Gary Gottenbusch knew he was going to be a baker, he just had to create his own path.
Coming from generations of bakers — including his father, who came to America from Germany, opening an artisan pastry shop in Cincinnati — he was looking for a way to deepen his skills when he turned 18. That’s when he made his way to Münster, his father’s home, and apprenticed at a 150-year-old bakery and learned the old art of pretzel making.
Gottenbusch, now a Certified Master Baker, turned that into Pretzel Baron, a holder of patents, winner of awards and an in-demand supplier of artisan pretzels nationwide. That company, along with sister company Ditsch, now offers its artisan pretzels under the banner of Ditsch USA, a union of artisan pretzel-making royalty.
Supermarket Perimeter recently conducted an exclusive Q&A with Gottenbusch as Ditsch celebrates 100 years.
SP: In the company's 100 years, what remains the same for Ditsch and how does that help Ditsch USA?
GG: In Ditsch’s 100 years of providing the highest quality pretzel products the challenge of delivering the freshest pretzels remains,” Gottenbusch says. “We at Ditsch USA are blessed to have the full support and experience of our German coworkers. They are very excited to contribute to pretzel growth in the U.S.”
SP: This year, Ditsch USA is coming out in a big way with the introduction of retail ready pretzels: pretzel bites, mini sticks, dinner rolls, pretzel buns, individually wrapped and 1.5-pound party trays. What was behind these product introductions.
GG: These are pretzels for the masses, and only authentic Bavarian pretzels — crispy on the outside, soft inside — make the grade.
“We make pretzels the way we always have — with only five ingredients,” Gottenbusch says. “We are bringing the classic shape and the same taste profile. It’s about flavor, but ultimately it’s about making it scalable.”
SP: Craft at scale has been a mantra shared by artisan bakers like yourself. How do you find success with that?
GG: The art of pretzel making is time and consistent quality. We don’t rush fermentation or sacrifice quality for speed. Ditsch has made an artisan product scalable by respecting the pretzel.
SP: How important is the experiential factor when it comes to pretzels.
GG: We are asking 'How do we replicate the experience of Oktoberfest in the United States?' Now we are expanding pretzels into different applications — small pieces for grab and go, like popcorn. Snacking is a trend that most certainly will continue to grow in the United States. Pretzels are one of the latest trends and long lasting. You will be seeing more small artisan specialty bakers there will be large national chains featuring the oldest snack food in the world.
SP: What do you see next for pretzels
GG: Outside of pretzel breads, rolls and pizza crusts, the next big thing in pretzels is bites. Sharable minis are the rage. Soft pretzels are a healthier indulgence option to fried snacks.