Pita Bread Factory conserves energy, saves bread

Image of Sid Hayek
Pita Bread Factory operations manager and part owner Sid Hayek.

Company improves efficiency as it continues to grow

Energy costs a lot of dough in a successful baking business. That's something the owners of Pita Bread Factory have learned as the company has grown from a small startup to a significant B.C. food processor.

Pita Bread Factory (PBF) began as a 4,000-square-foot enterprise in 1984, making pita bread and nothing else. Four years later, the Burnaby company added bagels to the mix, doubling to 8,000 square feet and becoming the first automated pita and bagel plant in B.C. In the 1990s, PBF grew again, adding tortillas and moving to a 28,000-square-foot facility.

Today, Pita Bread Factory produces a range of baked products from a 75,000-square-foot facility that the company says includes the most automated tortilla line in Western Canada. PBF supplies major retailers including Costco, Safeway, Overwaitea and IGA, delivering both its Bakestone Brothers brand and store brands such as Stonehedge Farms and Dempster's.

Incentives bring energy efficiency payback periods below three years

The company's many production machines, refrigerators and ovens use a lot of energy. Operations manager and part owner Sid Hayek says the hefty energy bill, in part for a huge freezer, got them thinking about ways to conserve.

Because the freezer use varies at different times, they installed lights with sensors. The lighting project was accomplished with a BC Hydro incentive that helped it achieve an expected payback period of two-and-a-half years.

Hayek learned about Power Smart industrial incentives from PBF's refrigeration service company, a member of the Power Smart Alliance.

"The next thing was the air compressor," Hayek says. "That's one of my bigger machines."

When they investigated replacing the large compressor, it became clear that the anticipated payback period (under three years) would make the investment worthwhile. Hayek says the company was able to replace two compressors with a larger, more efficient variable frequency drive unit, with help from a Power Smart incentive of $13,405.

"The new air compressor has a soft start and it just slows right down whenever it isn't needed, whereas the other one would shut off completely and restart again with a bang," he says. With continuous pressure, production lines for the baked goods now operate more smoothly.

The new air compressor saves PBF about 47,000 kWh per year, enough to power four B.C. homes. The company is adding variable frequency drives to other large motors, and has installed additional motion sensors to continue to reduce its energy costs for lighting.

Image of Pita Factory production line from above

Saving energy makes sense for the future — at home and in business

Hayek says improving energy efficiency is the right thing to do, and not just for the cost savings. "Sometimes people take things for granted. You're just so used to it and there's an abundance of it, and you don't think about the future," he says. "We need to watch how much energy we're spending. If you're not using it, shut it off."

Hayek says he definitely recommends that other companies take advantage of incentives to improve energy efficiency. "Let the numbers speak for themselves," he says. "It's just a huge bonus when you have an incentive such as BC Hydro's.

"You pay more for an upgrade up front, but hopefully you're not just doing business for a year or two. You're going to be here for a long time so it's going to pay off in three, four years. That's a great payback in any business."