Bake magazine reached out to Pete Thomsen, director of sales and strategy at Sugar Bowl Bakery, to learn about important steps to take during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are his insights into responding to a crisis with a positive approach.

BAKE: How would you describe the framework and functionality of your response to COVID-19?

PETE THOMSEN: Sugar Bowl Bakery is a family-owned and operated bakery that produces the highest quality baked goods, distributed in thousands of retail stores nationwide. Our employees are at the heart of our Sugar Bowl Bakery family, so first and foremost, the safety of our employees is our number one priority.

We have proactively put in place measures to ensure the health and safety of our workforce including daily leadership meetings to review any changes to the state and county regulations and guidelines; Alameda County, where Sugar Bowl Bakery is located, has amongst the strictest regulations in the country. We’ve implemented those recommendations with strong enforcement of social distancing, use of face masks, paid leave for sick and high-risk employees along with a significantly more focused and intentional GMP sanitation procedures.

BAKE: What are the “new” realities of bakery manufacturing?

THOMSEN: Again, safety of our employees is our number one concern and that means taking every precaution and measure to keep them safe.  That involves stringent health monitoring and tracking processes, enhanced sanitation procedures, providing proper PPE supplies, and the space on the manufacturing floor to practice social distancing.

BAKE: Describe the highlights of your production practices and how do these steps ensure the safest possible environment?

THOMSEN: Daily meetings with leadership and the teams, to re-enforce that our priority is first and foremost safety.

  • Office staff working from home
  • High-risk employees excused on paid basis
  • Sick employees excused with two-week quarantine period with full pay
  • Masks provided and Social Distancing including visual aids
  • Temperature monitors
  • Outdoor break rooms
  • Plexiglass work partitions

BAKE: What do you consider to be the biggest areas of variable, and how do you take steps to minimize risk?

THOMSEN: Human behavior is probably the biggest variable as regulations amongst the general public relax. However, the majority of our stringent regulations in our bakeries will remain intact and it will be of utmost importance that the workforce continues to act responsibly and continues to keep safety at the highest priority. Communication and enforcement of our policies will be ongoing.

BAKE: How does COVID-19 change the current and future landscape of consumer demand for fresh bakery?

THOMSEN: Sugar Bowl Bakery has seen growth across our business and across all our customers as at-home consumption replaces food service and out of home consumption. Packaged baked good items, like those Sugar Bowl Bakery sells, are selling well above prior year levels.

Although time will tell how COVID-19 changes consumers behavior over the long run, at-home consumption and grocery sales remain highly elevated 3 months into the pandemic with a majority of Americans still eating 90%+ of their meals prepared at home. Therefore, our outlook remains positive as we strive to deliver upon consumers need for high quality sweet baked goods.