VILLA RICA, GA — The career path 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), has been paved with grit, humility and hard work.

No matter the opportunity, Stephenson Ohr never backs down from a challenge, and that has shaped her leadership philosophy as well.

“I went from working in R&D to hearing, ‘Do you want to go run a bakery plant for a couple of months?’” Stephenson Ohr recalled her early career trajectory at Sugar Foods Corp. “I’ve always dreamed of having my own bakery, so of course, I said yes. And it was another very humbling experience. I’d been on the sidelines in R&D and had helped with operations for things like cost savings, but this was a crash course in how to get it all done.”

That experience also provided the opportunity to use her technical bread production expertise to provide training to a primarily Spanish-speaking workforce.

“They called me the ‘bread expert,’” she said. “It took me a while to get used to it, but after nine years, I’ve learned how to live into being the Sugar Foods bread expert. I’m the one they come to with questions, and I can own that.”


Becoming an expert in anything requires learning from mistakes, which also requires a willingness to fail. It’s possible for a person’s worst critic and greatest advocate to be one and the same, and for this disruptor, that person was herself.

“I can tear myself apart and build myself back even better,” Stephenson Ohr said. “That’s my process. I take feedback to heart, break it all down, and then do it 10 times better than I did the first time.”

She also chalks it up to a culture that welcomes success by way of mistakes.

“This is a culture of being okay with failing,” Stephenson Ohr said. “If I fail, my leadership still trusts me. They know that if I make a mistake, I have the confidence to pick myself back up and make it right. I try to give the people I lead that same leeway and model back the behaviors of my managers.”

For Stephenson Ohr, striking a balance between tight parameters on quality control and creating a space for a team to learn from its mistakes is key to innovation. Rarely does perfection happen on the first try, especially in the world of product development. For her team, it’s about learning, exploring and spending time in all aspects of the process to understand innovation’s implications.

“You have to be flexible, ready to change gears and arrive at a compromise. Everyone strives for perfection — I’m a perfectionist — and I’ve learned to be comfortable with compromise.” —Brittny Stephenson Ohr | director of product management, Sugar Foods Corp. | ASB board chairman


“You can’t just sit in a lab and say, ‘I have a great idea, but I don’t know if it will work on the line,’” she said. “There are so many different aspects that go into building a product, and they’re in more flux now than they’ve ever been. You have to be flexible, ready to change gears and arrive at a compromise. Everyone strives for perfection — I’m a perfectionist — and I’ve learned to be comfortable with compromise.”

Between the pandemic, supply chain disruption and war in Ukraine, today’s environment makes it impossible to lead from on high. When every day feels like “crisis du jour,” immersion is key to survival, especially when cost, availability and lead times are changing practically overnight.

“The saying used to be, ‘What’s Plan B?’” Stephenson Ohr said. “But now, Plan B isn’t enough. You need to be ready with the full alphabet.” That resiliency has prepared her for the next chapter as ASB’s chairman of the board.

“I’m focused on building a foundation for ASB that’s going to last another 100 years,” she said. “That’s not easy.”

During her term, Stephenson Ohr will focus on modernizing ASB’s training and education offerings to fulfill the current need for workforce retention, which will require investing in all-new programs.


“It’s risky,” she said. “But it’s a good risk, and it’s necessary. It’s an investment in our membership, and it will set us — and the baking industry — up for the future.”

Stephenson Ohr’s disruptive mindset comes from her training, but it’s also in her DNA, and she knows that will propel her toward the future.

“I’m already thinking about what can be the next disruption for ASB,” she said.

As the second woman in ASB’s nearly 100-year history to hold the title of ­chairman (following Theresa Cogswell’s term in 2006), Stephenson Ohr is more than ready to put in the work.

“For me, ‘chairman’ is just a job title,” she said. “It doesn’t change the work that needs to be done. And I’m comfortable and confident enough in myself to handle it and meet the baking community wherever they are.”

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