On the cusp of 50 years in business, Edmonton-based Sunrise Bakery remains a true success story.
Beginning as a bakery offering door-to-door delivery back in 1963, the company started as a family business and remains that way today. Operated by three brothers in law, Sunrise Bakery has stuck to the values that have made it successful over the years: conservative growth, running a stable business, and of course the efforts of its tremendous, long-term staff. In fact, some of that staff has been with the company for more than 25 years, valuable in helping Sunrise Bakery stay on the right path to success and vaulting the company to its current place in the market.
This month, Gary Huising, President of Sunrise Bakery, and Erik Haak, Vice-President of Operations with Sunrise Bakery, spoke to The Canadian Business Journal about the success of Sunrise Bakery and their plans for the company moving forward.
In the early 1970s, Sunrise Bakery originally expanded its business in shelving its products with major food retailers, such as Loblaws, Sobeys, Costco, 7-Eleven, Kroger, Safeway, and more.
Realizing its original model and vision of door-to-door delivery would not last forever, Sunrise Bakery has changed with the times. The company recognized the importance of staying relevant in the competitive food and drink industry, and as such is now poised for growth.
Some loss of local market share pushed Sunrise Bakery to look further abroad for national and foreign accounts, learning the logistics and distribution, most notably expanding its business into the United States market. Already expanding its distribution channels from Alberta to cover most of Canada and North America as well, Sunrise Bakery is also considering offering its products to other international markets such as the Middle East as well as various Asian markets.
Most recently, Sunrise Bakery began distributing its products to the Caribbean.
“We have been fairly conservative and I think that can sometimes be a strong point or a weak point, but I think we have made that a strong point,” Huising said. “We have not run after every Tom, Dick, and Harry. We pick our clients a little bit more. The baking business and the food industry is a very competitive market, but we found a niche that we do well in and that’s what keeps us going.”
Huising also believes that “everything has a cycle” and that many buyers are now returning to Sunrise Bakery, in an effort to not only buy local but to minimize the cost of purchasing foreign products.
This isn’t the first time that Sunrise Bakery has adapted to change. When food retailers and supermarkets began adding in-house bakeries as part of their stores, Sunrise Bakery reformed its product offerings, now retailing pre-made frozen baked goods. Today, a bevy of flavours and food choices sees Sunrise Bakery offer more than 200 varieties, including muffins, cakes, sweet dough, donuts, a selection of specialty baked goods, and more.
Sunrise Bakery attributes its business flexibility as one reason why the company has remained competitive. From small orders to large batches, Sunrise Bakery offers its all, including personal delivery, something the big names of the baking world simply cannot compete with. Another strong point of the Sunrise Bakery model is that the company is also works with client recipes, meaning it further develops some recipes using its strength to offer large manufactured orders from an original small batch. Huising summarized, “Bigger companies can’t compete with the cookies that I make because they can’t make a small run.”
Sunrise Bakery wants to define its future with a growth phase. Growth remains on the bakery side of the business, including its recent addition of a fundraiser cookie line, as well as other specialty products. Nowadays, the company is also working more efficiently through its automation processes
“That has been one of our key elements,” Haak explained. “We’re very flexible, we’ve been around for so long, and we’ve done just about every kind of product in the industry. When someone comes looking for something specific, we’ve done it in the past or we can come up with it.
Sunrise Bakery is committed to even more future growth, particularly feasible given the company’s recent commitment to automation in its bakery. As Haak concluded, “The feeling is you have to stay committed to growth, because once you give that up, you have the potential of withering and dying. We’ll look at automation to keep competitive but also to continue to grow.
“A good staff also allows us as ownership to spend more time on the growth factors, thinking about consumer growth and keeping contacts vital.”