By Valarie Johnson | Oct 02, 2013
Organic and natural baked goods
Brand extension and new markets drive fast growth at Boulder’s Rudi’s Organic Bakery
Rudi’s Organic Bakery does a whole lot more than bake bread. They’ve come a model for how brands can build on great customer relationships to develop new products and well, rise to the occasion.
“It felt like a business that could be reinvented,” says Jane Miller, chief executive officer of Rudi’s Organic Bakery who took over the business 5 years ago. “It had this really great core but didn’t have a strong marketing presence. In the last 5 years we have rebranded the business.”
And, it’s working.
“In four years we have literally doubled the business,” says Miller. “The bread business overall is flat, but our business is up about 25 percent this year. The benefit of people really trying to understand organic and our gluten-free business has been amazing for us.”
What is now Rudi’s Organic Bakery began in 1976 as Rudi’s Bakery, a small local bakery in Boulder. Rudi’s Bakery soon gained a reputation for nutritious, flavorful, preservative-free breads, rolls and buns.
In 1981, after a rigorous review process, Rudi’s entire product line became certified Kosher, and Rudi’s products began to appear on supermarket and natural food store shelves.
Rudi’s now occupies a 61,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art bakery in the heart of Boulder. “We’ve added 50 jobs in the last year,” says Miller. “And, we just opened up a gluten-free bakery.”
“Of course our products have to be fabulous but the fact that we are from Boulder says we are in a center for natural and organics,” says Miller. “We find Colorado to be a very convenient and central location for national distribution. We are also very close to where we are getting all our raw materials.”
Rudi’s Bakery became a leader in the organic industry in 1991, when the company started using organic ingredients.
Today Rudi’s is the leading producer of certified organic bread in the nation, and specializes in the production and distribution of organic bread and baked goods products. Rudi’s breads continue to be made in small batches using a special blend of centuries-old, craft baking techniques and modern baking methods.
But baking bread is only the beginning. Rudi’s is also in the business of creating jobs.
“It’s so great to be in a situation where you are creating jobs and you’ve got a company that is growing,” says Miller. “You’re not worried about laying people off. That is what I love about manufacturing; you create real jobs that allow people to have a nice lifestyle, and that is really powerful.”
Miller also gives back to the community. “I started a website in January called Janeknows.com,” says Miller. “It is a career advice website for young people.
Miller describes her life of pouring herself into her company and community as being innovating in and of itself, “I have never been in a business where you look back and say we doubled it once, and we can double it again.”
Challenges: Growing quickly creates additional players, say Miller. “The brand extension is such that growth is requiring more products and research, which is great but also requires resources.”
Opportunities: It’s all about new product innovation. “Our biggest opportunity is to continue to innovate and not just be a loaf of bread,” says Miller.
Needs: Miller would like to build staff and continue to have quality individuals working there, “Finding the right people that want to work in a bakery is not always easy. We are an artisan bakery so our needs are specific and not just automated.”