Today Pittsfield, tomorrow the world
Rustic Crust’s nine pizza crusts go nationwide
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum email@example.com
Pizza is good for you? Most healthy eaters put this favorite food on their occasional treat list. But Rustic Crust owner Brad Sterl wants people to look at pizza differently. He has the number-one all-natural pizza crust on the market — made in Pittsfield. And fans of the former Foodee’s pizza restaurants will find his products a bit familiar — Sterl was a partner in the Foodee’s chain.
The Rustic Crust brand came out in 2005 and is Sterl’s attempt to compete with Boboli in the creation of all-natural and organic pizza crusts that are shelf-stable.
“What I saw in the pizza world was that most of the crusts are similar,” Sterl said. He has worked in the restaurant business since junior high. “From my days at Foodee’s, I wanted a crust that is unique.”
The Rustic Curst product line has expanded to nine Old World Pizza Crusts, which include all-natural, organic, crispy thin-crust and gluten-free varieties. The flavors include classic sourdough, whole grain, Tuscan six-grain, Italian herb, cheesy herb and original. The Old World in the name harkens back to Sterl’s Italian heritage and his love of rustic European-style breads.
When Sterl launched his pizza crusts, he had to combat the notion that organic products don’t taste good and are too expensive. He set out to prove that they could taste great and be manufactured in a cost-effective manner. He said the company’s emphasis on all-natural and organic is all about “getting the chemicals out of the products and supporting sustainable agriculture. It’s a healthier way to eat and a more natural way to eat. I have friends whose kids are ADD or they have celiac disease or some other disease, and evidence suggests it’s caused by the way we process food.”
Today his Rustic Crust products are in 85 percent of all natural food stores in the U.S. Both Shaw’s and Hannaford carry them in the local market, and Rustic is steadily moving into other national grocery chains. The products can also be ordered online. The list has grown to include pizza sauce and all-natural and organic frozen pizzas. Sterl said the company’s primary focus will remain pizzas for now, but he does foresee the day in the next couple of years when frozen appetizers and take-and-bake products will be added to the product line.
No matter how big the company grows, it’s important to Sterl that it stays in this area. When Rustic Crust started in 2005, it had nine employees. Today it has more than 50. And the company follows sustainable practices each day. For example, ninety-five percent of all its packaging is recycled; energy-efficient lighting is throughout the factory, and the warehouse has a generator that runs on recycled oil. Leftover food products are donated to local food banks, and food waste is given to local pig farmers. And the company is currently working with another manufacturer to create a biodegradable package.
For Sterl, the business is all about innovation and staying a step ahead of the market trends: “When I was younger Wonder Bread was what you bought. Everyone ate it. And then they almost went out of business. They weren’t innovative. Who will be successful is a company that remains innovative, that makes a product that is cost-effective, tastes good and is good for you. It’s a sensible way to run a business and you can make money doing it.”