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‘Cake Boss’ Stresses Importance Of Innovation, Quality In Bakery Industry

Cake Boss bakery presentation

Last updated on June 11th, 2024 at 06:18 pm

Celebrity baker Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr. emphasized the importance of innovation, quality and staying on trend during a presentation Sunday at the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s 2024 Show in Houston. 

A fourth-generation baker perhaps best known for the TV show Cake Boss, Valastro has grown Carlo’s Bakery – his family’s Hoboken, New Jersey-based bake shop – to an international company with locations across North America, Canada and Brazil. Along the way, he has also authored four New York Times best-selling books, won an Emmy and amassed a social media following of more than 30 million people.

Bartolo "Buddy" Valastro Jr. Cake Boss
Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr.

After expressing his commitment and gratitude to IDDBA, Valastro began his talk on bakery trends by recalling the first lesson his father taught him – to take pride in everything you do. If so, “you’re going to be successful no matter what you do.” 

Valastro, who started working in the bakery at age 13 or 14, said he also learned the importance of leading by example and that there is no task beneath him.

“Every morning, I’m at my factory at 6 a.m., tweaking the systems or the lines, making it happen. I know every single employee’s name, story and family. And I feel like that’s the difference.”

Valastro found his niche in cake decorating. But when he was 17, his father died from stage four lung cancer. “And now, I had 30 employees. I had huge responsibilities and roles … I wasn’t really ready to do it. And I feel like that was a part of my life that that turned on a switch that I still have today,” he said.

“I remember saying no matter what I have to do, I’m going to make this work. I was the first one there and I was the last one to leave. I said nobody will outwork me.”

Valastro recalled how supermarkets were putting smaller bakeries out of business in the mid-1990s. So about two or three years after his father’s death, he made the decision to double down on making the items that grocery stores could not, such as wedding cakes.

He grew that part of the company’s business by having his wedding cakes featured in bridal magazines. That exposure, in turn, led to appearances on TV cake competitions and eventually his own show on TLC in 2008.

“And then we wind up doing over 300 episodes of Cake Boss It went to 220 countries and territories all over the world. It just is like a pinch-me moment,” he said. “I never ever imagined that would be my life.”

[RELATED: Growing In-Store Bakery Sales]

At the same time, Valastro has kept a keen interest in the manufacturing side of the business.

“Over-engineering a cake that’s going to spit fire or flush like a toilet bowl is great. But being able to set up a production line that can do 25 cakes a minute or package 150 cake slices a minute is a different part of your brain,” he explained.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Valastro helped bolster his company’s e-commerce business and developed cake vending machines, the first of which sold the equivalent of a tractor trailer full of slices in a month. He then got involved in improving the packaging for cake slices, boosting their shelf life to 30 days.

Cake Boss bakery presentation

Valastro shared with the audience the origin of one of his company’s favorite items, the Everybody Cake. 

“There’s something for everybody,” he said. “It has got a layer of chocolate pecan pie, a layer of brownie and a layer of cheesecake all in one cake. But think of the complexity of it coming off a line – where three components have to be made simultaneously, assembled together and cut into single packages.”

Turning to retail, Valastro said single serve is the future.

“I think that’s what people want, and I’m excited to be able to come up with flavor profiles that I think are going to be innovative and creative,” he said.

Valastro went on to note that he doesn’t feel like a retail baker anymore.

“I have bakeries, but I’m an innovator,” he said. “And I want to innovate for the industry. And as much as we’re all competitors, in a separate way, I feel like shows like this bring us together – because we’re looking for the next best thing or we’re trying to make things go to another level.”

Citing the significance of social media, he said his company is developing do-it-yourself cake kits that have the potential to go viral on Tik Tok.

“There’ll be a QR code [on the package], which will go to a video of me teaching you how to do it … these cakes are already square, perfect. You’re going to be successful. It’s about taking it to the next level, making the people at home, do it as a family … this is the future. People want to post about it.”

Valastro encouraged the crowd to stay on trend. “What are the trends? The trends to me are things that are going to be experiential, things that are outside the box, making people feel successful.”

Valastro pointed out how far the bakery industry has come in the past 20 or 30 years. “It’s about trying to innovate and use quality … I think that’s what has to happen,” he said. “We have to be able to innovate in not only the flavor profiles, but the razzle dazzle.”

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Kevin Atwill

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