To grow or not to grow, that is the question. And while investment remains a problem for many, one rapidly growing company convinced its lenders on performance.

Giles Foods has doubled the size of its bakery and invested £3.5m in new plant and equipment. "And that’s just the first phase," says David Marx, sales and marketing director, talking about investment at the Milton Keynes Pain Artisan bakery.

Giles supplies all the country’s leading supermarkets, as well foodservice via wholesale distributors, cash and carry outlets, quick-service restaurants and major pub chains. Its speciality breads and rolls are produced at Milton Keynes. Danish pastries and confectionery are produced at its Warminster, Wilts bakery. They include sweet tarts, which are enjoying equally sweet suc-cess. But that, in turn, means more invest-ment, so phase two is in the planning stage.

The results of phase one can be seen in Giles’ new 45,000sqft area. Sensibly, it is highly automated as is now the pattern at bread plants throughout Europe.

The new machinery includes a technologically advanced three-deck Mecatherm tunnel oven supplied by EPP the first of its kind to be installed in the UK along with new provers, spiral and blast freezers.

And, according to Marx, there will be no let-up in the pace of investment, which has already seen the bakery double in size. In addition to the 45,000sq ft of space already developed, a new adjoining cold store and upgraded loading and distribution facilities are scheduled to come on-stream in spring 2011.

Marx says: "The business has made a quantum leap. We make everything from sourdoughs to garlic breads, dough balls and focaccias. As well as doubling our capacity, we’ve achieved a massive increase in product quality, because one of the attributes of the new oven is that, among other things, it allows us to control the thickness of the crust.

"For example, sandwich manufacturers are now coming to us and asking if we can produce a ciabatta-style product with a thinner top crust and a heavier sole crust, and we are able to say ’No problem’.

"We’ve also been able to cut our input costs, reduce our carbon footprint and have achieved enormous efficiencies right across the business, including keeping labour costs under firm control."

Marx reveals that all these efficiencies mean Giles Foods has been able to minimise the impact of the recent increase in raw material prices. Says Marx: "There has never been anything like it in flour, commodities, energy, transport. However, the efficiency savings mean we’ve been able to suck in the majority of the rises, meaning the increase in our prices is, to the delight of customers, below the industry average."

He adds: "This investment is for the long term and not a piecemeal exercise. With it, we believe we have moved from becoming a secondary supplier of speciality breads to many of our large retail and foodservice customers to being their number one supplier."

He adds that the company will shortly embark on a massive new product development programme with reformulated and new frozen and chilled products scheduled to hit the market in spring and summer this year.