When a consumer purchases a moist chocolate chip cookie from their local quick-service restaurant (QSR), the chances of that baked item coming from CraftMark Bakery are very high. That’s because the Indianapolis, Ind.-based company produces frozen bread rolls, frozen pre-portioned cookie dough and ready-to-eat flatbreads for some of the nation’s top QSRs and in-store bakeries.
But, it’s the company’s ability to maintain transparency with customers, employ a leadership team with over 300 years of collective bakery experience and operate an advanced state-of-the-art bakery that garnered it Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2017 Frozen Foods Processor of the Year award. (CLICK HERE for more on the bakery and its upcoming expansion).
Find out how this frozen baked goods producer achieves excellence from start to finish.
The CraftMark Way
In December 2013, chief executive officer Ahmad Hamade, Jim Zakian, executive vice president, and partner Bennie Bray teamed up with CIC Partners LP, Dallas, Texas, to form CraftMark Bakery. The first footing of the 225,000-square-foot Indianapolis bakery in the ground occurred March 17, 2014, and the doors opened for production just eight months later.
Today, that investment results in what the company calls “The CraftMark Way.”
“‘The CraftMark Way’ is all about how we work with our customers,” says Hamade. “We listen, are highly responsive and solution-oriented. We’re transparent with shared agendas, honest dialogue and valuable insights. We’re a flat organization with no bureaucratic obstacles, which results in real-time decisions and speed-to-market for our customers.”
The CraftMark Bakery team has a core competency in breads, flatbreads and sweet baked goods with an emphasis in cookies and cookie dough. They also maintain expertise in clean label technology and continuously challenge their suppliers to innovate ingredients and flavors to meet consumers’ desire for more authentic foods.
“Our innovation process is grounded in insights that give us the foundation and direction into flavor and taste profiles that resonate with the consumer and help our customers drive traffic and check average,” says Liz Rayo, senior vice president marketing and innovation. “We have a continuous innovation pipeline exploring new and authentic cookie flavor profiles and formats as well as new bread carriers incorporating various grains with a better-for-you positioning.”
To continue along the path of growth and success, CraftMark Bakery follows emerging trends impacting the frozen bakery category.
“Clean label is here to stay in terms of the end customer wanting foods that are simpler, similar to what a mother or grandmother would have cooked, as opposed to these really complicated labels with chemical-sounding ingredients,” says Jim Little, vice president, R&D and innovation. “We’re also staying ahead of other issues like going egg-free and working with more ancient grains.”
Consumers also want experiences, Rayo adds, which is why CraftMark Bakery delivers premium-ization.
“Creating unique flavor profiles, using large, premium inclusions and leveraging ingredients that convey a premium/authentic positioning is the direction that commercial foodservice has taken,” she says. “Cookies are a $2 billion-plus category. Everybody eats cookies. They go across all dayparts, demographics and are sold at most restaurants, from QSR to fine dining. We have a core competency in cookies, specifically frozen cookie dough. This category will continue to be a big growth driver for us.”
The path of excellence
The name CraftMark Bakery combines two words that epitomize the significance of the company—craft, meaning to do things well, and mark, meaning precise.
“It takes that ability to create and make something, especially something that people eat, and combining it with precision and excellence to emphasize food safety and consistency,” says Rayo.
But, it’s CraftMark Bakery’s solutions-oriented agenda that separates it from others in the foodservice/frozen bakery space.
“Our bakery consists of high-speed, advanced bakery technologies along with standardized and integrated processes, which results in greater product consistency. It’s a Greenfield bakery completed in 2014 with temperature-controlled, brightly lit rooms, enclosed bulk and liquid silo rooms to maintain ingredient integrity during storage and the footprint was designed to be FSMA compliant,” says Hamade. “Plus, our leadership has over 300 years of collective bakery experience across all categories. We understand the industry, the customers, their needs and the production processes to help them develop, produce and deliver on time and on budget.”
The expectation is to continuously focus on food safety, adds Rick Doscher, vice president, quality and food safety.
“It’s a 365-day operation to coach food safety. You can’t train once and expect it to be done. We’re all consumers. Nobody wants to have a bad experience from product quality or a food safety issue. That’s why we share new trends and activities with our partners. In some cases, we’re leading them down paths to help protect them as well as enhance the whole food safety program.”
Whether it’s food safety, consistency or quality, CraftMark Bakery is positioned for excellence.
“With the ‘CraftMark Way,’ we’re building a culture and compensating and rewarding for demonstrated skills. We like to promote from within and map out career development opportunities for our employees,” says Hamade. “Our goal is to become a career choice for our employees, to be able to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace and leverage our capabilities to be an industry leader.”