As president/owner John Stevens discusses the future of Dunford Bakers, a large independently owned commissary based in West Jordan, Utah, he shares details of recent success stories, including a $2 million expansion of their bread and bun production line this year and the purchase of 2½ acres for an additional 50,000-square-foot facility. “Our bread shop is running 24 hours a day,” says the president of Dunford, founded in 1931. “We’re sending bread to the East Coast and the West Coast – hamburger and hot dog buns, sourdough, white, wheat, multigrain, a full line of breads. We do a lot of private label donuts, breads, buns, muffins and cookies for supermarkets, convenience stores and other retailers. It’s really been fantastic.”
Dunford Bakers and sister company Rocky Mountain Bread tally a combined $25-30 million in annual sales, supplying grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores like 7-Eleven. They make up to 30 kinds of breads, ranging from cracked wheat/sprouted bread to mega multigrain, as well as numerous sweet goods (cookies, donuts, cupcakes, brownies and muffins) that include their most famous product, the Double Fudge Chocolate Cake Donut. “We use a proprietary mix and make our own chocolate icing with a superior fudge base,” Stevens says. “The donut is totally enrobed in fudge icing. It’s something we are very well known for, for years and years.”
Dawn Food Products is a key vendor that supplies donut mix to Dunford, which in turn makes donuts and distributes to 7-Eleven stores' fresh program 365 days a year. “7-Eleven is so good for fresh foods,” Stevens says. “We are a member of the Fresh Bakery Operator Team that supplies to 7-Elevens in the US, Mexico and Canada.” Adds Dunford’s sales manager Laura DeLeeuw: “They hold us to a very high standard.”
As consumer attitudes toward health gain importance within the food industry, this movement creates more urgency for innovative bakeries like Dunford to respond to customer needs. For example, Dunford uses a specific donut frying shortening from Bunge that is trans fat free. “We are seeing a trend toward trans fat free and healthier products,” Stevens says. “You’ve got to look at people’s attitudes toward health. “
Food safety “is such a huge issue” today, he adds, putting additional pressure on them to ensure every baked product is safe and secure. “The food industry has changed so much over the years,” Stevens says, “with the need for temperature control, specific mix times, metal detection and other factors. There are some people out there who are not inspected like we are and they can go out there and sell for lower prices. But more and more customers are looking for a higher standard to provide the level of products and services that we have.”
Investment in the most advanced equipment is vital to Dunford staying ahead of the curve. The bakery recently installed a 6-pocket volumetric bread divider from AMF Bakery Systems, as it continues to automate. Their 100,000-square-foot facility in West Jordan features two fully automated bread lines with overhead conveying systems. Bread is baked in a pair of massive Baker Perkins ovens.
Product innovation is another requirement to maintaining an edge in today’s marketplace. Stevens explains that they are always pushing the envelope with new ideas to create products that the market demands. One success story is the individually wrapped hot dog bun, which Stevens says is a big enough bun to hold a third of a pound hot dog. The fact that it is individually wrapped brings added convenience for use at c-stores and other retailers that sell hot dogs and also ensures food safety for the ultimate consumer.
Another product success story is the Triangle Bavarian Cream, which is the result of experimenting with a croissant cutter on a Moline machine to find the right shape to make a convenient and delicious filled donut, which is iced in chocolate. “We’re always coming up with a lot of neat ideas,” Stevens says.
Their famous Double Fudge Chocolate Cake Donut remains a top seller and is popular throughout Utah. Stevens says there are c-stores that routinely sell two dozen or more Double Fudge Chocolate Cake Donuts per day, well above the norm for daily sales of a single variety of donut.
DeLeeuw points out that this decadent donut is a mainstay no matter how the economy is doing. “Everyone will still eat a donut when times are tight. People still need a treat.” Adds Stevens, “When you have a history like we do, people keep coming back for more.”
Dunford Bakers traces its roots to the Great Depression in the late 1920s as a way to help a widow make ends meet for her and her three sons. Hazel Love Dunford, having lost her husband to sudden heart failure, and her job as a home economics teacher at a financially failed school, took on the challenge. With the help of her sons, who made deliveries on their bicycles, Hazel began baking and selling bread in her own kitchen. She quickly developed a customer base that preferred home-style bread. Before long, the family was so successful they could not keep up with the increasing demand. As the boys grew, so did the business. Steve, Clayton and Burns opened Dunford Bakers in 1931, and they were joined in the mid-1940s by Paul Stevens, John’s father.
“As Dunford grew, they hired my father, who was at Royal Baking at the time,” John Stevens says. “The business grew and got involved in more products including cakes, pies, rolls, donuts and muffins. In the 1950s, Dunford was one of the largest independent wholesale bakeries in the West.”
By 1980, the business was sold to Metz Baking Co. in Sioux City, Iowa, which wound up being sold to Earthgrains in 1999. But before that time, John Stevens had bought out the company that had taken over the sweet bakery side for Metz and brought back the Dunford name and business in 1991. Today, he owns Dunford Bakers and co-owns Rocky Mountain Bread with his brother, Ron Stevens.
“When we look back at everything our father accomplished, we want to see the third generation carry on the business,” says John Stevens, who has five children working in the family business. “We have a lot of family working here, which makes us very proud. We want to see this continue on another 100 years.”