Guttenplan’s Frozen Dough Inc.
Guttenplan’s Frozen Dough Inc.
Private Company Founded: 1908 as Guttenplan’s Bakery
Sales: $56.5 million (2005 est.)
NAIC: 311211 Flour Milling
Billing itself as the “Frozen Dough Specialists,” Guttenplan’s Frozen Dough Inc. is a Middletown, New Jerseybased, privately owned company that offers more than 300 different frozen dough products to supermarket chains, restaurants, and other food service companies across the United States. The doughs have lowabsorption formulas and once mixed are moved to a blast freezer for packing, and then held in a -10 degrees Fahrenheit freezer until shipping. Guttenplan’s offers more than two dozen bagels, including such unusual varieties as bacon and egg, garden vegetable, cherry, and French toast.
The company offers nearly the same number of different Italian and French breads, and rye and pumpernickel breads. It also has a line of about 30 artisan breads, such as raisin bread, black Russian pumpernickel, English toasting bread, Irish soda bread, Cuban bread, and round Challah. Frozen dough for rolls include hard and soft rolls, breakfast rolls, dinner rolls, round and long sandwich rolls, Kaiser rolls, and hot dog and hamburger buns. Guttenplan’s offers eight varieties of baguettes, pizza dough, and bread sticks. Sweet goods include cinnamon swirl bread, coffee ring strip, dough sheets, apple and cherry turnovers, and a variety of fat-free muffins. In addition, Guttenplan’s makes a number of seasonal products, such as Holiday Stollen, hot cross buns, green bagels, a variety of kringles, and king cakes (a Mardi Gras tradition). All production is handled at the company’s 70,000-square-foot Middletown plant.
EARLY 20TH-CENTURY ORIGINS
Guttenplan’s founder was Jaccob Guttenplan, a native of Austria and a trained baker. He immigrated to America and settled in New York City in the early 1900s—in 1906, according to company information, and 1904, according to a Star-Ledger company profile based on interviews with family members. Regardless, Guttenplan opened a bakery in the city, but he relied on nonunion labor and before long was beaten up several times. Guttenplan fled to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he stayed six months until he learned of an opportunity in Long Branch, New Jersey. This was a resort town where a number of U.S. presidents vacationed; President James Garfield was sent there in 1881 in what was ultimately an unsuccessful effort to recuperate from an assassin’s bullet. In the early 1900s the town saw an influx of Jewish, Italian, and Irish immigrants, and with that came a need for bakeries to serve them. Thus, Guttenplan relocated there in 1908, opened Guttenplan’s Bakery on Mill Street, and raised his family, which provided an immediate pool of nonunion labor in the form of nine children. At one point Guttenplan had seven of his children in his employ and but one nonfamily worker, hired in the 1920s.
FOUNDER DIES: 1942
By the mid-1930s Guttenplan moved the bakery to a new location in Long Branch’s West End section. In addition, a retail outlet was opened on Brighton Avenue. Jacob Guttenplan remained in charge of the business until his death in 1942. World War II interrupted the transfer of leadership until hostilities ended, but the war also had a positive effect on the future of the bakery. One of Guttenplan’s sons, Hyman, took note of the effectiveness of refrigeration during his time in the Army. After the war when he and his brother Irving took over the business, it was Hyman who introduced refrigeration to the operation. In this way, the company’s bakers were no longer required to stay up all night. Moreover, refrigeration provided greater control over the product and by becoming one of the first bakeries in the industry to add refrigeration, it gained a competitive edge that helped grow the business during the postwar economic boom. Also playing a key role during this period was Irving’s wife, Harriet, who became financial controller. A smart businesswoman, she kept the accounts as well as installed the kind of organizational discipline needed to set the stage for expansion.
In 1955 the bakery and retail shop were consolidated at a new location on Third Avenue in Long Branch. The enlarged operation allowed Guttenplan’s Bakery to expand beyond retail and to begin serving small stores in the area. By the end of the decade the company had more than 50 wholesale customers. Demand was so strong that in 1962 Guttenplan’s opened a second bakery, located in Freehold, New Jersey.
It was at this time that Guttenplan’s reached a watershed moment in its history. An area supermarket, well ahead of the times, opened its own bakery, offering direct competition to Guttenplan’s Bakery. It was soon apparent, however, that the grocery store was overmatched and its owner approached the Guttenplan brothers and admitted that their product was far superior to what he had to offer. He then asked them, according to the Star-Ledger, “How would you like to own both sides of the street?” He proposed that Guttenplan’s bakery supply his chain of New Jersey supermarkets. It was this opportunity that prompted Guttenplan’s to develop and perfect a method of freezing unbaked dough for bread and rolls. Thus, in 1964 the bakery began to supply frozen bread and roll doughs to its first retail customer. The product was good, word spread, and steadily Guttenplan’s built a frozen dough business, which in short order became more than just a sideline.
In the meantime, a third generation of the Guttenplan family joined the business when Abe Littenberg, the son of Rae Guttenplan, became involved in 1963. A complete transition to the next generation of management took place in the following decade. Irving Guttenplan retired in 1972 and his son Jack assumed a management position. Both Littenberg and Jack Guttenplan were well familiar with the operation, having spent many hours as schoolboys learning the trade from the ground up, slicing bread or rolling cookie dough for several hours at a time. In 1975, Hyman Guttenplan retired and sold his stake to longtime employees Bill Smalls, Sr., and Andy Rannertshauser. It was also during the mid-1970s that the company brought in a new financial controller, Irma Doerner, who would also acquire an interest in the business. Rannertshauser became plant manager, while Abe Littenberg became president and Jack Guttenplan became vice-president. The cousins also shared general manager responsibilities.
Our mission is to provide products and service that are second to none. We serve our accounts with efficiency and excellence, treating each customer as an individual and tailoring programs to meet specific requirements. When a particular product is requested, our staff works to develop that product. We have specialists in product development and quality control who are highly talented at perfecting new items and making them exceptionally easy for our customers’ staffs to handle. Product innovation is taking place constantly. In our production areas we continuously monitor operations to insure cleanliness and absolutely correct temperatures so that we can attest to the purity and safety of all our products. Our manufacturing facilities and freezers are regularly updated to keep them “state of the art.” The goal of our customer service personnel, production workers, and freezer crew is to have every item delivered to the customer at exactly the right time 100 percent of the time.
Guttenplan’s opened a new bakery in 1980 in Eatontown, New Jersey, which included a large retail store as well as a coffee shop. The frozen dough business also continued to thrive, as more varieties of breads and rolls were added, as were sweets. The company had difficulty increasing production capacity to meet the growing demand. To keep up, Guttenplan’s adopted a decentralized approached, assigning different categories to different bakeries. The Eatontown bakery, for example, provided a location for cake production. By the mid-1980s, however, it had become apparent that this strategy was inadequate and plans were made to build a new large plant and ease out of the retail business and general baking in favor of frozen dough production, which was the fastest growing business in the baking field.
Guttenplan’s secured a $6 million loan from New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority and in 1988 opened a plant about 35,000 square feet in size on a 12-acre site in Middletown, designed for the exclusive use of producing frozen dough. Production was phased in systematically, starting with bread, followed by rolls and sweets. A major problem with making frozen products was that the dough was cold and stiff and extremely difficult to work. In 1989 the company began investing in heavy duty mixers produced by Sidney, Ohio-based Shaffer Manufacturing. By 1990 Guttenplan’s began repositioning itself by assuming the mantle of “Frozen Dough Specialists.” The next step was to close the older neighborhood bakeries in order to focus all of the company’s attention on frozen dough.
LAST RETAIL BAKERY CLOSES: 1994
In 1992 the Long Branch bakery was closed, bringing an end to more than 80 years of providing retail service to the town. Then, in July 1994, the Eatontown bakery and coffee shop were shuttered as well. While less established than the Long Branch operation, the Eatontown shop had also become part of the fabric of the community. In fact, the loss of the bake shops were felt more keenly by the residents of Long Branch and Eatontown than the Guttenplan and Littenberg families. In January 1995, several months after the Eatontown closing, Jack Guttenplan told the Star-Ledger that the company regularly received calls from people wanting to know what happened to the bakery: “It might be someone who used to order a birthday cake from us every year who wants another one as the date comes up on the calendar. Or they just want to know what happened to us; where we went.” Guttenplan and his cousin Abe Littenberg had no regrets about leaving the retail bakery business, however, citing a number of reasons. Primarily, the marketplace had changed. People no longer had time to visit a bakery, butcher shop, and produce store; they wanted everything under one roof, and providing frozen dough products to supermarkets offered a greater opportunity for growth. Moreover, the cousins did not miss the hard work and long hours required by a retail bakery, often robbing the family of weekends and holidays. One of Guttenplan’s most vivid memories, according to the Star-Ledger, was “of a very exhausted father not getting home on Thanksgiving Day until evening, too tired to carve the turkey.”
At the time the Long Branch bakery was closed, the new Middletown plant was turning out 350,000 loaves of frozen bread dough a week. With demand continuing to grow, Guttenplan’s made plans to expand the fouryear-old facility. When this work was completed in early 1993, the plant had increased production capacity by 40 percent to about 50,000 square feet. Within two years, the company ramped up production to one million loaves of bread a week. They were shipped across the country to such major supermarket chains as Foodtown and ShopRite as well as many restaurants and other foodservice customers. A national sales staff was developed to support the marketing effort. With this kind of volume, the plant operated more efficiently and cash flow was able to easily cover the service on the debt the company took on to build and expand the frozen dough plant. In addition, increased profits allowed Guttenplan’s to plow money back into the business to support further growth. While the private company was reluctant to reveal financial information, Guttenplan and Littenberg did tell the Star-Ledger that 1994 earnings were 67 percent higher than the previous year. The 1990s also saw changes in management and ownership. Bill Smalls, Sr., died in 1993. Then, in March 1996, Irma Doerner retired.
- Jacob Guttenplan opens bakery in Long Branch, New Jersey.
- Guttenplan dies.
- Guttenplan’s begins selling frozen bread dough.
- Eatontown bakery opens.
- Frozen dough plant opens in Middletown, New Jersey.
- Company is producing one million loaves of bread a week.
GROWTH IN THE NEW CENTURY
Guttenplan’s continued to grow its frozen dough business into the new century. The plant was expanded to about 70,000 square feet and money was regularly invested to keep the facility well equipped. Because of the demands encountered working with materials that were closer to concrete than bread dough in consistency, the company had to replace mixers about every two years. Guttenplan’s invested in other manufacturing equipment and freezers as well, but the heart of the business remained customer service. The number of products the company had to offer topped the 300 mark largely due to customer requests. It was product innovation that was likely to continue to drive the growth of Guttenplan’s as it entered the second century of its history.
De Iorio’s Frozen Dough Products; Rhodes International, Inc.; Viola Bakeries, Inc.
Dowling, Debra, “Mouth-Watering Memories,” Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.), January 30, 1995.
“Gripping Cold,” Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, August 2002, p. 83.
“Guttenplan’s Bakery,” Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, April 2003, p. 55.
“Guttenplan’s Expands Plant 40%,” Supermarket News, March 15, 1993, p. 46.