Ingredients supplier Sonneveld’s European Bakery Innovation Centre (EBIC) is taking the baking industry into the 21st century. Digital cameras can record everything in iats test bakery and images they take are put on the internet so that they can be viewed anywhere in the world.

Temperatures are monitored throughout the bread-making process and the end product analysed. Computers register every last statistic, from softness and crumb structure to the number of holes and cells in slices of bread, so that they can be used to create graphs and intricate diagrams.

"Why? Because knowledge is power," explains Sonneveld’s newly appointed managing director, Cees Hack.

"We want to share the ambition and the passion, which is why we have opened up EBIC. We invite people from our industry - bakers, machine constructors, students and raw material suppliers - to use it as a meeting point. We believe that two heads are better than one. By sharing knowledge, we are encouraging innovation. It’s our desire to become known as the problem-solvers of the industry and we want others to share the wealth."

Geert Sonneveld, who owns the Sonneveld Group, opened the centre on 13 September, 2006, the day the group officially celebrated its 50th anniversary. Sonneveld supplies bread mixes, improvers and release agents to artisan and industrial bakeries worldwide.

experiment to perfect

According to the company, EBIC’s primary purpose is to involve its customers in new developments, allow experiments to be carried out on small production lines and to give artisan bakers an opportunity to refresh or enhance their knowledge.

EBIC has a trained sensory panel that conducts a series of consumer tests on products. Members cast their votes on hand-held devices, similar to those used by the audience on the TV quiz Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Companies and bakers can use the test bakery at EBIC to try different methods of preparation and tweak recipes.

"We’re very proud of the centre," says Martin Churchill, technical sales manager for the UK and Ireland. "We think that British bakers and people in the industry can introduce more innovation into the market by using its facilities."

His European counterpart, Ruud Klasens, agrees: "EBIC is a very exciting centre and we welcome everyone from the industry to come and visit."

Sonneveld conducts research for customers and consumers and has contacts with international research institutes and technical bakery libraries across the world.

"We believe that, for a baker to be successful, he must understand his consumer," says Hack. "So one of our latest developments is researching what we believe are the four types of consumers: pure, indulgent, passionate and worldly.

consumer profiles

"The pure consumer will buy a product for one particular reason - for example, cost. This same category buys ’healthy’ bread for its health benefits.

"Indulgent consumers have a sweet tooth. This category will stay in a bakery for an extra few minutes just to look at the cream cakes, whereas passionate consumers love the smell, the feel, the taste and want to know the origin of their bread.

"They use all their senses, gathering as much information as possible. And the worldly consumer will travel miles to buy, for example, a naan bread because it tastes like those in Delhi.

"But you also have to remember that consumers often switch between categories." n


=== Fact file ===

? Sonneveld Group BV supplies an extensive range of bread improvers, bread mixes and release agents to both artisan and industrial bakeries

? Major turnover comes from exports to countries in Europe, the Middle East, South America and south-east Asia

? The company was set up in Sliedrecht, Holland, in 1956 by E J Sonneveld Snr and his eldest son, C G Sonneveld

? In the 1980s and 1990s, Sonneveld expanded its range and introduced fruit and gelatine products, imitation chocolate, pastry mixes, almond paste, marzipan and yellow cream powders

? In 1998, the company introduced liquid bread improvers for the industrial segment

? Sonneveld’s most recent innovation is aimed at the artisan bakery segment: a block improver called Proson

? On 6 September, 2005, Sonneveld opened its Palipro plant, the largest fully automated factory in Europe for the production of liquid, oil-based bread improvers

? Cees Hack is Sonneveld’s new managing director. He took over from its owner, Geert Sonneveld, who opened EBIC on 13 September, 2006

? Sonneveld conducts, and has access to, extensive market research