From Start-Up to America’s Number One All-Natural Pizza Crust

The Exception Magazine recently connected with the founder of American Flatbread & Rustic Crust, an all-natural and organic pizza franchise.

Essentials

Company Name

American Flatbread & Rustic Crust

Founding team

Brad Sterl – President/CEO

Office location

Pittsfield, NH

Employee count

Approximately 150

The Exception Interview

How would you describe your company and its product to someone who has never heard of it?

American Flatbread is a premium line of wood-fired frozen pizzas made with natural and organic ingredients. Rustic Crust is a lone of all-natural and organic shelf-stable pizza crusts that you top with your favorite toppings. We never use chemicals or artificial ingredients in either brand.

How did you come up with the idea for your company? How did you validate the concept early on?

I have been in the food business since my teenage years. In the early 1990s I was President of Foodee’s Franchising Inc. – an upscale, gourmet pizza restaurant franchise. We were growing and had restaurants throughout the northeast. I found that I was getting away from food and spending more time on business related topics. That’s when I started experimenting with crust recipes and retail packaging. In 1996 I began selling crusts locally under the name Ever Better Eating.

As the company grew it became apparent that Ever Better Eating, as a brand name, needed to be changed; and in 2005 RUSTIC CRUST was launched. The new name and packaging, retail displays with merchandising tools, including signage and display racks were ready in September 2005 and the company has never looked back. Today Rustic Crust has moved from a small start-up with very good regional distribution to the #1 all-natural pizza crust in the country with distribution in all 50 states.

In February 2010, Rustic Crust acquired the exclusive worldwide licensing rights to the American Flatbread brand, a regional leader in the frozen pizza category. It too has now grown to be a national brand and is “climbing the charts” as they say. The acquisition makes Rustic Crust a force to be reckoned with in the retail pizza business.

What does your ideal customer look like?

Approximately 2/3 are female millennials and Gen Xers ranging in age from 25 to 49. They are affluent, eating with a spouse or partner and are equally splits between parents and non-parents. They all love pizza.

Where would you like to see your company in 5 years?

I’d love to see us as a top 10 national pizza brand.

What broader trends are driving interest in the food tech sector?

We were kind of ahead of the curve with our belief in “better for you foods”, clean label ingredients and non-GMO.

What excites you personally about working in food tech?

Creating foods that are better for you and taste great.

Do you believe your city/state supports its food tech startups?

Not as well as they should. This is a national problem where it seems more support is given to companies in the STEM fields. Food is supported and should be supported.

 

What words of wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of food tech CEOs?

Follow your taste. Make and develop products that YOU would like to feed your family and friends. Challenge what has become the status quo.
What are the biggest risks for your business in 2017?
Changes to the economy and the higher cost of operating forced by governmental regulations.