FAIRFIELD, CA — When Michael Mendes joined Just Desserts, he knew it was time to start training for his next marathon. That’s because the old (and somewhat confusing) adage, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” doesn’t apply at this Northern California bakery. Go ahead, eat the cake. They’ll bake more.

“The cakes are very decadent; they’re dense and rich,” said Mendes, CEO and managing partner. “They have more of a pound cake texture, and our cream cheese icing is not sweet and has a clean finish… we’ve had customers who even want to just buy the icing in bulk.”

The bakery is taking center stage in many in-store bakeries, and Mendes attributes that success to a system that perfectly pairs art with just the right amount of science to create a line of cakes, cupcakes and cake bites that are featured in supermarkets across the country. With a rollout of new vegan and gluten-free lines to complement its core clean label and nut-free offerings, Just Desserts is poised to deliver indulgence to health-conscious consumers without compromising quality.


Just Desserts has come a long way since its beginning as a San Francisco retail shop in the 1970s, but it has not strayed from its scratch roots, even after shifting focus to a centralized commercial bakery in Oakland in the early 2000s.

About a dozen years later, Mendes took leadership of the company and led initiatives that resulted in recapitalization and an expansion into retail outlets from coast to coast.

Today, in a 73,500-square-foot facility located in Fairfield, CA, Just Desserts still uses its scratch formulas to create 130 SKUs including its clean label, organic and, most recently, vegan and gluten-free products.

“In the ‘good, better, best’ approach, we are dedicated to be consistently in the ‘best’ category whether in the in-store bakery or the store perimeter,” Mendes said. “We think these trends — clean label, vegan, organic, nut- and gluten-free — are attributes that are highly valuable. The key to success is creating products with qualities that consumers value. That seems obvious, but oftentimes, it’s easy to forget.”

“With everyone’s buy-in, the tone at the top just flows down, and the whole staff becomes more efficient. When something’s important to leadership, it’s important to everyone else.” —Patricia Seymour, CFO, Just Desserts


Automating may seem counterintuitive for a clean label, scratch process, but in truth, modern equipment technology has enabled Just Desserts to create its products at scale while staying true to its formulas.

For example, the brand does not use synthetic leaveners, so it relies on a blend of traditional pantry ingredients and on optimizing the mixing and baking processes to properly develop the cakes. That means mixing must accurately aerate, and the oven must ensure a perfect rise for flawless decorating at the end of the line.

“It starts with the quality of the raw materials, at the base level, and how we blend them,” Mendes said. “Then, we look at how we can create leavening through mixing the selection of ingredients rather than artificial and synthetic processes.” For example, the formulas blend baking soda, which is an alkaline ingredient, with sour cream, which is acidic, to aid in the leavening process.

“You can achieve a lot of desirable textural attributes and enhance the flavor profile through the use of clean label pantry ingredients in the baking process,” Mendes added. “We’ve pioneered this approach and refined our baking strategy, allowing us to produce craft items at large-scale.”


As a relatively small company, Just Desserts’ successful product development is undoubtedly the result of cross-functional teamwork.

“We take a lot of pride in the integrative nature of our work between operations, sales, marketing and R&D,” Mendes said. “As an organization, we are closely aligned during the innovation process, valuing the merit of ideas regardless of which department or whose idea it is.”

The process usually begins with the marketing department, led by Ana Speros, director of trade marketing and customer service. With a scalable concept, operations, R&D, procurement, finance and sales all come to the table to understand every implication of new product development.

Speros is at the centrifuge of the collaboration. Mendes noted that Speros possesses the autonomy to see all sides of new product development — or suggest tweaks to current products — and make informed recommendations.

“It’s great to have someone in the organization who can say, ‘I’ve heard all the input, and this is what I recommend,’” Mendes said. “And the reality is that the best ideas win.”

Jason Mendes, Just Desserts’ director of operations is known for his due diligence in understanding the operational implications and equipment needs behind product development.

“Jason knows how to dig deep,” Michael Mendes said. “When he asks for capital, he understands all the consequences.”

At this level of collaboration, every person at the table has a stake in the game. Implementation of a company-wide ERP system, led by Patricia Seymour, CFO, has made communication throughout the entire process — from R&D all the way through distribution — practically seamless.

“At the management level, we all dug in and got the ERP system working where we needed it to be,” Seymour said. “With everyone’s buy-in, the tone at the top just flows down, and the whole staff becomes more efficient. When something’s important to leadership, it’s important to everyone else.”

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