VILLA RICA, GA — Humility is the mark of a great leader. But can it be the trait of a disruptor, too?

That’s the case for Brittny Stephenson Ohr, director of product management at Villa Rica, GA-based Sugar Foods Corp., and board chairman for the American Society of Baking (ASB). Her leadership stems from discipline, humility and the courage to disrupt.

With experience in baking, pastry and culinary arts, doing every job from equipment operator to product developer, Stephenson Ohr has spent 20 years earning her chops.

“I’ve pretty much done it all,” Stephenson Ohr said, reflecting on how much she’s packed into a two-decade career. “I’ve learned through a lot of bumps and bruises, but sometimes that’s the best way. And it doesn’t mean there’s not still more to learn.”

Earning her degree from Johnson & Wales University was always her dream, but that achievement was only the beginning. She also studied at Kansas State University’s food business and operations program and obtained certifications ranging from product management at Cornell ­University to disruptive strategy through Harvard Business School.

One important aspect of effective leadership — especially in the baking industry — is knowing that you can’t start at the top, and getting to the top isn’t always the end of the journey. For Stephenson Ohr, experience is the foundation of innovation, and it takes work to become a leader. When you work your way up, no job is beneath you.

That’s why, even with her prestigious degree and a slew of artisan bakery experience, she wasn’t afraid to work as a mixer operator at a mid-sized cake bakery in the early 2000s.

“That was so humbling, and it reminded me that even with my bakery experience, I was not hot stuff, not at all,” she said.

She held onto that mentality when she applied for a position at Aspire Bakeries (then Aryzta) in 2009. She knew working at Aspire’s La Brea Bakery was the opportunity of a lifetime, and she was willing to stack boxes just to get her foot in the door.


“I’ve learned through a lot of bumps and bruises, but sometimes that’s the best way. And it doesn’t mean there’s not still more to learn.”—Brittny Stephenson Ohr | director of product management, Sugar Foods Corp. | ASB board chairman


Though her resume bagged her a position as a technical baker, not a packer, she remembered it was her willingness to do the work that landed her the opportunity.

Stephenson Ohr held several positions at La Brea Bakery, eventually serving as a manager of the culinary innovation team, where she met mentor Greg Tompkins.

He helped her sharpen the focus with a simple question: What did she want to do with her career?

“He was the first person to ever ask me that,” she said. That lit a fire and gave her the confidence to set her sights on manager positions and continue her bakery education at K-State.

Stephenson Ohr doesn’t have a close relationship with the status quo, whether that be in her career, product development or her expectations for her current leadership role at Sugar Foods. The discipline she learned at La Brea Bakery has allowed her to wear many hats and remain nimble in her leadership at Sugar Foods Corp., currently the country’s top crouton producer.

That’s also a trait that led her to the position of 2022-23 chairman of the board for the American Society of Baking, where she is focused on creating positive change for the association and the industry.

This story has been adapted from the 2022 New Products Annual issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.