What makes the perfect bagel?

If you ask Dave Harris, co-founder of West Caldwell, New Jersey-based Original Bagel, it starts with the crispy exterior shell of a boiled bagel. But that exterior isn’t good enough by itself. The bagel also has to include a soft, flavorful inside.

“That takes a lot of practice and teamwork to achieve,” Harris says, mentioning that Original Bagel – which provides fresh bagels to instore bakeries, bagel shops and delis – has been achieving the desired bagel consistency since 1995.

And how is the vaunted perfect shell achieved? For starters, it’s not as much about the water, dispelling the popular myth that New York’s harder water is responsible for the crispy exterior. It’s more about the boil.

Chilled dough rings are typically poached or boiled in a solution of water and malt barley for anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes. The Culinary Institute of America says this pre-gelatinizes the dough’s starch, which locks the liquid inside, expanding the interior. This boiling also thickens the crust, which is vital in order to produce a chewy bagel.

Instore challenges

Instore bakeries face situations bagel shops and other retail bakeries may not face. For example, instore bakeries often open and close freezer doors while cycle baking throughout the morning in order to keep product fresh and provide customers the theater of baking.

Sometimes bakers will keep cases out of the freezer entirely for an hour or so as they prepare to bake. But those temperature changes can create frost burn on exposed product. To combat that, Original Bagel provides what it says is a unique pillow-pack, which seals individual layers of 15 bagels until they are ready to use.

Instore bakeries also sometimes face a lack of freezer space. This might require the purchase of high-volume flavors such as plain and everything in larger boxes, such as 75-count, while purchasing lower volume flavors in smaller, more efficient boxes.

Not your normal bagel

Harris says the goal of Original Bagel — as the name might suggest — “is still, and always will be, to sell lots of plain bagels.”

But every category needs excitement added to it every now in then. Original Bagel spices things up a bit with its Asiago Cheese bagels, which Harris says continue to draw customers. A little more outside the box are the company’s Rainbow bagels, which have recently become a consumer favorite.

The Rainbow bagel got its start at the Bagel Store in Brooklyn nearly 20 years ago and it has recently become a key addition for many bagel producers. Batches of dough are given bright colors and are then flattened, layered and rolled. The result is a tye-dye affect that took the nation by storm in 2016 and continues to prove popular.

“I’m seeing many instore bakeries using our rainbow bagels to cross promote with other bakery products for National Unicorn Day on April 9,” Harris says.

How to tap into bagel superconsumers

IDDBA and Eddie Yoon, as part of their research on superconsumers, recommend three waves to boost bagel sales.

Wave 1 — Appeal to shoppers already in the store. Bagel bit cup can provide an energy-rich boost to satisfy a craving. This appeals to shoppers in the store, who don’t want to make an extra stop for snacks or don’t want to buy snacks at foodservice.

Wave 2 — Convert potential superconsumers. Create group-buy bagel boxes designed to maximize time and cost effectiveness. Bulk boxes are easy to pick up at the bakery and are for people who need solutions fast.

 Wave 3 — Draw in more shoppers. Invest in technology that expands the market by offering pre-order services and coupons. This can draw people who need something for immediate consumption or want to treat themselves.