Bolton-based Greenhalgh’s, a long-established family craft business, has successfully kept to the principles it was founded upon, while embracing the needs of the 21st century consumer. Its ability to change with the times, as well as provide high-quality products and service were key reasons why it won The Craft Business Award, sponsored by Rank Hovis, at the Baking Industry Awards last year.

"The inspiration and driving force behind Greenhalgh’s, which built it into the business is it today, was its founder Allan Smart, who sadly died in 2003," says Sandra Ogden, head of retail operations. "He saw what was needed to produce the very best and he made it happen."

The company is now run by his wife Kathleen Smart and children David Smart, production director, and Anne Busby, HR director, together with key senior executives. Ogden says the bakery has a large number of long-serving staff. She herself has been working for Greenhalgh’s for more than 20 years and is responsible for its estate of shops and staff. Ogden says the staff are very proud and passionate about the bakery’s reputation and welcomed the chance for the bakery to be benchmarked against its competitors in the Awards. "We showcased our products and how passionate we were, and I think that’s what the judges recognised. We also highlighted our ability to adapt to changing market conditions, as well as the continued family involvement in the firm."

She explains that the business is also very self-sufficient. "We have our own art studio, with a full-time graphic designer and a printer who produce materials for our window displays, point-of-sale materials and labels. We also have our own garage, which services all our vehicles."

Ogden says the win has bought a range of benefits, from improving customer perceptions, public relations, recruitment and staff morale. "The competition was stiff, so we were very proud to have won it."

As part of Ogden’s role she promotes team spirit and motivation and has a tremendous amount of passion for the business and its products. Ogden adds: "Greenhalgh’s is a very solid company, but we must never be complacent. Training is paramount to everything we do."

Staff have on-the-job training, and the company has an on-site training centre at its head office in Lostock. It also operates an apprenticeship scheme. Retail staff are encouraged to up-sell, for example by offering a roll with soup, which Ogden says is very successful for them. She explains that she recently had a call from a mystery shopper who felt compelled to ring and tell them how good the service and products had been in the shop. The business also offers regular incentives to staff, and rewards for hitting sales targets. These include everything from a day at the races, to a week’s paid holiday.

Future development

Future growth will come from the opening of new shops as well as the growth of its wholesale business, she says. "It is difficult when you’re faced with double-digit price increases, and we try to make economies where possible, but we would never threaten the company’s image, by using inferior ingredients," emphasises Ogden. "We put our prices up in January this year, and we will review them again in October, which is what we normally do, so we’re not doing anything differently."

Ogden acknowledges that there is competition in the marketplace, but says, "We never let it bother us. We’ve got wonderful products, and we’re particular about the calibre of staff we have, as you have to have the best service as well. As long as you have those things, the customers will keep coming back."

The set-up

The business currently has 59 shops, and a significant wholesale business around a 55/45 retail/wholesale split supplying virtually all the major supermarkets, including Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda, The Co-op and Spar, and the foodservice sector through 3663, Brakes, Bako NW, BHS and Roadchef. It has a £25m turnover and approximately 975 employees 400 in the bakery and 575 on the retail side

Popular products

The bakery has many shops in the Bolton and Wigan area "the heartland of pies and pasties" and as far north as Cumbria. Its potato and meat pie is its top seller, with potato cakes, egg custards and scones among the most popular items. Ogden says healthy eating trends have not hindered the business at all, although it has been working to reduce salt in response to current market trends, and offers a range of multiseed and low-GI breads, for example. However, she says, you’ll never change the mentality of the workmen who want a pie for their lunch.
Although traditional products remain very popular with its customers, Greenhalgh’s product development work is ongoing, and is key to the continuing success of the business, explains Ogden. "We’ve got some new filled paninis and low-GI sandwich rolls coming in, as well as some savoury muffins, salads and new sandwiches for summers."

On winning the award

"Winning the award is not just a nicety, it is a prestigious accolade, which gives the firm a higher profile in the industry, and with our customer base. Our business philosophy is to do better today than yesterday. To market ourselves and our skills, creating a quality product and the correct atmosphere for it to be retailed in, is the ethos of our business. We have to do things better than the supermarkets; the customers know the difference, and there will always be a discerning market."
David Smart, production director, Greenhalgh’s

Social media

Greenhalgh’s has moved with the times and has embraced social media as a way to improve its profile, and increase its presence online. It has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a blog, and Ogden says the firm is currently developing its website to enable web ordering. Its website is already award-winning, she adds, after being voted ninth out of 500 retail websites, for compliance with regulations, functionality and speed. The bakery also raises it profile in the local community by doing presentations in schools and for local interest groups such as the WI and Age Concern. It also supports local charities and worthy causes.

Comment from the sponsor
"We chose Greenhalgh’s after much consideration as the other two finalists were also so "crafty". We were impressed with the fact that craft skills are at the heart of what Greenhalgh’s do despite their great scale. Often, when businesses scale up, there is a compromise on quality in order to make the business efficient. Not so in this Bolton legend! Also they have an unerring need to innovate and this is also not typical of a large business and is great to see. So for managing scale, pace and quality there was no-one better than last year’s winner."
Sara Reid, marketing manager, Rank Hovis