This year has accelerated consumers’ demands for convenient, fresh, and unique eating experiences, opening up new growth opportunities for some specialty suppliers. American Flatbread has pursued those opportunities with its unique lines of flash-frozen pizza, giving shoppers exactly what they are looking for during this challenging time. To find out more about the company’s growth in recent months and how American Flatbread is handling this spike in demand, I had the chance to sit down with Owner Brad Sterl.
“The demand we’ve seen is directly tied to overall volume, and during the pandemic it’s been as much of a challenge as it has been a benefit to most companies, including us,” Brad began. “We’ve focused on gaining new consumers who may not have previously purchased our products. A lot of new consumers have been trying our product and repeat purchases have occurred more frequently than they had been pre-COVID.”
According to Brad, American Flatbread has seen over 55 percent of additional growth over what the company saw in the first quarter of the year due to interest building in the frozen pizza category. Additionally, shelf-stable growth for Rustic Crust (the company’s sister brand) went up by 50 percent, which is in-line with the company’s ready-to-eat pizzas.
Customer feedback has shown that the unusual circumstances surrounding COVID have contributed to higher sales for American Flatbread. With consumers trying out lesser-known products, those who came across American Flatbread continue to make repeat purchases as the freshness of this brand is unrivaled. This explosive growth is also due in part to the company’s unique approach to buyer partnerships during this time.
“The key to success for us and others has been communicating with retailers and sharing as much information as we can. It comes back to how we treat our partners and value customer service,” Brad shared. “We’ve been very successful at maintaining a 98 percent fill rate at this time. The more info we share allows us all to work better together.”
As methods of meeting and communicating with retail partners have changed, the availability to meet face-to-face has decreased significantly. During the peak of the pandemic, both sides of the supply chain were having challenges, leaving American Flatbread to lean on more written communication—especially when it came to inventory levels and delivery times.
“It’s really interesting to see what’s going to happen as we go forward and how many retailers and brands will try to implement technology on some level,” Brad said. “Zoom meetings don’t take the place of face-to-face, but there are definitely some efficiencies that can happen for both sides that might not require in-person or tacitly needing to see or try something with your hands.”
On a final note, Brad relayed to me that an increase in families sharing meals is a primary contributor to the company’s recent growth. With many of life’s regular activities coming to a halt, we can all find gratitude in the ability to slow down routines and appreciate the little things.
Buying patterns in the specialty sector continue to shift, so keep checking in with us here at Deli Market News.