KANSAS CITY, MO — For Brad Sterl, president and founder of Pittsfield, NH-based Rustic Crust, issues with the supply chain have impacted every aspect of his business. With a company that produces an array of flatbreads ranging from shelf-stable pizza crusts to premium frozen pizzas to products for foodservice, disruption in the supply chain has hit particularly hard in the form of raw ingredients.

“Wheat prices have gone through the roof,” Sterl said, also noting that oils and non-GMO and organic ingredients have become more difficult to obtain. “On the premium side of the category, some manufacturers that were producing ingredients chose not to make organic ingredients or some of those more premium ingredients. And they’ve started focusing on the items they can produce at higher volumes and higher margins.”

Beyond wheat and other ingredients, Sterl also noted that corrugated packaging costs, which impact nearly everyone in the pizza space, have gone up due to fuel indexes. With prices increasing from 20 to 30%, companies are forced to put in larger orders than normal in hopes of getting a higher percentage of packaging in on time.


Outside the continental US, labor shortages and supply chain issues still impact bakeries like Pan Pepin. The Puerto Rico-based bakery faces similar challenges in its operation but faces steeper cost issues due to the need for importing ingredients from the mainland.

“I believe that this is one of the most difficult issues that we are having right now, not only in tortilla but also in bread,” said Victor Hugo, Pan Pepin’s operations director. Beyond issues with the supply chain, increased labor costs have also impacted the bakery’s operation.

In the face of supply chain shortages, Hugo looks to increase efficiency in the bakery and replace ingredients as needed. To overcome some of these challenges, Pan Pepin relies on solutions from suppliers like Corbion and J&K Ingredients to keep R&D running smoothly and also ease labor.

As Ridgefield, NJ-based Toufayan Bakeries looks to the future for more product innovation, the company is focused on equipment that can use mother dough in its pita bread, combining trends like sourdough with traditional pita techniques.

“I believe that this is one of the most difficult issues that we are having right now, not only in tortilla but also in bread.” — Victor Hugo | operations director | Pan Pepin


“My dream [production] line would be fully automated and could use the same starter/mother dough technique for a super high hydration dough that they do in the old world,” said Greg Toufayan, owner of Toufayan Bakeries.

The move toward automation in bakery continues an upward tick as challenges with labor shortages remain the industry status quo. Hugo shared that though Pan Pepin has a machine that can move more than 800 packages an hour, the bakery is looking to buy another line that can move nearly twice as many in the same time.

“Throughout the last two years from staffing shortages, we’ve really invested a lot more in equipment where we were running short staffed or areas where we would normally have hourly workers or production workers,” Sterl said. While a lot of hand application is involved in his production, investment in equipment that feeds people on the line ingredients more efficiently grants greater accuracy in portion control.

Jim Kabbani CEO of the Tortilla Industry Association, also noted that due to the uptick in tortilla demand, an increase in automation is still needed even with significant equipment backlogs, upwards to a year in some cases.


Flatbreads of every variety have stood the test of time across cultures, and all sectors of the category see continued growth in store for the future, even if the amount of growth might remain a mystery.

“I don’t see any magic increases, but I do see, from our end of it anyway, the pretty stable potential for some customers to shift into this category,” Sterl said.

This story has been adapted from the August | Q3 2022 issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.