Family bakeries start with a dream. Successful ones turn it into reality. For 107 years at Piantedosi Baking Co., each generation has made its mark, leaving the business in a better position than when they received it.
That’s how the Malden, Mass.-based company has passed the test of time, serving the region’s omnipresent sub stores, corner delis, neighborhood restaurants and other foodservice eateries with its signature hearth breads and rolls, often delivered fresh within hours after leaving the oven.
For the fourth generation of family members, making its mark means taking the bakery’s restaurant-quality products and bringing them into the retail market for consumers to enjoy at home.
Because of its foodservice roots, not everyone in New England knows Piantedosi Baking by name, at least not yet. But once consumers try its signature hearth breads and rolls, they recognize its familiar taste and distinctive texture, noted Adam Piantedosi, director of business development and retail sales.
“The brand does resonate with many people, or they’ll take a bite of their sandwich and say, ‘Oh, I’ve had this before,’ ” he explained. “We have a lot of repeat buyers, and because of that, our products are selling very well. We’re letting our products speak for themselves.”
Last year, the fourth generation launched The Midnight Baker brand to pay homage to their great-grandfather, Salvatore, who founded the company with his wife, Mary, in 1916. He earned that title because he would deliver fresh bread at all hours of the day or night.
Unlike Piantedosi Baking branded products, which are made with a straight dough, The Midnight Baker line includes a panini loaf and a sandwich roll made from a chilled sponge and dough that’s fermented for 8 to 10 hours.
“We explained on the package how we produce the bread, how we always bake it at night and how it goes out fresh at night or early in the morning to our customers,” Adam Piantedosi said.
Overall, Piantedosi Baking makes about 150 signature hearth and panned bread and rolls at the 81,000-square-foot bakery, which houses three tunnel ovens, four versatile makeup lines and five packaging lines.
Products range from hearth subs, bulkie rolls, French rolls, French bread and panini to dinner rolls, par-baked subs, and hamburger and sandwich buns that come in white, wheat, potato, sweet potato, Hawaiian, onion and sesame seed varieties.
The bakery was built in the 1970s, thanks to the second generation transforming the original local bakery and pastry shop into a regional wholesaler supported by a network of local, independent distributors.
The third generation — including Thomas Piantedosi, chief executive officer; his brother Robert, senior vice president of operations, and his cousin Joe, executive vice president of marketing and business development — then made its mark by targeting national foodservice chains with frozen breads and rolls.
Today, the company not only serves New England but also has developed a strong presence in New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Florida with frozen distribution extending across 50 states.
While the move into retail had been in the works prior to COVID-19, the pandemic accelerated what had been a 10-year plan into three years.
“When COVID happened and with so much of our business in foodservice, we were looking for ways to increase sales,” recalled Arthur Piantedosi, director of business process and operational compliance.
Before the pandemic, retail sales accounted for about 3% of sales. Fortunately, Adam Piantedosi said, the company had developed relationships with several customers to build its retail sales business prior to COVID-19 devastating foodservice sales across the nation.
“Fast forward to three years later, almost 20% of our sales now come from retail,” he observed.
The company’s strategy is to be diversified, nimble and to assess new business opportunities in a timely manner.
“A desirable sales model would be to have one-third retail, one-third in fresh foodservice and one-third in frozen foodservice,” Adam Piantedosi said. “That way, if one segment of the business is doing really well, we could quickly pivot to further penetrate that segment of the business.”
In addition to Adam Piantedosi, who joined the company in 2009, and Arthur Piantedosi, who came on board in 2017, the fourth generation includes Carmine Piantedosi, director of production planning and distribution operations, who also joined in 2017, and Jared Piantedosi, marketing media specialist, who began working this year.
While they’re all bringing new ideas to the business, the members of the fourth generation are rooted in what they’ve learned from the third generation of managers who have mentored them.
“Between the four of us, we’re trying to fully understand every single component of the business,” Arthur Piantedosi said. “We’re all cross-functional enough so whatever pops up during the day, any one of us can jump in and fill a role, if needed.”
To address the tight labor market, the bakery rolled out cross-functional training so that employees can fill multiple positions, especially during the busy summer season for this New England bakery.
“Piantedosi Baking is a family business, and with that, employees become an extension of our family,” Carmine Piantedosi explained. “Because employees are our greatest asset, we design our training programs to maximize their personal and professional development. We have English as a second language classes, bakers and general math, lean manufacturing, 5S, food defense and safety, and technical skills for mechanics to name a few.”
Moreover, he noted, the skill sets required in today’s baking environment have become much more technical than in years past.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have focused on stronger cross-functionality between our production lines, and we are validating all of our processes to ensure efficiencies,” Arthur Piantedosi said. “In addition, we are looking at each SKU in our portfolio and rationalizing those that no lon,ger fit our process efficiently.”
The company is taking a close look at production. For example, if a divider is expected to do 20 strokes a minute, the bakery is timing it to make sure it’s performing at that rate, Carmine Piantedosi said.
In addition to strategically investing in new equipment, the bakery is streamlining production flow to maximize efficiencies within its operation. Initially, the company estimates it has reduced waste by 3% or more.
“Our mantra has been about producing product more efficiently with less waste and continuously improving our quality,” Adam Piantedosi pointed out, “This emphasis on operating efficiencies helps all of our business segments continually improve.”
This article is an excerpt from the May 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Piantedosi Baking Co., click here.