Think of Swedish food and pickled herring and meatballs are bound to come to mind. The good news for Swedish bakers is that both these national delicacies are usually served with bread. Visit a Swedish restaurant and the table will likely feature a basket of various types of bread - from traditional rye to Continental specialities such as French sticks and Italian ciabattas.

This love of bread combined with a proud history of engineering means it is no surprise that Sweden is home to a well-established oven maker - Sveba-Dahlen, represented in the UK by Benier.

Sweden might be a relatively small country - home to approximately seven million people (plus acres of forests punctuated by pretty lakes) - but Sveba’s reputation stretches much further, supplying bakeries around the world.

The company, like many in the equipment sector, is now doing its best to limit the impact of high energy prices on its customers. Under the brief of "energy-saving, flexibility, easy to operate and clean", Sveba-Dahlen has designed three new oven ranges: the S series of rack ovens for small craft shops; the C series of compact rack ovens, offering complete flexibility for in-store or wholesale bakeries; and the V series, for plant bakeries requiring industrial output."

Originally two oven companies, which both started out in 1948, Sveba acquired Dahlen in 1990. Since then, design and durability have been twin aims. Absolutely key to the design of each new oven has been energy efficiency on the one hand and quality of baked product on the other.

== Energy efficiency ==

In the UK, Sveba-Dahlen is represented by Benier, whose managing director is former engineer David Marsh. He says: "The smaller S series of rack ovens bakes equally well from scratch, pre-proved frozen, part-baked or ambient. It is aimed at point-of-sale retail bakers, both craft and in-store.

"Importantly it has a patented Increased Baking Surface (IBS) system. This means the rack alternates in direction, giving a faster bake, more even heat distribution and more evenly baked loaves, which customers like to see. Obviously, the reduced baking time also helps reduce power consumption. For example, a 15-minute bake will only take 11 minutes."

He continues: "When not in use between bakes, it goes automatically into energy conservation mode (or sleep). Some people might say, ’why not switch it off?’ But the energy used to bring the temperature back up is much greater than leaving it in conservation mode. So, if you are responding to in-store demand, this is ideal."

Heat is also retained due to the oven’s solid stainless steel construction and heavy-duty insulation. Marsh adds: "During the baking Industry Exhibition we had the S400 on the Bake-Off central feature. For many exhibitors who wanted to present products on their stand, this was the oven they chose to use. One German customer recently ordered delivery of 150 S model ovens, he says.

At Maxi supermarkets, Sweden’s biggest chain owned by ICA, part of Ahold, the C series of ovens is in operation. According to Sveba-Dahlen, these models are also the choice of many Tesco stores throughout Europe.

Maxi supermarkets bake bread and cakes eight hours a day, comprising 60 products in total. Head baker Pierre Ohlssen says: "I worked briefly in a craft bakery when I was 16 and was bitten by the bug. I went to bakery school for two years, then studied pastry- making for a year. During this time, we were sent out into the industry on assignment. Now it is my turn to help train apprentices.

"My four bakers work from 6am-2pm or from 7am-3pm," he adds. "Seventy per cent of the breads are made from scratch, the other 30% from mixes, plus there are numerous cakes and Danish. We make 60 products a day and, in two years, our business has really grown. I now need another Sveba-Dahlen double-rack oven. At the moment, I have one Classic four-deck and two C series rack ovens, plus one retarder-prover."

Ohlssen explains that the deck oven is used for crusty and volume breads, the rack ovens for everything else. "We started with one rack oven, but soon grew to two. Each one takes 18 trays, of which five are used for small products such as Danish pastries and cakes. We get through 10 tonnes of flour per month, mixed in the Glimek mixer. And we are just considering whether to put in an evening shift."

== Crusty white to baguettes ==

Maxi’s range of breads is extensive, stretching from crusty white, wholemeal and wholegrain to rye mix, some with seeds some without. Then there are French and Italian loaves including pain de campagne, baguettes and ciabatta, and lots of rye mixes, including malted rye, which has a very shiny dark brown crust and a well-coloured but soft crumb. A variable steam system is used for some of the breads.

"We use slightly more rye in Sweden than you do in the UK," explains Ohlssen, "and of course we also make the traditional Swedish crispbreads. Fruited breads, too, have their own display."

Pistachio is one of the best-selling Danish, while gingerbread hearts, threaded with pretty red ribbons for hanging, come with seasonal messages. Meanwhile, celebration cakes top a single counter shelf and are more colourful, but less detailed than their British counterparts.

"We chose Sveba-Dahlen ovens on their performance and quality," says Ohlssen. All the ovens are manufactured at the Sveba-Dahlen plant at Fristad, near Gothenburg.

On a tour of the facility, Pierre Eliasson, great-grandson of one of the company’s founders, also points out the 70m-long tunnel ovens being built for international clients, as well as the pizza ovens chosen by Pizza Express outlets, among others, for use throughout the UK. He explains: "Customers have different- size bakeries, different heights of ceilings or widths of walls and different needs for product output. That’s why every oven of each Sveba-Dahlen range is custom-built.