Angelic Bakehouse goes back to its roots to meet spike in demand

There was a seven-year stretch when Angelic Bakehouse in Cudahy was growing 50% year-over-year.

“In broad strokes, that sounds like a straight line, but in reality, it’s not like that,” said James Marino, vice president and co-founder of Angelic Bakehouse. “You have big step ups and surges in volume and our team has always been able to flex up and respond.”

Angleic Bakehouse, makers of sprouted grain bakery products, has fallen back on that experience in recent weeks as the company has seen demand surge with consumers stocking up at grocery stores during the coronavirus pandemic. Sales were up almost 70% in March compared to the start of the year and customers were essentially willing to buy whatever the company could make.

“It would have been 100% if we could have made it, we just couldn’t respond fast enough,” Marino said, adding April will likely be up 100% from the baseline in January and February.

Marino said he was impressed with the company’s ability to quickly develop a short-term plan to increase production by around 120% over its pre-coronavirus levels. He noted that recent investments gave the company the ability to increase capacity while still leaving time for sanitation.

“At our core, we’ve always been an organization of get it done, do whatever it takes, no job too big, too small for anyone within the building,” said Jenny Marino, vice president and co-founder. “We’ve really seen our employees get back to some of those grassroots values and rise to the occasion.”

Even with increased demand, the company launched “Loaf You,” a program to donate up to 20,000 loaves of bread to feeding America organizations across Wisconsin. The company matches donations of customer purchased Donate A Loaf product on its website. More than 1,000 loafs have been purchased already, bringing the donation to more than 2,000 so far.

“As the impact of the coronavirus grew, we quickly identified the need to support local organizations with donations of our bread,” said Jenny Marino. “From there, we knew we could drive an even bigger impact and are excited to launch the Loaf You donation program.”

Angelic has also seen a spike in its e-commerce business, which is up around 2,000%, James Marino said.

“Fortunately, we were positioned enough to be able to do that, but with that comes some quick pop-up solutions on how to be able to fulfill that business and still provide a good customer experience,” he said.

One of the changes has been taking employees from the company’s street marketing team and moving them to work in e-commerce shipping and fulfilling operations.

James noted that while the sudden growth is exciting, it is also difficult to make long-term decisions about investments or whether to add a second shift.

“It’s interesting now that we feel like we’re back to our days as a startup, it’s very hard to plan long-term, it feels like we’re drinking from a fire hose,” he said.

In addition to meeting the increased demand, much of the short-term focus is on employee health and safety. Jenny Marino said that as a food manufacturer, the company already has a culture and regulatory requirements that emphasize safety and sanitation. Giving employees flexibility and a choice stay home if they needed to without risking their job or being penalized has also contributed to keeping employees healthy.

“I think that human component, in addition to all of the regulatory components is also a key factor in keeping everyone safe and people not feeling like they have to come to work has been a tremendous stress reliever and it helps keep everyone safe,” she said.

The Marinos said the company has also benefited from its relationship with its parent company, Ohio-based T. Marzetti Co, part of Lancaster Colony Corp. The Marinos sold the business to Lancaster Colony Corp. in 2016. While Angelic operates as an autonomous entity, the parent company provides a wealth of knowledge, support and best practices, they said.

Arthur Thomas, BizTimes

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