Calgary baker makes pita bread a hit with Albertans

People had ‘no idea’ what to do with pitas 40 years ago, but Byblos Bakery now makes 1.8 million a week

Calgary’s Byblos Bakery has found the sweet spot: consumer-pleasing quality, a diverse product line, efficient production, and rigorous food safety.

The bakery produces 18,000 pita bread per hour, 20 hours per day, five days a week. But things were much different in 1975, when George Daklala first introduced Albertans to pita bread.

“When we first did demonstrations with pita, people had never seen it before and had no idea what to do with it,” said Daklala. “It was a long haul at first, because it was completely foreign to most people.”

Countless demonstrations later, people began to acquire a taste for this Middle Eastern staple. Some favoured decidedly non-traditional fillings — peanut butter, anyone? — and liked its versatility and health qualities.

“We like to make a healthy product, with no added preservatives,” said George’s wife Cristina Daklala, who is the bakery’s HR and administration manager.

Despite strong demand for its pita, the company has diversified its product line in recent years to include bagels, baklava, balady pita (larger and thinner than the original), pita chips (baked or fried), flatbreads such as Indian-inspired naan, Mexican-style tortilla and Italian-style panini. It also makes hummus dip.

Expansion was aided by a Growing Forward 2 program for agri-processing automation and efficiency, which shared the cost of equipment such as dough mixers, a pita divider, and an automatic syrup spray for baklavas. Another Growing Forward 2 program shared the cost of consultants and staff training to develop a comprehensive food safety program. In 2013, Byblos received accreditation under the rigorous BRC (British Retail Consortium) Global Food Safety Initiative. With that food safety designation and more efficient production, Byblos Bakery is now eyeing further expansion.

“We believe that, based on health concerns and demographics, our business is going to continue to be strong,” said Cristina Daklala. “It’s great that Growing Forward 2 helped us along the way, to position us to grow in the future.”

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