By Anthony Castrovince
You may not have heard of New Horizons Baking Co., but chances are good that you’ve tasted the company’s products.
New Horizons produces soft sandwich buns and English muffins, delivering to more than 5,000 quick-service restaurants across Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania, as far north as Brampton, Ontario, as far south as East Point, Georgia, and as far west as Missouri, and to grocery stores and food providers nationwide. Because the Norwalk, Ohio-based business isn’t identified on the products’ labels, New Horizons is as anonymous as it is ubiquitous. And although its name isn’t widely known, the family takes immense pride in producing a product of the highest quality.
“We take great pains to make sure that we follow great formulas accurately and deliberately,” says Chairman Tilmon F. “Tim” Brown. “Every customer can be assured that they’re receiving exactly what they expected.”
Brown has followed that made-to-order mantra for his 55 years in the baking business, and he’s passed it on to his daughter, Trina Bediako, who recently succeeded him as CEO. With unwavering values and a commitment to tastiness and timeliness, they’ve put New Horizons on a path for continued growth.
Brown originally planned to dispense medicine, not muffins, attending the University of Buffalo in his hometown, where he studied pharmacy. But in 1966, with a young family to support, he dropped out and took a job as a route salesman for the Wonder Bread-Continental Baking Co.
“I got to work at 3:30 or 4 in the morning,” he says. “I’d load up my truck and go onto the streets of the east side of Buffalo to the mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, and small supermarkets.”
Brown fell in love with the work and did it so well that he rose to corporate vice president and director of sales. By 1995, he had retirement in his sights, but his friend and bread magnate John Paterakis called with an offer he couldn’t refuse. Paterakis was buying New Horizons, a food manufacturing facility with bakeries in Ohio and Indiana. He wanted Brown to run it, and eventually take sole ownership.
“It made so much sense,” Brown says. “I knew the baking business. I just had to understand who our customers were.”
Brown closed the company’s general office in Maumee, Ohio, and relocated the corporate headquarters to the Norwalk facility. He reinvested in the business by paying attention to the little things—improving the work environment with upgrades to equipment and even plant lighting, notably with an upgrade to the factory lighting system.
“Just think about working in a dark space as opposed to working in a well-lit environment,” he says. “It was about making sure we had the right equipment to produce the product in a way that didn’t require people to do something he wouldn’t do. We want people to enjoy coming to work.”
Joining the family business
In 2002, Brown asked his daughter to come work for him. Bediako was employed in the telecommunications industry in Connecticut at the time but jumped at the opportunity to join the family trade.
“I started in human resources, which gave me an opportunity to learn the business and get to know the people,” she says. “I’ve also worked in sales and supported our major customers for years. Those relationships and lessons are things I couldn’t have gotten with the MBA that I paid for.”
At the end of 2017 and after 16 years of learning, Brown decided Bediako was ready to lead the business. Brown said to her, “It’s your time. You’ve seen all sides of the business and understand how I ran the business. You’ve seen enough of this pie to know how to slice this next piece.”
(Photo courtesy of New Horizons Baking Co.)
Under Bediako’s leadership, New Horizons and its affiliate, Genesis Baking Co., continue to produce buns and English muffins at their Norwalk and Fremont, Indiana, factories, with plans for a third facility to open in Toledo in 2021. The company also operates the Metraco Transportation Co., which handles its deliveries. Bediako took over as CEO in 2020 and hired a new president, Michael Porter.
“We’ve had a lot of changes,” Bediako says. “When I first came here in HR, we had 185 employees. Today, we have over 400. At the time, we didn’t have an English muffin line. Now, we have four. We’ve had a lot of growth, a lot of expansion. It’s been good for our customers and good for our family.”
Bediako and Brown are proud to be at the forefront of a minority-owned business, and that status has helped open doors. But their commitment to quality is what keeps the door from closing.
“Once you get the business,” Brown says, “the color of your skin doesn’t mean squat. You better give them what they’re paying for. That’s what it’s about.”
New Horizons also values diversity in its supply chain as well as employee talent.
(Photo courtesy of New Horizons Baking Co.)
With so many clients depending on the company, New Horizons can’t afford a half-baked banking relationship. When the company sought a new primary bank to handle its financing in 2019, Huntington responded not just with attractive terms but with an approach that fit New Horizons’ values.
“They’ve been open, innovative, and very supportive,” Bediako says. “We talk to them about things we’d like to do, ideas we have, and they’ve been very open to finding financial solutions for us.”
From his days as his salesman to his days as a chairman, Brown made it a point to fulfill his promises. In Huntington, he has found a bank that does the same.
“They give you the sense that they are who they say they are,” he says. “They’re going to do what they promise and enable you to run your business without having to worry about that side of the business.”
For more information, visit newhorizonsbaking.com.