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Journey of a Potato Roll

March 22, 2021
8 min. read

Journey of a potato roll

Have you ever wondered how a Martin’s Potato Roll goes from being baked and packaged to winding up in your hands, cradling a juicy burger at a neighborhood picnic, ballpark stadium, or your favorite local fast-casual spot? Well the answer is—it depends. It depends on a number of things, such as: how far you are from one of our bakeries, what state or country you reside in, whether you’re shopping at a retail location or a restaurant, and a number of other factors.

Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and Bread are sold fresh in retail locations and restaurants in over 20 states, primarily along the east coast of the United States, through a traditional DSD (or direct store delivery) model. But they don’t stop there—our products are able to be distributed nationwide, as far away as California, through a frozen/thawed business model with the help of third party distributors. On an even larger scale, Martin’s products are shipped internationally with the help of distributors and exporters to more than 30 countries around the globe, as far as Europe, the Middle East, and even Australia!

So even if you’re not within driving distance of one of our two bakeries, don’t worry. Our famous rolls and bread products can find their way just about anywhere in the world thanks to our amazing distribution team and business partners.

Explore more details about the path our products take from start to finish with a quick glance at three sample “journeys” below!


Where It All Begins

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is the home of our main bakery headquarters and also where Martin’s company history begins. Lloyd and Lois Martin first started baking bread and pastry products out of their small garage back in 1955; a practice that, over time, grew into the world-famous company that it is today. (You can learn more about our company’s history here.)

Martin’s also has a second bakery in Valdosta, Georgia. It is out of these two baking facilities that all our potato rolls and bread are manufactured for fresh distribution along the east coast (and select cities) of the United States and for frozen distribution nationally and globally.

Inside these bakeries, our products are transformed from raw materials (like real milk, butter, and high protein unbleached flour) into balls of dough, before being proofed, baked, packaged, and tagged. The packaged product is then arranged into trays, placed on pallets, and organized inside our state-of-the-art facilities. For more details on the baking process, be sure to read our Science of Baking blog.

Once the product is organized into pallets in our on-site warehouses, it is ready for the next step in the delivery process. At this point, the paths begin to diverge depending on where the product is headed.

Did You Know? The Chambersburg Bakery makes thousands of packages of potato rolls per hour! (And this doesn’t include any of the rolls being made at Martin’s 2nd bakery in Valdosta, Georgia!)


Sample Path #1: Traditional Retail Route

If being delivered locally, the product is loaded into a delivery vehicle and driven by a Martin’s route sales representative or independent operator to local grocery stores, restaurants, and food service establishments.

Once the route salesperson or independent operator arrives at a grocery store, he or she unloads the product from the vehicle, carries in freshly baked product to stock the shelves and pulls out anything that’s expired according to the date on the bag clips. Fresh product gets loaded on the shelves in a “first in, first out process,” meaning the freshest bags go in the back. Any stale product gets returned to the bakery and is used for animal feed, so that nothing goes to waste.

Once the shelves are filled with fresh product, they are all ready for Martin’s customers—like you—to pick up a pack to take home. From there, the possibilities are endless! Our rolls and bread may end up at a family picnic, be used to cater a fancy dinner event, or simply be enjoyed by a happy customer as an accompaniment to their morning coffee. The choice is up to you!

Did You Know? Tractor trailers full of Martin’s product travel to over 100 warehouses around the United States? Some of these warehouses are owned by Martin’s while others are owned by independent distributors. From the warehouse, Martin’s product heads to grocery stores, restaurants and foodservice institutions, like ballpark stadiums, airports, and convention centers.

When a route salesperson or independent operator delivers Martin’s product to a restaurant or food service establishment, it may then be transformed into any number of delicious dishes from burgers and deli sandwiches to lobster rolls, French toast, and more!

Route Overview:

  1. Fresh product is loaded into one of the following vehicles:
    1. Martin’s light blue route sales trucks – for local store delivery by Martin’s Route Sales Representatives.
    2. Independent Operator sales trucks
    3. Martin’s branded tractor-trailers – for delivery to warehouses operated by Martin’s or an Independent Operator.
  2. Fresh product is distributed to local grocery stores, restaurants, and food service establishments along the east coast and select cities.
  3. Now the product is ready to be purchased at your favorite grocery store or selected from your local restaurant’s menu.


Sample Path #2: Institutional Food Service Route – e.g., California

If being delivered nationally, outside of our main distribution area, Martin’s freezes our potato rolls and bread. This way, the product can travel long distances and still be fresh upon arrival. Once frozen, the product is loaded into refrigerated tractor trailers.

The loaded tractor trailers are then transported to their destinations before finally being unloaded at a warehouse and divided up for distribution. The product may then be loaded onto a Food Service distributor’s truck and delivered to restaurants and other food service establishments.

Did You Know? Martin’s products are used in thousands of restaurants nationwide! A few popular chains you may have heard of are Shake Shack, Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ, and Hard Rock Cafe.

Route Overview:

  1. Finished product gets placed in cardboard boxes on a wooden pallet and put in a freezer for freezing.
  2. Refrigerated trucks (reefer trucks) pick up the product.
  3. A driver (or team of drivers, in some cases) transports the product to its destination, with occasional stops along the way depending on the length of the journey.
  4. At the destination, the product is distributed in one of two ways:
    1. Directly to third party distributors who then use their own distribution team to deliver product to individual restaurants.
    2. To a cold storage facility where third party distributors can come and pick up the quantities of product they need to fulfill their customers’ orders.
  5. Now the product is in the hands of your favorite regional restaurant chains and ready to be delivered directly to your table!


Sample Path #3: International Distribution Route – e.g., Australia

After baking, the product is placed in boxes, loaded onto a pallet, and placed in a freezer. Then, it is loaded into a 40 foot container and transported to a port by tractor-trailer. Afterwards, it is loaded onto a large cargo vessel for international export.

When the ship arrives at the destination port, the product is unloaded at a warehouse and divided up for distribution. These international distributors load the product onto trucks, transfer it to storage facilities and then deliver it to various restaurants.

Did You Know? Martin’s products can be found all around the world! In fact, Martin’s is currently being used in 31 countries including Chile, Argentina, Sweden, and Italy!

Route Overview:

  1. Finished product gets placed in cardboard boxes on a wooden pallet and put in a freezer for freezing.
  2. The frozen product is loaded onto a 40-foot shipping container and transported via truck to a distribution port.
  3. At the port, the container gets loaded onto a ship and sails to the destination port.
  4. From there, third party distributor(s) come and pick up their product orders, transfer it to their own storage facilities, and then deliver it to their restaurant customers.


Miscellaneous Other Paths

Of course, the sample paths illustrated above are simply a few of the most common journeys of the humble potato roll. There are a few exceptions to the above paths; for example, our products are also available for retail sale in a few countries including Mexico and Canada.

Additionally, our rolls and bread sometimes take customized journeys to find their way to our raving fans for special occasions. We frequently hear stories about Martin’s fans gifting care packages full of our rolls and bread to friends and family members outside of our distribution area!

Martin’s also occasionally offer the chance to win free rolls and bread to be shipped directly to customers’ homes through sweepstakes and giveaways. For charitable causes, Martin’s has sent specific trucks or deliveries to people in need; for example, we made extra deliveries to Texas after the recent snow crisis. Martin’s product also finds its way into customers’ hands via tours of our visitor center, trade shows and events, or sponsorships and other special activities.

In fact, now that we come to think of it…there aren’t many ways Martin’s products haven’t travelled, or many places they haven’t been! If you have another sample journey that comes to mind, or a special request, feel free to share it with us via social media or by using our Contact Form.


Watch a visual representation of these journeys on Youtube!


And there you have it—fresh from our bakery and into your hands, the journey of a Martin’s Potato Roll sure is an adventurous one! Remember: near or far, you can make your next meal your best meal with Martin’s.

P.S., if you are a business owner looking to source Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and Bread for your restaurant or food service establishment, please reach out to us via our Food Service Contact Form.

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