At Harlan: The Pursuit of Growth with Grains, Granola and the OU

It is not by coincidence that the Orthodox Union’s (OU) symbol is synonymous with quality. The high standards and care with which OU-certified products must be produced are recognized by consumers and manufacturers alike. For Harlan Bakeries, Inc. (Harlan), a manufacturer in pursuit of excellence and growth, obtaining the supervision and certification of the OU for each of its products was a must.

Harlan was founded in 1991 as a wholesale manufacturer and distributor of baked goods. Then as now, the core of Harlan’s mission was and is its emphasis on producing quality products and growing its business in a responsible manner for the greater good of its customers, employees and stakeholders. Partnering with the OU in 1995 to obtain kosher production supervision and product certification was a natural and mutually beneficial step in ensuring both the quality and growth of the Harlan product line, as well as in growing the offering of products available to consumers desiring or requiring their kosher certification.

Today, Harlan has expanded its product line beyond bagels to include pies, cakes, muffins, cookies and granola — products that are certified by the OU as either “kosher dairy” or “pareve.” The company’s sales and market penetration have continued to grow above and beyond its expectations through quick response to market demands and customer requests for new products. Though many of the market’s demands are in a constant state of flux, the demand for kosher products remains a constant — it has continued to increase at an annual rate of 15 percent over the past 25 years according to the research firm Integrated Marketing Communications (“Kosher Certification Moves Forward,” Foodnavigator.com – Europe. December 2003).

So what accounts for the stability and growth of this important $165 billion market? As with any market of this size, there are multiple factors. There are, of course, the consumers who purchase kosher products for traditional religious beliefs. This segment of the market began to increase more than 15 years ago due to a rediscovery of kosher tradition and heritage among younger Jews (“Born Again Kosher – Kosher Foods Marketing,” Prepared Foods. August 1992).

Another primary segment includes Seventh Day Adventists, Muslims following a Halal diet, vegetarians and food allergic or sensitive consumers who seek out kosher foods because of the strict guidelines by which they must be produced. Additional growth can be linked to present-day concerns for the safety and reliability of the food supply. Traceability, while only more recently a priority for food manufacturers by the FDA, is already established as an inherent part of the kosher certification process. Consider also that only the manufacturers of OU-certified products can affix labels bearing the OU symbol to their products. This eliminates an opportunity for a loose label to be applied to the wrong product by someone outside of the production facility.

While the convenience and quality of the goods they purchase continue to remain important considerations to consumers of baked goods, the demand for healthy, all natural and whole grain products is on the rise (source: MarketResearch.com). Unlike the temporary craze for low-carb options that took the country by storm in the new millennium, the overall trend towards all natural, better-for-you foods is here to stay.

Manufacturers and retailers of baked goods are responding to the demands for healthful, kosher baked goods by offering new and/or improved products that include whole grains, all natural and organic ingredients and offer convenience to the consumer. Furthermore, these improvements and innovations are being communicated to consumers through more informative packaging and in a growing number of advertisements.

Harvest’s Best™ All Natural Granola is among a series of new health-conscious products from Harlan that addresses many of the varying wants and needs of today’s consumers. This product combines the healthy goodness of oats, cashews, cranberries and other delicious all-natural ingredients to form a great snack that can be eaten on-the-go. Consumers will also note that the product is certified by the OU as kosher dairy.

Harlan has heard the voice of the consumer, and thanks in great part to the Orthodox Union, it has successfully achieved its mission of growth through quality. The industry has recently acknowledged the company’s efforts. In September of 2006, Harlan was named Wholesale Baker of the Year by Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery Magazine. Harlan was a winner in the growth category at the Indiana Entrepreneurial Awards of Distinction, sponsored by the Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship in October of the same year. In November of 2006, Harlan received its ninth consecutive “Superior” rating for its Avon, Indiana production facility by the American Institute of Baking.

As Harlan Bakeries, Inc. strategizes for future growth and success in the baking industry, quality and responsibility continue to be integral pieces in the foundation of its business. The advice, education and guidance of the Orthodox Union continue to be an important piece of this greater whole.

For more information on the company, its history & achievements, visit www.harlanbakeries.com.