S. Rosen’s expands rye bread production despite supply chain challenges

CHICAGO — The supply chain crisis has challenged the baking industry in many ways, from increased lead times for ingredients and equipment to widespread product shortages on supermarket shelves, whether that bakers try to keep up with consumer demand within the constraints of the supply chain.

“It’s been a huge disruption,” said Tim Lotesto, senior director of national retail key accounts at Alpha Baking Co., Chicago. “There is no article that we manufacture that does not impact.”

Despite this, Alpha Baking subsidiary S. Rosen’s Baking Co. expanded production of its popular rye cocktail bread this year, as well as its market position nationally.

The 113-year-old company has made the popular holiday bread for years, but it was never a national player, Lotesto said.

However, this began to change in recent years, as major bakeries stopped producing the bread, due in large part to supply chain issues that forced them to phase out SKUs, Lotesto said. S. Rosen’s took advantage by ramping up bread production this year months before the holiday season.

“We are like the last man standing,” he said. “We have been the beneficiaries of making this good product, and now we are in high demand as everyone who has bought it in the past is still looking for it.”

S. Rosen’s concoction paid off, as it is now the only brand offering traditional cocktail rye bread nationwide via grocery store shelves and online ordering. The bakery recently announced that the bread is now available on Amazon as well.

Mr. Lotesto described the bakery’s decision to increase bread production this year as an act of faith.

“We knew it was a strong article,” he said. “We knew that when the holiday comes around, the tradition really affects people. And if they have cocktail rye bread every year, they don’t care that no one is doing it anymore; they want bread again.”

The decision has been a great success, Lotesto said, and the bakery continues to find more demand for the product.

Of course, producing the bread on such a large scale than usual had its challenges, he noted, including long lead times for packaging and ingredients, as well as difficulty finding labor.

“The easy part was making the decision to do it, and the hard part was making it happen,” he said.

However, S. Rosen’s was able to succeed, demonstrating the need for bakeries to embrace a host of potential solutions to their supply chain problems, Mr. Lotesto emphasized.

“If the trucks can’t get there, can we send it by rail?” he said as an example. “Can we group orders that normally wouldn’t make any sense? We’ll do everything we can to get there, and I think that’s helped us thrive and survive the last two years.”

While S. Rosen’s has sold a lot of its cocktail rye bread to retailers this holiday season, Lotesto said consumer sales will determine the bakery’s future plans. But trust that the demand is there.

“We would love to be the types of rye cocktail that people go to every year, if the market is where we think it is,” he said. “We filled the void this year to the best of our ability, but not everyone knew we were there. Next year they will know that we are out there and what we do to increase even more”.

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