Delifrance S.A. is a growers’ cooperative based in Ivy-sur-Seine Cedex, France, that has also become one of the top-volume exporters of frozen baked goods sold in grocery instore bakeries in the U.S. — a market the company has been supplying for more than a decade.

A number of things make Delifrance stand out from its competitors, says Aurelie Negrier, the company’s North American sales manager. For one, there’s its size — Delifrance’s co-op consists of 11,000 farmers from northeastern France.

There’s also vertical integration. “Delifrance is fully integrated, with total traceability from the field to the fork,” Negrier says. “We also own the most modern bakery workshop in Europe, and we have 30 years’ experience developing bakery solutions for foodservice, retailers and bakers.” Industry-leading food safety and quality control standards and the ability to develop more than 300 products per year are among the other feathers in Delifrance’s cap, she says.

Viennoiserie and bread are the top Delifrance sellers in U.S. instore bakeries, Negrier says. Within the bread category, the company has enjoyed growing demand for its Viennoiserie Heritage brand, which is made with all-natural ingredients, cage-free eggs, cane sugar and sourdough. 

One thing that’s changed in the instore category, Negrier says, is increased acceptance for frozen products that are reheated at the store level. “We’ve noticed a premiumization of the instore bakery (category), with a demand for convenience. Frozen is the new fresh.”

Delifrance makes it as easy as possible for its U.S. instore partners to deliver high-quality baked goods to their customers. “Our products are ready-to-eat in 20 minutes” after they’re baked in instore ovens, Negrier says. “It’s very convenient for retailers.”

Delifrance has already introduced — or is in the process of introducing — several new products to its U.S. customers, Negrier says. Many tap into current trends for vegetarian and all-natural foods and for foods that are made with premium ingredients. “It’s a growing category,” she says. “People are looking for new products — products made with cage-free eggs, for example. And the trend is for instore bakeries to grow in this direction.”

New to the American market in 2018 — and a hallmark of Delifrance’s extensive display at the New York-based Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show Jan. 21-23 in San Francisco — is a layer cake that comes in both winter and summer flavors. Soon, Negrier says, a clean-label version of the cake will be available to U.S. retail grocery customers.  

Savory is another growing category, Negrier says. Tomatoes, spinach, Monterey jack and mozzarella are among the many foods Delifrance is adding to its baked goods to meet this growing demand.

One product that has been around for about five years but is really starting to gain traction among Delifrance’s U.S. customers is a variation on the croissant. (Whether it will be become as famous as the cronut remains to be seen.) The product is made with croissant dough but baked in the shape of a baguette. It’s a natural differentiator for customers who want to give their retail foodservice sandwich program a new look, Negrier says.  

A big part of Delifrance’s success, Negrier says, is due not only to its vertical integration but also its literal roots in the soil in which its products are made. “We’re owned by farmers,” she says. “We do our own wheat.”

Delifrance farmers grow their wheat in much the way their ancestors did, maintaining a close connection to the land. Through a process known as “assemblage,” only the finest wheat varietals are chosen and combined before being milled into Delifrance flours.

“Every Gesture Counts!” is a mantra closely followed by everyone on the Delifrance team, Negrier says. All croissants, for example, are made in the traditional French artisanal way: kneading, respect for the dough, lamination, shaping and egg-washing. It’s a process that takes a full five hours from beginning to end.

And Delifrance makes a lot of croissants. The number of its croissant varieties alone would rival the number of total SKUs offered by other baked goods companies. In 2018 the lineup includes mini and extra mini butter, mini and large raisin, large curved, large apricot, large cream, mini and large chocolate hazelnut-filled, mini and large almond-filled, mini and large raspberry-filled, mini and large multigrain, crois’sandwiches, mini and large chocolate and large almond triangle.

Delifrance breads are made with one of three starters created in the company’s fermentation workshop: poolish, levain and cereal. The key to all of them, according to Delifrance, is a long production process and gentle treatment of the dough. That allows flavors to develop properly and creates the “open crumb” characteristic of rustic breads.

Delifrance’s premium individual breads include triangle cereal, sourdough and diamond poolish rolls and sourdough petit paves. Also in the premium category are two sandwich breads: multigrain baguettine and poolish baguettine.

The non-premium bread category, what Delifrance classifies as “Classics,” includes mini baguettes, rustic banquet rolls and bocconcino olive bread (individual); rustic baguette and ciabatta (sandwich); rustic square, high-in-fiber square and muesli square; and multigrain almond hazelnut square (loaves).

Delifrance boasts an outstanding record on both sustainability and environmental awareness, Negrier says. The company’s Heritage line of premium recipe baked goods features a variety of boulangerie and Viennoiserie products ranging from breakfast pastries to rustic breads, many of which have won prestigious honors including International Taste & Quality Institute awards.

Heritage products are made with ingredients including free-range eggs, sustainable chocolate and cane sugar, and they’re made without artificial colors or flavors. The baking process used in making them reproduces artisan techniques as closely as possible, according to the company.

On the environmental side, Delifrance has teamed up with the WeForest project to offset the company’s carbon footprint. Delifrance’s contribution to the effort includes the natural regeneration of mangroves in Madagascar and the subtropical forest of Meghalaya in India.

Delifrance’s import arm, Overseas Food Trading, meanwhile, has worked with CO2 Logic on its own carbon footprint offsetting efforts. That has led to support for a project that avoids deforestation in Uganda and provides efficient cook stoves to local populations. Further, in 2016, Overseas Food Trading became CO2 Neutral-certified.  

Delifrance’s commitment to food safety, Negrier says, is second to none in the world of baked goods. The company has been certified by BRC Global Standards, a top brand and consumer protection organization whose clients include suppliers from more than 130 countries. Delifrance’s membership in the organization means it has met industry-standard benchmarks for quality, safety and operational criteria and fulfilled its legal obligations and provided protection for its customers.

In addition, Delifrance is the first French company to be awarded ISO 22000 multi-site designation for 10 years. ISO 22000, a standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization, integrates the principles of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system and other food safety measures. Delifrance has also earned ISO 50001 certification.

Given increased instore demand for fresh products that are available throughout the day for convenient grab ‘n go applications, Negrier expects the future for Delifrance in U.S. instore delis to be bright. “We follow carefully the consumers’ needs and trends, which enable us to develop the right products to propose to our instore bakery partners,” she says. “We have over 1,000 products — Viennoiserie, bread, savories, pastries and savories. Delifrance’s product selection covers all the moments of the day.”

Savory solutions

  • Ricotta Spinach Basket. Basket-shaped puff pastry filled with spinach, ricotta, milk cream and red peppers and cooked with a béchamel sauce.
  • Goat Cheese Basket. Goat cheese and béchamel sauce, shipping 40 to a case and cooks in 25 to 30 minutes in a 350-fahrenheit oven.
  • Mozzarella Tomato Puff Pastry with Provencal Herbs. Inspired by a pizza recipe, this pastry features tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, cooked onions and a Provencal herbs topping.
  • Cheese Roll. Ships 48 to a case and cooks in 25 to 30 minutes in a 350-fahrenheit oven.
  • Monterey Jack Cheese & Smoked Paprika Twist. Hazelnut taste and texture with a hint of smoked paprika inspired by the American Southwest.

Delifrance, by the numbers