The Ozery brothers, who have expanded Pita Break into their market into the U.S. and come up with new product lines, say innovation is in the company’s DNA

Ozery’s Pita Break makes healthy eating its bread and butter

Denise Deveau | 13/04/30 | Last Updated: 13/04/30 2:53 PM ET


Alon Ozery’s success story started out in a small neighbourhood sandwich shop in Toronto. Within 15 years, he grew his fledgling bakery operation into the renowned Ozery’s Pita Break brand. After numerous expansions, he and his brother Guy continue to introduce new flatbread and snack products to a market hungry for healthy baked goods. In 2010, the brothers decided it was time to take the biggest leap of faith since the business started. Not only did they invest in doubling production capacity, they made their first serious efforts to expand into the U.S. market in earnest. Mr. Ozery says throughout the growth and upheaval, the key to success was staying true to the brand’s quality standards.

Q How did Pita Break get started?

A I was at Ryerson taking a Hospitality and Business program. I always loved making bread for friends and family members. At the time it was all bagel and subway shops. I wanted to use the same ideas to start a shop that offered healthy, fresh pita bread sandwiches. My father scraped together $50,000, so we put that together with a business plan and got a $100,000 business loan to start our shop at Yonge and Wellesley streets in 1996.

By 1998 we went into wholesaling products to small independents in the downtown area, producing our breads in a 300 sq. ft. space at the back of the store. A year later, we moved to a 4,000 sq. ft. commercial bakery in North York and began supplying grocery store chains, and eventually doubled the space again. By 2004, we were operating from a 40,000 sq. ft. facility.

Q How difficult was the transition from a retail to a commercial business model?

A When we started selling pitas we didn’t expect them to do as well as they did. So after two years we started asking, what’s next. We thought about catering or opening another store. But then we decided to open a bakery in an industrial unit in North York without knowing anything about commercial baking.

There were a lot of trials and tribulations to go through because we didn’t want to compromise the quality through industrialization. We had to develop custom designs and processes to fit our needs rather than use automated lines.

Getting our first industrial oven was a huge challenge in terms of finding the quality we wanted. The big concern was producing pitas in an affordable manner without compromising quality or ingredients. Within six months — and changes to the line — we were finally happy with the results.

Peter J. Thompson/National PostAlon Ozery, left, and Guy Ozery at their Vaughan location.

Q How difficult was it to get financing for such a capital-intensive business?

A While we were growing, we needed financing for equipment and improvements. We almost ran out of money in 2000. That’s when my brother Guy joined us. I attribute a lot of our growth to his work, because he had a completely different skill set. Between us we have a good balance of strengths. Since then we have pushed the company forward by bringing in more sales, putting together strategies and systemizing processes at our plant.

By 2004 we had experienced great success with new lines such as our lavash crackers and were selling into major grocery chains. The real breakthrough for us however was when we introduced the pre-sliced thin buns in 2010. That’s when we also decided to target the U.S. market under the Ozery Bakery brand name.

That also meant another big infrastructure investment in order to double the size of our production facilities to 90,000 sq. ft. We were actually able to do that without bringing in outside money, so managed to stay privately owned.

Q What are some of the challenges you face expanding into the U.S.?

A We discovered you have to invest a lot more time into building your market there because it’s so different and the expenses are huge. There is a lot more competition from people who are copying our product and the bakeries are much bigger, so getting a foothold requires more expenditure. We managed to do it on our own though. Today, we are in a majority of the natural food stores and markets across the country.

Q What have you learned about staying competitive?

A While we flew under the radar for a number of years, it was in 2006 that somebody tried to copy our product for the first time. When you experience success the market notices. That’s when a strong brand, quality product and good relations count. Throughout it all we have stuck to our guns to produce chemical-free, whole grain products that are tasty and healthy.

We’ve also learned innovation doesn’t stop. It’s part of our DNA. We are constantly looking at what’s next and sharpening our brand. We’ve got a number of new products coming out that no one else makes, and are also looking at new equipment.

Another thing is we have a great team here; many have been with us a long, long time. Some used to bake with us at the original store. We strongly believe in rewarding our people so we offer profit sharing.

We have also built very strong relationships with customers and consumers, and make a point of communicating with them in many ways. We don’t just count on how nice the package looks.

Our biggest achievement however is never having to give up ownership. It’s still ours, and we’re very proud of that.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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