Handi Foods Ltd.
George Haddad, owner and founder of Handi Foods Ltd. (HFL), has had a passion for food his entire life. Growing up in Lebanon, Haddad learned to make bread by watching his mother, using traditional methods and ingredients.
Haddad studied business administration in the United States and soon after graduation began his career in the food industry. He started HFL in 1978 and began operating as Mediterranean Bakery in 1981. Now, 33 years later, HFL boasts two high-production locations in Ontario that bake and distribute pita and flat breads, pita chips, crackers and other healthy double-baked snacks.
Haddad is still actively involved in the business today. He works with a strong management team that is committed to the high level of taste, food safety, quality and value that the HFL brand stands for.
Jerry Chizick, general manager of HFL, has been with the business for six years. Chizick oversees a large team of committed bakers, sales staff and other professionals, guiding the day-to-day operations of the company. Under Chizick’s leadership, the HFL crew prepares a wide range of frozen flatbreads, snacks and related products for customers in Canada, the United States and overseas.
While baking flatbread may seem like a straightforward business plan, HFL has worked hard to navigate a competitive market and stay abreast of consumer trends.
In order to maintain and expand a strong market share, HFL strives to keep up with the demands of shoppers. Pita has gained favor with consumers in recent years due to growing concerns over health. “People are more educated about food,” Chizick says. “Consumers understand that these products have multiple uses and health benefits. We offer products to fit that kind of demand. We offer pocket pitas, flatbreads and snacks that offer higher nutritional benefits for the consumer.”
Innovation is the cornerstone for growth and HFL places strong focus on product development with new formats, formulations and flavors to meet customer demand. The company has produced high-protein, low-carbohydrate options for special diets, as well as veggie pitas, 100-calorie pitas and 12-grain products.
In keeping with the growing trends for healthier snack alternatives, the company is investing in bolstering its snack production capabilities. HFL’s eclectic product offerings include: bruschetta crisps, pita chips and crackers with healthy grains, such as chia, multigrain and more, with a variety of topical seasonings. Its growing line of products is helping HFL grow, expanding demographically and geographically.
Integral to the company’s operations is its commitment to food safety and quality assurance. Both plants have consistently achieved A ratings under the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Foods Safety Initiative. Haddad strongly believes in continuous improvement programs, sparing no effort or expense in maintaining the highest standards of food safety and quality.
Looking forward, Haddad and the team are making preparations for continued sustainable growth. HFL also recently invested in a large plant expansion, adding a $3.5 million production line. Further, work is underway for the expansion of existing facilities providing more room for production lines and shipping.
A number of new business deals ensure production is gearing up to meet market demand. HFL recently landed a contract with a major customer, supplying pitas to the chain’s stores in the United States. The company’s strong private label customer base is largely the result of quick product turnarounds, flexibility in meeting customer needs and an innovative team.
Haddad and the team have ambitious plans. “We are building infrastructure and capacity to meet higher demand given that gestation periods for new production lines are usually about eight to 12 months,” he details.
While the bakery supplies retailers all over Canada, Haddad hopes to take on more territory in the United States while also slowly making inroads overseas. The company currently has a small footprint in food service, which is recognized as an enormous untapped market.
“There are a lot of hurdles to growth,” Chizick explains. “As we get bigger, so do the challenges. We are in a new stage of doubling our size. In another two years, we hope to do it again. We are doing our best to stay in control of our market. Converting three of our lines from fresh to frozen was a huge step in the right direction. We have been able to improve our margins while still delivering a high quality product that uses the same selective ingredients.”
While growing has not been easy, Haddad is dedicated to seeing through the coming expansions. He is looking forward to building up the business over the coming years, seeking out new clients and new markets to serve. Much is changing for the company, but one thing remains the same: Handi Foods Ltd. is committed to delivering quality and healthful products to its growing customer base.