Keeping tabs on your product line is critical to retail bakery success. Knowing which products are selling, which are not and ultimately the cost of producing them is key. Sometimes products should be dropped from your product line, while others might just need a revamp to better suit customer demand. The Slaton Bakery, in operation since 1923, has tailored its products for changing customer needs since the beginning.
The bakery’s authentic flour tortillas are a prime example of evolving product lines for customer needs. “We were one of the first businesses around to do tortillas,” said Chad Wilson, third generation owner of The Slaton Bakery.
“We didn’t even know how to make tortillas when my dad bought the equipment,” he said. The bakery, which is located in Slaton, Texas, about 10 miles from Lubbuck, was drawing from an increasingly Hispanic customer base. Sherrell Wilson, Chad’s father, saw the potential in offering products that appealed to his new customers.
To perfect its formula, Slaton Bakery gave away tortillas every morning and asked customers how to improve the product. “We custom tailored our ingredients exactly to what the Hispanic ladies in our town liked. They were really happy to get a good product and that they didn’t have to get up and make tortillas every morning for their families,” Wilson said.
Slaton Bakery’s turkey pull-apart bread is the latest product to get a revamp. For years, the bakery has sold turkey-shaped breads made of 36 rolls for Thanksgiving celebrations. “There was a lot of hand work involved. They took a lot of time to make, and we had to charge a lot for the size of the bread,” Wilson said. “It’s a cool product, but families aren’t as big as they used to be and they don’t get together in big ways like they used to. The turkey rolls just weren’t selling,” he said.
Wilson still saw potential in the turkey roll bread, but wanted to find a way to make it easier, smaller and less expensive. He turned to John Stricker at Practical Baker to see if he could make a custom Turkey-shaped cutter for his dough sheeter. “I have all kinds of crazy, hair brained ideas. I contacted John, and he took it on,” Wilson said. “I love working with him. He comes from a bakery family, so he gets it. He can tell me if it’s a good idea and cost effective.”
The cutter cuts dough to the shape of the turkey scored for individual portions. Automatically cutting the dough on the sheeter reduces labor, and the finished product is smaller, serving 10 to 12. Requiring less labor and dough, the turkey pull-apart bread can also be sold at a cheaper price.
“I’m looking forward to using it this Thanksgiving,” Wilson said. He plans to promote the turkey bread in his bakery and on social media as well as potentially sell through some local grocery stores where he already has contacts. “I’m pretty excited about it. I think there’s a lot of potential in it for other holidays too,” he said. “It’s a cool product that’s not out there. I think it’s got a lot of potential for medium to large bakeries.”
Wilson has a pretty keen eye for products with potential. The bakery’s vanilla wafers and ginger snap cookies, now sold in more than 400 supermarkets, are so popular that the bakery opened a separate 5,000-sq.-ft. cookie plant in addition to it’s original retail location.
In 2015, the bakery won first place in H-E-B’s Quest for Texas Best competition.
• The Slaton Bakery’s signature vanilla wafers were featured in H-E-B Supermarket’s television advertisement showcasing best in Texas winners.
• For a behind-the-scenes look at The Slaton Bakery cookie plant, check out this video from the Texas Country Reporter.