Hoff’s Bakery has been active with in-store bakeries, retail foodservice, foodservice and co-packaging for more than three decades. Since the business began in 1983 in Medford, MA, it has steadily increased its reach and production, enough so that it found itself in need of more space.
Hoff’s was operating out of a 30,000 square-foot facility in Medford, where it found difficulties producing its cakes, squares, mini pastries and more for its growing number of customers. So a deal was struck to move to nearby Malden — also a suburb of Boston — where Hoff’s purchased and renovated a 100,000 square-foot facility to the tune of nearly $20 million. The move was made in March of 2016.
It was, as one would expect, a much-discussed and extensively researched move that has left the company with room to more efficiently operate.
Planning the space
Hoff’s was moving to a facility that would provide more than three times the amount of floor space. That kind of increase in space makes it easier to increase efficiency.
“There was a considerable amount of thought and planning that went into designing the layout of our new facility,” says Nicolle Frattura, senior sales and marketing planner for Hoff’s. “The overall goal was to ensure that it allowed us to move product through the facility as efficiently as possible.”
But that increased square footage also presents problems. “Now that we have three times the space, we wanted to make sure we weren’t double-handling ingredients or finished goods due to layout,” Frattura says.
Thus, the warehouse was thoughtfully laid out next to receiving, with different sections held at different temperatures to accommodate all of the facility’s needed ingredients. The warehouse easily flows into the staging room, where ingredients are prepped for the next day of production. Three production rooms are laid out in a way that offers accessibility to each other. The mixing room, for example, has an outlet into baking on one end and an outlet into finishing on the other.
“This allows product to easily move between rooms,” Frattura says, also pointing out that another helpful addition was the WIP freezer that allows the baking team to wheel cake in one side and the finishing team to pull it out from the other. “It ensures that we are following FIFO (first in, first out) and, due to the proximity of the freezer to both rooms, it also helps to limit time spent moving product in and out of the freezer.”
The finished goods freezer and the warehouse are what Frattura calls state-of-the-art. The shipping and receiving processes use scanning systems to confirm correct inventories throughout the process, from receiving raw materials to shipping out a finished good.
The mixing department uses a number of different types of mixers to prepare cake batters, buttercreams and mousses, and uses large kettles for creams, fillings and ganache. The baking department then utilizes three automatic depositing lines and rack ovens to accommodate the large variety of products that Hoff’s Bakery produces.
The finishing room utilizes four lines — an automatic round-cake line and three lines that use various depositing systems, enrobers and nitrogen freeze tunnels. The product then finishes in the packaging area where the company says it uses the latest in automatic packaging systems.
The location of the new facility — just a few miles from the old space, but outside of the town that gave Hoff’s its start — also played a major role in the process. Hoff’s was able to take advantage of local and state tax breaks, including a five-year special tax assessment from the city of Malden. Massachusetts’ Economic Assistance Coordinating Council also approved a tax break that awarded the company $875,000 in state investment tax credits.
“We were very fortunate to receive aid in the form of tax credits and training programs from both the city of Malden and state of Massachusetts,” Frattura says. “Without the support of these two entities our move wouldn’t have been possible. We are very lucky that the city and state understand the benefit of helping businesses grow by providing opportunities for assistance. The city of Malden has welcomed us with open arms and we are very appreciative of the community who has showed us so much support and excitement.”
Any move is going to offer its share of hiccups for a company, especially one that produces food. “That makes it important for the entire team to be prepared for problems to come up along the way,” Frattura says. “When you’re dealing with so many new variables there are going to be problems that you have never encountered before. We expected these growing pains to present themselves and throughout the process have been doing our best to work as a team to overcome them.”
The installation and use of new equipment, for example, can present its share of challenges.
“We purchased new equipment for the facility and there is a learning curve with our managers and staff in terms of being educated on how to run them,” Frattura says. “However we are most successful at overcoming these challenges when members of our production team pair up with members of our maintenance team to work through the problem together.”
Hoff’s has also added around 20 new jobs. It’s part of a gradual increase in employees that will eventually result in the doubling of the company’s workforce. But that also presents challenges.
“We have had a difficult time finding workers to keep up with this demand,” Frattura says. “We’ve been relying heavily on our employee referrals to help bring in additional employees.”
Over the company’s first 25-plus years, it dealt with supermarket and in-store bakery customers strictly in the Northeast. Over the past five years, however, Hoff’s has expanded its reach and now has customers spanning the country, including more than 50 supermarket/in-store bakery chains.
Hoff’s supermarket and in-store bakery sales are largely driven by its squares, 7-inch cakes, 3-inch mini cakes and 4-inch tarts. Frattura says the company’s smaller items — such as the mini squares, cakes and tarts — are versatile enough to allow for supermarkets to feature them in their service cases or pre-packaged in their self-service refrigerated cases.
“Our 7-inch cakes differentiate themselves from other cakes in refrigerated cases due to their open sides and hand-decorated touches,” she says. “All of our items are made with the highest quality ingredients, such as scratch mousses, buttercreams and ganache.”
The new facility hasn’t necessarily started an influx of new products for Hoff’s, but it has improved production, Frattura says. “We’re still producing all of the same items as before,” she says. “We have more than 150 different items across 10-inch cakes, mini bombs, tarts and more.
“The biggest difference is that we are able to run more lines simultaneously and dedicate certain lines to certain products. For example, we now have a line dedicated to our 7-inch cakes to help improve the efficiencies of running these items.”
It all helps Hoff’s further its success as a manufacturer with a niche in producing decadent, gourmet desserts for in-store bakeries.
“The mass market is seeking out smaller portions of decadent desserts to make their indulgence rewarding,” Frattura says. “Our product line fills both of these needs by offering individual portions that contain only the highest quality ingredients. Our artisan touches provide desserts that look as amazing as they taste.”