Spiros Assimacopoulos, chief executive officer, The Good Bread Co., Taylor, Mich., estimates that the company’s business is 90% foodservice and commissary. When the COVID-19 pandemic came to Detroit and restaurants were shut down, the business took a hit as its customers did. By April, revenue was down about 80%.
“The only thing keeping us going at that point was our commissary business, supplying bread to commissaries making sandwiches for gas stations,” Mr. Assimacopoulos said. “In late March of 2020, we had to lay off 90 out of our 125 employees. Fortunately, the next day Kroger called asking if we could put bread on their shelves.”
The company pivoted quickly, and within seven days, there was Michigan Bread in 80 Kroger locations throughout Southeastern Michigan.
“We were selling 3-lb artisan loaves for $3.99 because it was the retail-ready bag we had,” he said.
The product pack sizes were double most retail packs but made sense for consumers who were making a lot of sandwiches at home. After some trial and error, The Good Bread Co. now supplies eight-pack buns and hearth-baked half loaves to Kroger’s in-store bakeries.
“Retail is an incredible opportunity since you can scale more quickly compared to foodservice, but it’s a completely different landscape,” said Mike Sanfilippo, vice president of sales. “We were selling foodservice-style products in a retail market, which resonates with some consumers while others still expect a softer product with extended shelf life.”
The company had to learn how to label products for the proper shelf life, forecast demand and price the product for the consumer. They also learned the importance of the relationship with the deli manager.
“It was a whole new ecosystem that we weren’t familiar with, cultivating relationships with deli managers is critical to a successful retail program,” Mr. Sanfilippo said. “By chance, we brought a differentiated product to the market, and with the support of Kroger, we are still going strong.”
This article is an excerpt from the October 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on The Good Bread Co., click here.