When managing director Stefan Najduch bought Barbakan, it was a single shop with a small wholesale arm, producing around 10 lines of quality Polish breads. Now, Barbakan is still a single shop business, but the bakery is three times its original size and the shop seats over 60 people on its veranda for coffee, cakes and sandwiches. Its wholesale customers (representing around 35% of the business) include restaurants, sandwich shops and hotels. Najduch had worked in delicatessens and the meat industry, but throwing himself into his new trade, he discovered a passion for baking (noted by the judges). He soon developed product lines with an international flavour including Italian, Greek and Norwegian breads.
Forty-eight people work in the business and Barbakan is famous for its range of around 60 breads, many produced from mother doughs dating back to 1964. Especially popular are the spicy chorizo loaf, pistachio breadsticks and focaccia with fresh tomato. The judges were impressed with the consistent quality of the breads, which they described as "never failing to deliver to expectation". They also cited Najduch’s good business practices and his customer-focused approach: "We take time to talk to our customers, it’s important," he says. With a strong marketing plan, including regular leaflet drops and supporting local charities, the judges felt Najduch delivered a very successful business formula, which over 25 years has grown a small shop into a £1.8m turnover firm.
Wrexham, North Wales
"I’m proud to be the sixth generation of my family running this business I think it’s the oldest craft bakery in Wales," says director Dawn van Rensburg.
Gerrards employs 140 people and comprises 15 shops, six with cafés, and all with bake-off facilities, most within half an hour of Wrexham. Eight vans also deliver around the Deeside, Shrewsbury and Chester areas and the firm supplies a small number of wholesale customers, such as farm and corner shops, with bread and morning goods.
Gerrards’ products include breads, creams, sandwiches and a variety of savouries, which make up around 50% of sales. Van Rensburg says innovation is important, with speciality breads such as spelt & honey and multi-seeded selling well. With practically all products made from scratch, sourcing local ingredients is also a priority. She adds that Gerrards is always moving forwards, but never compromiseson quality: "Taste is key."
Dumouchel Patisserie MD and owner Thierry Dumouchel settled in England, in 1998 and began a small artisan bakery serving the hotel trade with breads, patisserie, chocolates and cakes. A retail shop, added as an afterthought, "took off from day one".
Now, the business is split between wholesale and retail, including some outside catering. Dumouchel’s range is a heady mix of the French traditional and local Yorkshire produce, such as eggs, cream and butter. This marriage is beautifully demonstrated by the C-shaped Collingham loaf a Saturday-only bread which is made using local rapeseed oil. "It’s a lovely soft loaf, with a creamy, buttery flavour thanks to the oil."
White French flour is still used for the Pain Tradition 36-hour, fermented sourdough breads.
There are 14 staff in the firm, including two bakers and a pastry chef. Dumouchel is vocal about maintaining skills: "We have to keep these craft skills alive; if we don’t, these abilities will die out."