Ozery Bakery – How A Family’s Passion for Pita Bred Innovation
The story of Ozery Bakery’s success is remarkable in that it’s so straightforward. From passion to idea to fruition to success to growth from strength to strength, the Toronto family-run bread business has been on an uninterrupted upward trajectory since opening as a small sandwich shop back in 1996.
We sat down with co-founder Alon Ozery to discuss the story behind the business and find out how Ozery Bakery became so popular. We discovered that, as is the case with so many successful businesses, the journey began with one person’s passion.
“I always made pitas. We’re half Israeli and half English and we always made fresh pita breads for family gatherings. I loved the dough and the process and getting people together and giving them fresh bread. I learned how to make it from my aunt and my grandmother.”
While a business and hospitality student at Ryerson University, Alon had the idea to turn his hobby into something more. He secured financial backing from Dad – making it a family affair – and came up with the concept of a shop that created healthy, tasty sandwiches in a variety of all-natural pitas. They called it Pita Break.
In 2014 of course, the idea sounds less than groundbreaking; but almost 20 years ago, it was far outside the mainstream.
“All you had at the time we opened our store were falafel sandwiches served in a thin, Lebanese-style pita. And that was good, but we came along and made 12 varieties of bread. We used organic spelt, multigrain, flax…all these special breads. There was nothing like us at the time.”
It was just the first of many innovations to come out hot from the Ozery ovens…
The 700-square foot store in the Yonge and Wellesley neighbourhood was a hit and steadily grew in popularity. Soon, Toronto’s health-food markets got wind of the buzz surrounding the Pita Break’s bread and started stocking their shelves with the Ozery product. Identifying an opportunity, the family sold the shop and opened a 4,000 square foot bakery near Sheppard and Dufferin. Along with the change in location came a change in personnel. Alon’s brother Guy joined the team and their father moved into the background.
The dynamic proved even more successful as the Ozery brothers went full-time into commercial baking. They automated the lines, and began selling exclusively to smaller chains and specialty shops.
“Our philosophy, when it came to creating products, was to create new things, things that are not a ‘me too’. Our products simply didn’t exist the way we made them.”
That philosophy proved remarkably successful. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more innovative bakery in North America. If you’ve had a barbecue or made a sandwich in the last 7 or 8 years, chances are you’ve tried an Ozery invention. The flat, whole grain bun with the holes? Ozery calls it the OneBun and they invented it.
Along with the innovative flat buns that have become standard sandwich fare, the Ozery bakery came up with Morning Rounds; a healthy, pita alternative to breakfast sandwich biscuits and bagels.
Today, the brothers Ozery operate an 80,000 square foot bakery in the north of Toronto and while they’re bigger than many, they retain the sensibilities of a family-run business.
“We’re bigger than some smaller bakeries, but we’re not huge compared with the bakeries we compete with. Definitely our philosophy and the way we do things is not the common ‘large-bakery’ way of doing things at all.”
Indeed, the fact that Ozery’s refusal to use preservatives and chemicals results in a more natural shelf-life, it’s something Ozery customers have come to expect. Ahead of the curve again by choosing to voluntarily label their products GMO-free, Ozery recognizes that they’re offering something more special than convenience store bread.
“Pita today is not an ‘ethnic thing’ at all. Our products are for people who care about what they eat and want tasty food. They taste good and we make it as wholesome as possible. It’s certainly not required, but we believe in it. We believe in the diversity of agriculture and a natural system.”
From a small, community sandwich shop, the Ozery family built a business based on a passion for the goodness of bread and turned it into one of Canada’s most successful commercial bakeries. Still owned by a father and his two sons, Ozery Bakery is an inspiration to anyone with a dream.
Ozery Bakery/Pita Break is a commercial bakery based in Toronto, selling to markets across Canada and The US. Popular products include the OneBun flat hamburger bun, Morning Rounds breakfast pita and Crispy Pita toasted snacks. For company information, products and more, check out the Ozery Bakery/Pita Break website. You can alsofollow them on Facebook and Twitter.