North East Bakery is on the look-out for more stores to grow its Nichols brand.
The company has 13 shops in the north-east and will add two more before Christmas. "There are huge opportunities to get into primary retail locations in the region, which means we don’t incur greater distribution costs," said MD Greg Phillips.
The company’s portfolio includes seven Nichols shops - five of which were rebranded following its purchase of Milligans Bakery and a 20,000sq ft bakery two years ago - and six Chapel Bakery stores.
The current North East Young Business Person of the Year, Phillips said the chain focused on hand-crafted products and locally sourced ingredients, which gave it a point of difference to rivals such as Greggs. It also runs promotions for store openings, such as the most recent in Newcastle: "We go into the street with samples and almost drag people in for product tastings - if we can get them through the door, the feedback is always good."
Nichols’ best-sellers in its stores are made-to-order breakfast stotties, hot carvery sandwiches, luxury sandwiches and pies, while recent NPD includes noodles, pasta, fruit and vegetable sticks to make the offer more rounded. "Bakery is at the core, but office workers don’t want a sandwich and cake every single day," said Phillips.
It is now working for BRC accreditation to grow the wholesale business, which makes up 30% of sales, to restaurants, sandwich shops, catering groups and foodservice distributors. "We’re getting more volume and are ready to move up a league," said Phillips. "There is more capacity in our bakery that we can use."
The company, which was founded five years ago from the buy-out of the Chapel Bakery and Patisserie, has a workforce of more than 140, with a turnover of £3.4m a year.