When Hill Country Bakery, after years of making private label goods, decided to develop and push its own label, there was one big, driving force.
“Everybody in the c-store channel, everybody even in the grocery channel sees the need to improve snack cakes,” says Hill Country co-founder Steve O’Donnell says. “We decided to tap into that by developing the Coffee House Café brand. We’ve had tremendous receptivity.”
Hill Country, through its Coffee House Café brand, is pushing products like an iced lemon loaf that is iconic and popular throughout the United States. Despite the recent push for health-minded eating, baked and sweet goods are still experiencing success. After all, consumers need treats and cheat meals at least once in a while.
French Gourmet, based in Sparks, NV, has been producing frozen doughs since 1984 and has recently started ramping up its efforts. The company recently launched its secondary brand — Smart Gourmet — in an effort to sell its doughs to larger volume buyers.
“The whole brand is focused on what’s new, what’s trending, what consumers want from us and what we can develop for them,” says Jake Bush, business development manager.
French Gourmet covers the US from coast to coast and also does business in Hawaii, Canada, Guam, South Korea and the Philippines. The company sells frozen, pre-proofed dough that is ready to bake from freezer to oven. Now, it wants to focus more on retailers and their suppliers. Part of success in that realm, Bush says, is being flexible.
“To be able to be flexible and nimble and quick in turning around a custom item has been huge for us,” he says. “It’s really what has gotten our foot into the door with a lot of the new customers we’re going after. If we weren’t able to develop new items and be flexible, I don’t think they would want much to do with us.”
Bush says French Gourmet, and particularly Smart Gourmet, prides itself in developing new products based on customer feedback. That requires a strong relationship. “You have to be able to deliver what they’re looking for. We focus a lot on new product development,” he says. “We work with our existing customers and work on ideas and kind of throw them out there. A lot of it is just putting it out there with customers you already have that relationship with and seeing what works.”
French Gourmet’s line of doughs includes mini Danish, a full line of butter and specialty croissants, puff pastry sheets, cinnamon logs, croissant triangles and Danish dough squares.
A pair of recent new baked goods have experienced success for the company. The first combines two baked staples — the everything bagel and the croissant. All of the typical everything bagel ingredients are mixed into the dough, which is then laminated.
“You’re not just getting a butter croissant with the toppings, you’re getting a butter croissant with the garlic and onions and seeds throughout the entire croissant,” Bush says. “You’re getting flavor in every bite.”
Also new is a line of savory brunch buns that includes flavors like jalapeno cream cheese and buffalo cream cheese. “People are wanting unique flavors,” Bush says. “And you have to be able to develop and provide that.”