British Baker is on a mission to speak to the people behind the bakery products to find out where they get their inspiration from, what their process for creating new products involves and their favourite ingredients to work with.
Here, Michelle Wade, new product development manager at Two Magpies Bakery, reveals her secrets.
What led you to a career in product development?
I have always loved food from a young age, my mum says my first steps were to get to a particularly large piece of chocolate cake! I knew I wanted a career as a chef since I was 10. I studied at Silwood Kitchens Cordon Bleu School of Cookery in Cape Town, South Africa and then worked in various kitchens around the world gaining experience in everything from butchery, to patisserie.
My biggest passion was for anything sweet which led me to running my own bespoke wedding cake and dessert company for 16 years. I started with Two Magpies in 2020 as head of pastry and have since progressed to NPD as I now get to work with all departments within the business from pastry to bakers and chefs.
Explain your process for creating new products.
New products need to fit with the Two Magpies brand so even if I love a certain product or flavour concept, if it doesn’t suit the brand then I won’t take it any further. That’s not to say that I won’t try and push the boundaries, but essentially it needs to be cohesive with the rest of the product display.
Once I have an idea, I will present it at a scheduled tasting. Sometimes I will make the product and other times I will work with heads of department to support as they develop products with their teams. It’s important that everyone gets involved to let the team experience the thrill of seeing a product they developed hit the counters…especially if it sells well. Once a product is approved it will be costed and nutritionals done and then it is scaled into larger recipes for batch production. A launch date is set that the department will work to. Allergen matrixes and labelling need to be created and then, just prior to the launch, sample products will be sent to our cafe teams to taste. Post launch we then review sales and get feedback to assess how the product is doing. It’s quite a process but it works really well for us.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with?
Chocolate as it’s what I have specialised in for 20 years and it has such a wide scope for product creation. Its also a very satisfying ingredient to work with.
What is your favourite piece of NPD?
Due to my experience with wedding and celebration cakes I’d say the piece I’m most proud of is our celebration cake range. I worked alongside Fern Harman to create a specialist range of beautiful cakes which can be ordered online or in store. We are now in the process of developing a new range which will be launched in the Autumn, which is very exciting.
What was the hardest new product to perfect?
A gluten-free pastry that I have developed was particularly challenging as I wanted it to taste as good as a non gluten-free pastry but I am very pleased with how it has turned out and we plan to introduce a bigger range of savoury counter products later in the year.
Tell us about a product or idea you really believed in but didn’t quite work out.
There have been a few products that haven’t worked out as planned…sometimes they just haven’t sold well even though they have been delicious products and other times they haven’t worked as a product that needs to be produced in volume. I’ve learned over the last two years not to get upset by these things and to use it as a learning curve for future product development. Sometimes you just don’t know until you have tried if it will be a successful product or not, so it is all just part of the process.
What is your favourite bakery treat?
The pastel de nata. Two Magpies make an exceptional one and it’s my go to sweet treat favourite.
What are your top bakery trends for 2023?
Some of the key areas to focus on for 2023 will be taking sourdough outside of just bread so thinking sourdough croissants, brioche etc, as well as waste free products. Another thing to to think about will be reduced sugar products or things that contain healthier sugar alternatives.