Perfecting the pasty

27 February, 2009
Cornwall's Crantock Bakery took the Bakery Food Manufacturer of the Year title, sponsored by ADM Milling, at last year's BIA. So what made the firm stand out from the tough competition? Sylvia Macdonald investigates

Crantock Bakery has been in business now for 25 years making pasties to traditional recipes from its base in Cornwall. The company was originally founded in the village of Crantock on the north Cornwall coast by a butcher who realised the potential of his freshly baked pasties made to a 19th century handed-down recipe.

The success quickly spread around the county to such an extent that the original butchery shop was closed and a new facility was established a short distance away. Over the course of the next 18 years, the business grew to cover most of the south-west of England and a reputation for quality and service was established. In 2002, the original founders decided to retire and a management buyout, led by Nick Ringer and Matthew Hurry acquired the business.

== New ownership ==

Ringer who had a marketing and general management career at Grand Met, RHM and Tetley, saw the business had potential to grow, based on its reputation for quality and service and the growing consumer interest in freshly baked handmade Cornish pasties. In partnership with Hurry, who handles the operations and finance of the firm, they invested their own money and sought venture capital financing to continue the expansion programme created by the original owners.

The business since acquisition has more than quadrupled in size and has customers from the far north of Scotland to southern Spain and Cyprus. It focuses on the fast growing high street bake-off sector and has expanded its product range to include hand-raised pies, calzones, turnovers, sausage rolls and a long list of specialist pasties.The company has invested over £2m in upgrading its manufacturing facilities; the final flourish being the official opening of the expanded factory by HRH the Duke of York in 2007.

Last year, already a good one for the business, culminated in the Bakery Food Manufacturer of the Year award, sponsored by ADM Milling, at the Baking Industry Awards.

== So what makes a winner? ==

Growth and investment have played their part, but at the end of the day, the product still has to be the hero. Innovation is also important and, at Crantock Bakery, they have not so much anticipated new flavours and fillings, they have driven the market.

New product development (NPD) has been phenomenal. Yes, there is still the famous traditional hand-crimped Cornish pasty, made to the original Crantock recipe, comprising fresh Cornish potatoes, swede, onion, lean minced forequarter of beef and the company's own secret-recipe seasoning. But there are now also up to 30 varieties, including seasonal specials such as a Christmas turkey and cranberry pasty. Machinery plays its part, but so do the 140 people who work there, because every single pasty is hand-crimped.

All ingredients are locally sourced wherever possible; the vegetable fillings are fresh, diced by machine. The meat is prepared on-site and the various pastries - shortcrust, flaky and puff - are also made on site. All the products are blast-frozen and delivered ready to be baked, but random samples are picked off for test-baking and quality control.

== Bakery Awards ==

MD Nick Ringer says: "We prepared a presentation document for ADM, highlighting what we are achieving and gave the judges a guided tour. We positioned ourselves as a manufacturer of premium traditional hand-crimped Cornish pasties for the high street bakery retailer, and have over 500 customers. But we have branched out considerably to supply supermarkets and retail chains, as well as the travel sector including shipping.

"We also supply sporting events and stately homes, dedicated pasty shops such as Cornish Bakehouse and The Cornish Oggy Oggy Pasty Co plus the overseas tourist market and communities in places such as Spain, Portugal and Cyprus.

== Flexibility ==

"One of the great attributes of the business is that we can be flexible," adds Ringer. "One way we have developed is through fillings. We looked at the sandwich market and thought, 'There is so much scope for bespoke products', so we translated that to pastry.

"Now one of the best-selling pasties is Spicy Chicken with a blend of mixed spices, pickle, sultanas and yoghurt. And we've introduced a range of hand-raised pies, from our traditional pork pie using pork shoulder to new varieties such as chicken and ham and pork and stuffing. No jelly, it's just full of meat.

"But our sausage rolls, slices, scones and traditional 'Heavy Cake' - a regional cake (made using butter, currants, candied peel and topped with a dusting of caster sugar), sell very well too."

He continues: "Since ADM awarded us Bakery Food Manufacturer of the Year, we have looked at the 'healthy' market and brought out a calzone (folded pizza) with Bolognese sauce that is just 179 calories, less than most chicken sandwiches. And we ensure most pastry products are made from shortcrust pastry, using non-hydrogenated fats and with a low salt content."

All this has provided the scope to tackle new markets. "We discovered there are new markets within education, places such as universities and technical colleges and thought, 'This is an opportunity which is not high street related'.

Customer service

One of Crantock's customers is Morrisons supermarkets. Ringer says that the company's national sales team has visited each of the stores to supply point-of-sale materials and make sure the products can be baked-off easily and correctly.

The ability to provide an ever-increasing range of products and enlarge the size of the business was given a boost by Objective One, which provided a grant of 40% funding towards new capital equipment to grow the business further. But the growth initiatives - the drive towards launching new products and finding new customers - are all down to Crantock's culture and staff and it is one that has made them a worthy winner of ADM's Bakery Food Manufacturer of the Year.

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=== The judges' view ===

"Crantock Bakery really stood out, demonstra-ting operational excellence, product innovation, exceptional customer service and exciting marketing activity. This enabled the company to grow by 30%, generating opportunities in new markets, successfully launching new and innovative ranges in a traditional market, while maintaining the quality handmade pasties they are famous for. Without a doubt, despite fierce competition, they are truly worthy winners."

- Melanie Somerville, ADM Milling

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=== View from the awards night ===

We took two tables at the awards for staff and customers. It's a great night. We were so delighted to win; it reinforces what we stand for. We use the accolade on our publicity material.

The lights on the stage are blinding. When we won, there was a lady jumping up and down and cheering. Kate Thornton said: 'I think it's your wife!'

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=== Sales value ===

Traditional steak pasties 50%

Sausage rolls 11%

Cheese and vegetarian pasties 10%

Others 29%





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