Over the past 25 years, there have been many changes in the food industry. Bridor, a manufacturer of frozen breads, croissants and pastries, has capitalized on those changes, moving itself into a leading position in its industry. Bridor was the first company in North America to make par-baked goods for commercial applications, and now, according to the company’s President and CEO Bob Wallace, Bridor services some 15 percent of the North American market. This is a huge jump for the company with its North American headquarters in Montreal, Canada. Bridor has been able to make that jump because of its attention to North American trends, coupled with European-born expertise.
Wallace, who lives in Chicago, notes that Bridor is able to set trends in North America because of the company’s European tradition. “We have a European heritage, which gives us a window into future trends and technologies in America,” he says.
According to Wallace, four key trends are driving today’s markets: nutrition, food safety, increased sophistication in consumer tastes and convenience for the operator.
In the area of nutrition, obesity, and its health-related effects is a growing concern in North America and globally. Companies, governments, schools and the medical community are working together to tackle this problem. Bridor was one of the first companies to significantly reduce the trans fat content of its croissant and pastry products, Wallace notes. In addition, Bridor has introduced a wide range of whole grain bread products to meet the rising demand for more nutritional baked goods.
“Let’s face it, obesity is a significant problem in this country,” Wallace says. “We hear stories of this problem all the time in the news. We want to make products that are still flavorful, but offer healthier alternatives. We know that whole grain bread is the most nutritious.”
With the threat of bio-terrorism and food-borne illness high on the radar screen, food safety is also a priority for Bridor’s management and its customers. Recent recalls of spinach, lettuce and carrot juice underscore the importance of protecting the supply chain. “Our continuous pursuit of certifications from AIB, C-TPAT, HACCP and specific customer certifications has resulted in a significant investment over the last three years in our buildings, IT systems, equipment, training and security,” Wallace says. “We select premium suppliers like Puratos, Mecatherm, Robert Transport, Fritsch, Alimpro, Faxinex, among others, on the basis of their ability to comply with our requirements for safety, traceability and security.”
Ingredients also are an obvious key to Bridor’s success in the industry. Bridor follows tradition, employing a highly exhaustive process to choose only the best ingredients for its breads and pastries. The company uses a global supply chain of partners who contribute both research and expertise to provide ingredients. The company also checks and crosschecks specifications, audits suppliers, and executes rigorous controls at all levels of the production process to ensure quality of the highest measure.
In an effort to augment that security, one of Bridor’s more recent acquisitions was a new, modern line for producing croissants. The line replaced its 18-year-old predecessor. The new line improves the lamination process, as well as safety and the texture and consistency of the product.
Consumers continue to demand more sophisticated taste, quality and variety in their selection of baked goods. “It’s a trend we have seen across the spectrum of food and beverages during the last 25 years. Think about the expansion of the varieties in the cheese, wine, coffee and bakery categories over that period of time at both retail and foodservice chains. With its European heritage and window onto emerging trends in equipment, products and processes in Europe, Bridor is well positioned to continue to capitalize on the growing sophistication of the North American consumer’s palette,” Wallace notes.
Convenience for the store owner is also something Bridor takes very seriously. While the quality, variety and availability of premium-baked goods continues to grow, the number of craftsmen skilled in the art of baking continues to decline. Bridor was the first company in North America to use commercial large-scale equipment for the production of par-baked breads to allow chains to have a superior bread experience without the complication of the labor intensive mixing and proofing steps. “Helping the operator improve quality and reduce labor is one of our primary goals,” says Wallace, adding that the company has installed new state-of-the-art equipment in both its bread and croissant manufacturing plants during 2006.
Bridor also is fortunate to be part of a privately held, well-financed global company. “In North America, we are a stand-alone company that is autonomous in its decision-making. This, coupled with having the right people, allows us to move very quickly to meet our customers’ needs for proprietary product and service solutions.”
“For example, one of our largest customers asked us for a product that we had never made. We were able to prepare a custom formulation and have the prototype for that customer done within 24 hours and bring it to commercial production in both countries in three business days. To my knowledge, no other company in North America can move that fast.” It is that attention to customer service that Wallace cites as one of the main keys to Bridor’s success.
Says Louie Mele, President of McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited: “At McDonald’s Canada, we are proud to be working with Bridor. It’s important to us to work with suppliers who share our values and put our customer first. They have been instrumental in helping us develop products, like our Toasted Deli Sandwich breads, that have been proven to meet our customers’ taste expectations and our own high standards of quality. This spirit of partnership and continuous commitment to quality and helping McDonald’s meet the needs of our customers is why we awarded Bridor the McDonald’s Award for Innovation in April 2005.”
Bridor has been able to differentiate itself by taking traditional methods and applying them to today’s industrial processes. Its dual nationality allows for the exchange of ingredients, methods and proprietary technical information that is unique to Bridor, according to the company’s Web site. For example, Bridor is the first company to install and operate a production line for par-baked, frozen breads, as well as the first production line for frozen pre-proofed and freezer-to-oven croissants and pastries in North America.
A successful company by any measure, Bridor was born of humble roots in the 1970s, when Louis Le Duff, owner of Groupe Le Duff and Bridor, came from France to Canada. While studying in college, Le Duff adapted the art of French baking to the North American market. Le Duff launched himself into the Canadian market in 1980 when he opened his first boutique in Montreal. In 1984, Bridor’s first bread and Viennese pastry plant was built in Boucherville, Quebec. This plant included two state-of-the-art production lines for Viennese pastriesand two for breads. The Bridor name was also adopted at this time.
In 1995, Bridor acquired a 46,400-square-foot plant, also in Boucherville, which houses additional bread production lines. In June 2005, Bridor completed the purchase of a state-of-the-art par-baked frozen bread facility in Vineland, N.J. A significant portion of the financing for the acquisition was put up by the government of the City of Vineland. Says Wallace, “Vineland is a great place to do business. Mayor Perry Barse, Jim Lelli and their staffs really understand public and private sector partnerships. They have a bias for action.” The facility, which comprises 133,000 square feet on 16 acres, is in the process of adding new lines, which will expand the plant’s capacity by 50 percent. The Canadian and New Jersey facilities employ 350 workers. Bridor also has a sister company, Bridor France, that oversees plants in France, England and Argentina.
Right now, Bridor’s growth is solely organic. “While we are always interested in acquisitions, the list of what we’re interested in would be very short,” Wallace relates. “If a potential acquisition does not meet our standards for quality, equipment, safety and integrity, then we’re not interested. Our list of potential interests is very short at this point.”
Bridor prides itself on developing relationships with world-class chefs and bakers, as well as partnerships with suppliers, at all of its manufacturing plants. This allows the company to go above and beyond the limits of its technical equipment to adapt to clients’ specific needs.
The company’s mission is to be recognized for its innovation, consultation, continuous improvement and its values of trust and, integrity, partnership and security. Chairman of Groupe Le Duff America, Claude Bergeron has a simple description of Bridor’s mission to be solution providers. “We don’t sell what we make … we make what our food service and bakery customers want to sell to their consumers.”
Bridor tries to live up to that challenge every day.