F irst there was the iMac. Then came the muggers’ favourite, the iPod. Soon, if you take a long run-up and leap across the supermarket from electricals to in-store, you may find i-Bread. But far from being a bizarrely-conceived bready gadget - you can’t, or probably shouldn’t, walk down the street with it stuffed in your ears - this is actually a new concept in artisan-style functional breads.

Founder of The Cotswold Food Partnership Carl Le Neveu explains: "i-Bread is about intelligent foods, it’s about ’I’ for me. You feel good buying it because it’s good for you, or because you’ve made an informed choice - for craft, for artisan, for premium. We believe, in time, it will be a recognisable brand in grocery."

The functionality comes from, for example, a crusty white loaf with the fibre and mineral content of wholemeal. Old hat to the plant bakers, maybe, but an idea still largely untouched in in-store, high street bakeries and foodservice. Cotswold is looking to bring its concept to market as a premix or as part-baked products for bake-off via wholesalers. "Consumers are now smarter about what they’re digesting. That, coupled with the huge change in UK demographics, presented an opportunity I couldn’t ignore," says Le Neveu.

One tactic will be identifying markets for the breads on a local level. "There are almost 750,000 Polish migrant workers in the UK. Part of our model is to offer speciality breads regionally, where there are strong pockets of communities."

Le Neveu spent the firm’s first few months securing ingredients supply from the continent. The company will be built around outsourcing. "In fact, we’re taking outsourcing to the extreme! But we’re not agents - there’s far more value to our business. We’re all about NPD and building brands." n


=== The pros and cons ===


I went into this knowing I was prepared to invest in the business personally. I identified the opportunity within premium bread markets and I was ready to grasp it. I could take the financial risk and all of the set-up costs were funded by myself. I don’t take a salary - I want as much income as possible going back into the firm.


Being at the sharp end of any major company has its stresses and strains - you’ve got budgets to hit and timelines to meet. I expected being self-employed, building a company up from the dust, from an idea to a business plan to implementation, not to be easy. But I’ve never felt so refreshed or satisfied. The biggest thing for me would be looking back in three to five years’ time and saying, ’We made a difference.’


=== Going it alone ===

The firm: Evesham-based Cotswold Food Partnership, launched September 2006

The brief: a three-pronged business plan, starting with ’artisan’-style part-baked bread and premixes made with ’functional’ ingredients. Hand-held food-to-go bakery snacks and premium cake will follow

Typical customers: in-store bakeries; high street bakers; foodservice channels

Staff: five; PR and production is outsourced; a brand development agency has been employed to build the brand

Background: Founder Carl Le Neveu, a fourth-generation baker from South Wales, was educated at The National Bakery School, where he won Student Baker of the Year. He has worked for RHM, Dawn Foods, Kluman & Balter and, latterly, as commercial director with Anthony Alan Foods

Finance: £80,000 - self-financed, not using any grants or loans

Third-party manufacturers: Scottish firm Fords, plus one unnamed north-east baker