“This was how I started my quest on making many other styles of bakery products and wanting to know more about baking science,” Mr. Savino said. “Bakeries deal with live products. They deal with a mix of variables from climate temperatures, machinery, people, ingredients and raw materials, government regulations, third-party audits and finally, the end consumer. It’s exciting day in and day out to help make products that are wholesome, nutritious and delicious for all households.”

Including his time in the family business, Mr. Savino has worked in baking for 55 years. He graduated from Northeastern University, Boston, with an associate’s degree in business management and then from AIB International, Manhattan, Kan., as a certified baker. From there, Mr. Savino says his willingness to absorb new information has allowed him to serve in many positions across the industry, including management roles in production, sanitation, logistics, research and development, safety and nutrition, and operations. He currently works as technical services manager for Kemin Food Technologies North America. 

Mr. Savino is also passionate about mentoring others in the industry. 

“The ‘baker’ is a dying art/part of baking science,” he said. “By mentoring others, my goal is to infuse our industry to show what opportunities are out there and how we can have an impact in society — environmentally and nutritionally.”

All these years later, Mr. Savino said he’s still excited to get up and do his job every day. Bringing new and old technology together and being the one to translate that to the baker gives him the most joy. 

“There is so much to learn, from natural enzymes to equipment to regulations and beyond,” he said.

What are common issues bakers face in maintaining product quality with tortillas and flatbreads? 

In today’s industry, common issues include labor shortages, ingredient costs, ingredient shortages and increasing lead times. These issues compound the daily issues bakers are worried about such as safety, shelf-life extension with mold inhibitors, softness and pliability, dough development, clean label improvement as well as improving nutritional value through health benefits and calorie contents. 

What formulation challenges do the increased demand for organic, gluten-free and low carb tortillas and flatbreads pose for bakers?

As we are coming out of the pandemic this whole industry is facing ingredient shortages. Since the pandemic, raw material/ingredients have faced widespread shortages. This has led to reformulation and/or approving secondary sources of raw materials/ingredients which takes time to prove in textural and processing, not to mention its sustainability implications.

Consumers perceive tortillas and flatbreads as healthier, label-friendly options. These issues are for all segments/applications in the bakery industry. Simply put, supply-and-demand issues are rampant in the food/baking industry, like other industries. 

How can bakers extend the shelf life of their tortillas and flatbreads? 

The spoilage and shelf life of tortillas and flatbreads can be extended through mold inhibitors. The shelf life of quality characteristics can be extended using enzymes, dough conditioners, anti-staling agents and other functional ingredients that help keep products fresh for consumer appeal. 

How can the addition of enzymes aid in tortilla and flatbread formulations?

Enzymes have their own functionality and, in some scenarios, combining various enzymes gives bakers a complete drop-in solution. Different enzymes can also be combined for consistency purposes in dough development — as a processing aid, oven spring and/or color, pliability/flexibility and overall functionality at end product.

What are the biggest benefits and challenges of clean label preservatives in tortillas and flatbreads? 

The biggest benefit of using clean label preservatives is appealing to ingredient-conscious consumers who are cognizant of the types of ingredients they are consuming. However, these clean label alternatives have challenges when dealing with effectiveness. Synthetic preservatives have been used so often because of how effective they are, and while clean label options have come a long way, they still have room for improvement. It’s a trade-off formulators must work with. 

How can bakers get the most out of the ingredients they use to improve shelf life and quality? 

Bakers should use the resources out in the industry. Don’t be shy to ask for help from your suppliers. They are your ingredient partners and are more than willing to explain how their products work in your formulations and troubleshoot any issues.  

Additionally, bakers can take a deep dive into their process and explore their strengths and weaknesses to get the most out of their ingredients in processing. Packaging, sanitation and air quality are also aspects that should be considered.