Post-war Italy was a difficult place to be. The Germans had destroyed as much as they could on their retreat in 1944. It was senseless pride. One of their prime targets had been food shops, so in many places bread had been hard to come by. A loaf often had to last several days, with family members taking turns to eat crust one day and crumb the next.
But with almost nothing else available, bread really was the staff of life. However, bakery was also a market due to flourish as peace returned and the family loaf kept its pride of place at the table.
As enterprise took off in 1947, Arturo Benini, who was already selling make-up machines for the Italian market, had a vision to build up an ovens company that would not just serve the local bakery market but an international one too. So he founded Mondial Forni
What’s in a name?
The literal meaning of Mondial Forni is ’worldwide ovens’. It is an appropriate name given that this well-known Italian company exports 75% of its machinery fulfilling the founder’s vision, which he lived to see realised. This includes the UK, where the company’s agents include Eurobake, Norbake and CBES.
At the SIAB exhibition in Italy, Arturo’s grandson Alessandro Benini is busy meeting customers who have one shop or run a giant industrial bakery. He makes time for both and talks enthusiastically about ovens, the challenges of the British market, and how the company is innovating, with new machinery not just ovens.
However, ovens is a good place to start. Benini says: "Energy-saving has been a critical issue for us. Tesco wanted emissions recovered by 50%. Ovens are one of the biggest users of energy, so we thought, ’Let’s find a solution’. We designed the new Techno rack ovens in three versions. Part of the energy-saving is to allow unskilled operators to use the ovens in a smart but simple way. They guide the user. "Bakers can see real baking times and consumption and the recovered heat is channelled elsewhere, where it is needed, so that saves money too. "
The company’s history of supplying UK supermarkets is not new. "We began supplying Tesco five years ago and Asda over 30 years ago. We consider our distribution and service unrivalled. Right now we are completing a new rack oven series, which has been bought both by Asda and Tesco. There are three versions. Called the Techno Active series, it was developed in association with the Italian School of Design. You can have basic mode, manual or software-controlled. "With the latter, like the iPhone, you can download and upload what you want, including new software. The oven can become a real, but simple ’consultant’, recognising the operator, taking instructions, giving feedback and showing what maintenance needs to be done, what alarms may have gone off and what spare parts will be needed in six months."
He explains that there have been developments on the deck ovens side too, with the new Deko electric, which also targets three levels of customers those producing under 400 units and those above. Again, there is a choice of easy software that can provide function and feedback from simple to more sophisticated. All deck ovens come with stone plates as standard, or steel plates for pastries, because they are more adaptable to changing temperatures.
So how does Mondial Forni go about sales and service? Benini explains: "We start with a focus on the customer, their mainstream sales, the needs of the store or shop manager and even any marketing they do. Then before we design or provide any new models we do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on the old equipment and the current situation.
"We realise that, with the recession, we need to fulfil different price levels without compromising quality. That was our philosophy even before the recession. When you operate worldwide, you must be flexible. You soon realise that different countries have differing needs with regard to computers and sophistication. In China, as well as the UK, we are dealing with Walmart and Tesco. They like our reliability and innovation. We follow customers’ needs precisely, both in technology and on the product side. We also have very good after-sales support. Customer service is a key point for supermarkets."
"The new generation of bakers, across all sectors, want to work shorter or more mainstream hours, but not compromise on quality," says Benini. "We need to demonstrate that new technology not only improves the baker’s life, but does not compromise that quality.
"A baker’s passion and identity is tied to the quality of his or her goods it is vital to understand that. The modern baker may need dough make-up lines, freezers, provers, ovens and presentation cabinets. We can provide them. Also, younger people are more used to computerised equipment they have grown up with computers. But you have to teach some older bakers how and why they work, without affecting the quality. That is rewarding. And if they don’t want them, they don’t need to have them."
It is no secret that equipment suppliers are experiencing a tough time in some economies, so does Benini find it is the same worldwide? He says: "The banking system has shrunk; that is the problem. In 2009, companies like ours suffered less in simple economies, such as North Africa, Libya, Morocco and Albania.
"It is risky to spend money you do not own; the banks have a lot to answer for. I hope the UK economy will improve, it is an important market for us"
Although Mondial Forni became famous for its ovens, it evolved some years ago into make-up lines. Benini explains: "One of our strongest sectors is biscuit equipment and depositors, as well as sponge and pastry equipment. The biggest market for these machines has been semi-industrial and industrial and we have invested a lot of money in efficient design and production. "
The company manages a successful balance between supplying craft, supermarket and industrial, and branching out from its original ovens. Balancing the needs of a small traditional Italian or UK craft baker with Walmart in China and Tesco in the UK may seem quite a challenge, but a love of good bread is without borders.
What the agents say
Paul Speakman of UK agent CBES, says: "Apart from ovens, which we supply to Asda, and a new bread plant, Pico, a two-lane roll plant, is a new design with an excellent weight range for 30-110g rolls, tiger rolls and buns"
David Charlesworth of UK agent Norbake says: The Deko oven, at 4ft or 6ft wide, comes in modules, so can be wheeled through normal doors. Oven doors are split, so you can gain access to one or two trays, while zig-zag heating elements give heat at the sides of the ovens. The DOE energy-saving device saves between 17-38% energy"
David Smart of UK agent Eurobake says: "We supply Mondialmatic steam tube tunnel ovens, as well as rack and deck ovens. We originally brought Mondial Forni to England"
l Techno Series rack ovens in three versions Active, Logic and Energy. Features include:
Active: advanced electronics, easy-to-use, good quality/price ratio. Special door gaskets to reduce loss of heat, while a new generation exchanger ensures performances higher than 90%. Energy-saving ’Sleep’ function allows programming of oven automatic shutdown.
Logic: recipe management system through a black/white LCD, equipped with thermo reflecting double glass with metallic oxides, lowering consumption by 3.5% compared with a traditional solution. ’Speed Dry’ function ensures 70% quicker steam discharge from baking deck than standard solution.
Energy: electronics conceived to make the standard oven operations easier but also optimise use of oven and to lower the costs. All by means of a colour touchscreen interface. Energy-saving concept works due to ’Dynamic Fan’ function and innovative steam generator.
l DekoMondial electric, featuring: production flexibility, easy installation, environmental protection, a very compact footprint; independent baking decks for maximum flexibility.
l New PM, featuring: Power Management with high performance insulation, heat-reflecting glass (in the Dekomondial Logic model), new high-efficiency steamers. DekoMondial oven guarantees low overheads, energy-saving and respect for environment.
l Steam tube ovens, from the small and smart LEM series (for small bakeries and pastry-making), to Mondial and Ecomondial series (now available with new design).
l MATIC multi-deck tunnel oven (dedicated to semi-industrial and industrial bakers).