Italian innovation

16 July, 2010
At the SIAB exhibition, Sylvia Macdonald meets an Italian company making traditional but also novel bread products for the bake-off market and finds it is aiming to transfer its success in Europe to the UK
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When it comes to bakery companies, there are famous brand names, family names and quite a few foreign-sounding names. However, it's not often one comes across a name so startlingly simple as Bakery and ironically the company is Italian.

Bakery was started in 2004 by Roberto Parodi, who owned a fresh bread bakery, and business partner Marco Beccari, who worked for Italian food company Barilla.

They began with one office, two employees and a strong work ethic: 'One must not forget the vision'. They now employ 60 people, have two manufacturing plants in Italy one near Rimini, the other near Ancona and make frozen par-baked and frozen fully-baked Italian products for supermarkets and the foodservice sector throughout Europe, including the UK.

The company has grown quickly, acknowledges export manager Roberto Parodi. "We have passed E10m (£8.3m) turnover with 20% growth each year."

Customer names are impressive too. Retail clients include Carrefour, Metro and other major chains, and foodservice customers include Autogrill, Italy's biggest service station retailer. In 2006, the company began exporting to a major retailer in the UK, so it is already familiar with the competitive nature of British and Irish supermarkets and is keen to expand business here.

In the past five years, Bakery has also developed strong partnerships with someof the best-known foodservice players in the British and Irish markets and Parodi stresses that the firm has International Food Standard certification and British Retail Consortium accreditation.

Turtle bread

Bakery's best-selling line is focaccia, which sells over 100,000 units a week. "But we are innovating all the time," says Parodi. "Recently we introduced new sandwich carriers, such as turtle bread and crocodile bread." The appeal to children of these new bread shapes is apparent.

He points out an obvious distinction between British and overseas tastes. "On the Continent, most sandwiches are eaten warm, grilled. In England you commonly get this warm savoury food through pastries. We are innovating in sandwich breads and find that, in particular, sales are growing in Scandinavian countries, such as Norway and Sweden, because they consider these breads to be healthy."

Among Bakery's other innovations are frozen breadsticks, with inclusions such as olives, raisins, onions, sun-dried tomatoes and its own version of pain (breadstick) au chocolat. Then Parodi jumps back to the animal theme again: "Our latest product is mini-bruchi which means caterpillar for bake-off. It is made with the inclusion of pumpkin flour or maize, so it is connected to the seasons. It could be called Autumn Bread."

Parodi adds: "Consumers are looking for something special; they don't always just want to eat bread with a meal, so we look to add different seeds such as fennel and pepper and so on."

As other examples of innovation he describes a potato flakes loaf, made with semolina flour but using the ciabatta process, and he explains that an agreement with the University of Bologna has helped to develop the company's Saracen bread, which contains a lot of buckwheat from local fields.

Marketing drives

While NPD is clearly very important to the company and its growth to-date innovation applies to marketing too. Bakery targets consumers directly, with ideas such as snack recipe booklets. On its first offering, through the magazine La Cucina Italiana, it received 1,000 replies.

The recipes show how breads can be used with different dishes and now Bakery sends them to everyone who responded to an email address. Parodi says; "Our second campaign was through supermarkets. It went so well we had to print half a million."

Bakery's breads are naturally made and the company only uses natural improvers where necessary. "You only need flour, water, salt and yeast to make good bread," emphasises Parodi.

And what of their attitude to salt? At the SIAB bakery exhibition in Verona, where BB met Parodi, there was a morning seminar on the role and rate of salt usage in Italian baked products, so it is an issue clearly being discussed in the market. "Salt is a very important ingredient in baking we use it, but not too much," says Parodi. "Focaccia is low in salt, so rock salt can be sprinkled on top."

This all sounds very much like common sense, Italian Tuscan bread, for example, has always been made without salt, because it is designed to be eaten with salty meats such as prosciutto and salami.

Export initiative

Bakery now exports to eight countries, including the UK and Ireland, and has its own representative, Brian Cullinane. He lives in Italy, but has worked for well-known bakery and pasta companies. Parodi explains; "Brian is usually our first contact for UK customers. He presents the range and talks about production."

So what is Parodi's specific aim going forward? "My ambition is to be considered the specialist producer of Italian baked products, which also includes pizza. We have a major range for retail and foodservice, we form strong partnerships, care passionately about our products and are flexible in technical aspects and NPD.

"Every week we develop new items, artisan-style products that look good and have a natural fragrance. Wheat is the most critical element of our products; we take great care in sourcing it from the best growing areas in France and Italy and having it processed exclusively by quality certified mills."

But, going back to his days as a craft baker, he says that quality breadmaking also stems from using quality water: "We use a pure water from the basin of the river Ridracoli, whose source is deep in the Forli-Apennine mountains."

And the yeasts? "We use prolonged fermentation, natural yeasts, in keeping with traditional Italian methods, the core 'mother' yeast is gradually blended in with each new dough mix."

So what was this forward-looking company hoping to find at SIAB? "Well," he says, "we did hear that British Baker was attending, so we asked to book an appointment through our international bakery PR agency news Ne.www.s based in Milan, hoping for a chance to present ourselves and our breads."

Take it as read.


Bakery at a glance

l Production 24/7
l Employees 50
l Exports 20%
l Key customers include; Metro, Tesco, Co-op, Conad, Carrefour, Autogrill, Marr, Montana (Cremonini group)
l Breads frozen, part-baked and frozen fully baked ciabattas, paninis, focaccias, snacks such as gondolinos and calzone and numerous other speciality breads, rolls and snack or sandwich carriers
l Markets: retail, foodservice and sandwich producers


Potted history

2004 Company formed
2005 First presence on Italian market through outsourced products
2006 Purchase of the plant in Cesena; building of the distribution structure
2007 Development of the market through a network of agents all over Italy and in strategic European countries; investment in the plant; and BRC and IFS certification
2008 Growth of the management structure; new product lines
2009 Purchase of a second plant in Fermo, near Ancona


Contacts

Brian Cullinane tel: 00 39 328 0552618 b.cullinane@bakery-spa.it
Roberto Parodi export manager r.parodi@bakery-spa.it
Marco Beccari
managing director
Address: Bakery, Via F Parri, 130 Cesena 47522
Website: www.bakery-spa.it
Tel: 0039 0547 601368





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