When Warburtons opened its futuristic £40m Enfield bakery in October 2003 it struck awe into rival bakers and customers. The massive high-tech automated bakery, capable of making 8,000 800g loaves an hour, set a new gold standard in efficient plant baking.
Three years on, Warburtons has gone bigger and better, spending £60m on its new Tuscany Park site in Wakefield, its 12th bakery, which officially launched this week.
Warburtons has never hidden its excitement about Tuscany Park. When it first announced its launch in 2004, it trumpeted it as “Europe’s biggest bakery”. One joke in the plant baking industry was the bakery would be visible from space, along with the Great Wall of China.
Tuscany Park replaces Warburtons’ landlocked Wakefield Westgate bakery in Wakefield town centre, opened in 1984. The size of the replacement is testament to the scale of Warburtons’ ambitions for growth in the UK.
The new site will more than quadruple Warburtons’ bread production capabilities in Yorkshire, when fully commissioned, and already at least doubles capacity. Its roll plant is capable of producing 60,000 baps an hour, while the bread plant can produce 8,400 standard 800g loaves an hour – two million loaves a week.
The new 13-acre site, in an industrial estate just outside Wakefield, was chosen due to its
excellent connections to the M62 and M1 motorways, which enable speedier distribution. Building work at the site, “the size of three Premiership football pitches”, according to Warburtons, started in spring 2004. The massive plot was split into five sections: a roll plant, bread plant, dispatch and ancillary area, with empty space for a second bread plant, which has yet to be installed. The site has seven silos at the moment, with room for eight.
The roll plant went into action at Tuscany Park in May 2005 and bread production started in September 2005. By January 23 of this year, the last line 400g loaves, had transferred from the old Westgate bakery, which then closed. All 300 staff have transferred and a further 200 will be recruited to work in round-the-clock shifts at Tuscany Park.
Over the past few weeks, running up to the official launch, Warburtons has been putting the finishing touches to a visitor centre, which will offer tours of the bakery to groups such as local schoolchildren.
Wakefield has been overseen by Tuscany Park’s general manager Peter Haworth, who has had a 30-year career with Warburtons – and has worked at its Enfield and Bolton bakeries.
The new bakery enables Warburtons to expand in its heartland alongside its nationwide expansion, he tells British Baker. Its old Westgate bakery had been having to buy in product from other Warburtons factories to distribute in the region as it had limited capacity.
Mr Haworth says: “We are trying to make product where we sell it. This will mean product is fresher and it also saves trunking costs. Warburtons has always been concerned about freshness and availability. We have always tried to manufacture locally. Once we started to expand, we needed to concentrate on making sure this happened more.”
He explains the bread plant produces a range of 800g and 400g waxed, farmhouse and standard wholemeal loaves in its 4.5-metre wide and 30-metre long oven with prover on top. The roll plant makes 12 packs of standard four-inch baps for the other Warburtons bakeries in the Yorkshire region, while seeded rolls, wholemeal and flavoured rolls will continue to be made at its smaller plants.
At the moment, Tuscany Park is producing volume rolls on the day shift and the bread is running day and night. Roll production will run day and night from May when demand steps up with the barbecue season.
Mr Haworth says: “The roll plant can make straightforward basic products and loads of them. It is fairly basic and fast as you like. We will take on that sort of production and leave the other bakeries in the group free to focus on specialised lines and new product development.”
As if those sort of volumes are not enough, Warburtons still has its second ‘shed’ at Wakefield, which will house another bread plant when required – within the next two years. With an empty shed waiting, there is also room at Tuscany Park if a further buildings need to be added in future, although there are no plans to do this at the moment.
Tuscany Park might never be visible from space, but its scale is certainly daunting.
A new era was dawning for Bolton-based Warburtons when it opened its original Wakefield bakery in 1984. The new generation of Warburtons – Jonathan, Ross and Brett – was developing its skills in the family business. They would eventually take over when the older generation stepped down in 1989.
When Wakefield Westgate opened, “Warburtons bread was Lancashire and Yorkshire, full stop”, Brett Warburton says. At that time, Warburtons was a mini-conglomerate. He says: “We had retail shops; we were the UK’s largest carp farmer with a fish farm and breeding tanks under head office; we had a shopfitting department; we had a jewellery chain; we had all these vans on the road so we had a body building business for vehicles; we had a number plate manufacturing business; we had a crouton business; we had a crisp business; we had a retail business in the US.”
But the younger generation recognised the potential for Warburtons was in bread and bit by bit divested everything else. From 1989 onwards, a rapid expansion of the bakery business commenced.
New bakeries were built in Nottingham, Bellshill in Scotland and Wednesbury in the West Midlands, as well as Enfield, north London. The company also bought New Rathbones’ Stockton and Newport bakeries in 2005.
Its biggest move yet is the opening of bakery site number 12, Tuscany Park in Wakefield, but Warburtons is showing no signs of standing still after that. Its Newport bakery is set to open later this year, its Stockton bakery has yet to have its official launch, and its Enfield bakery is set to be expanded – it has planning permission for a second bread plant.
EQUIPPED FOR THE JOB
General manager Peter Haworth says Warburtons tried to use British suppliers when commissioning equipment for the Tuscany Park site.
Machinery at the front end of the bakery is all from British manufacturers; Dutch and American equipment is used further down the line. Warburtons’ own engineers have tailored the design of machinery at the bakery to Warburtons specifications.
Dowson: make up plant
RTF Thurnall: sheet tin handling
Stewart Systems: conveyorised prover/oven
Kaak: spiral prover
APV: mixing/ dividing/ autoplant
Fen Ferguson: prover and cooler
Spooner Industries: oven
Tromp: water cutters (to cut patterns on bread)
Fen Ferguson: wrapping
Kaak: lidding, delidding/lid handling
Bolton x 2
Tuscany Park, Wakefield