At foodservice show Hotelympia, Northern Irish firm Evron Foods explained its odd presence on the Gwir Flas pavilion, showcasing Welsh-based food companies, by revealing it has built a factory in Pontypool, South Wales, “largely to bring us closer to the UK market,” said Dominic Downey, marketing director of Evron.
The 23-year old company, which counts Subway among its major contracts, will open the new facility in the next couple of months.
Specialising in frozen and chilled bakery products, part-baked breads, added-value and flavoured breads, Evron currently exports to the rest of the UK from its Portadown hub, servicing the retail, foodservice and wholesale sectors, and boasts a £12m turnover. This latest expansion should strengthen its UK presence, he said.
“We are much stronger in frozen in the UK than we are in chilled,” he explained. “It is more difficult to service the chilled market from our Northern Ireland base because of distribution and shelf-life issues. Our Pontypool site will provide us with a solution.”
He added that Hotelympia had provided positive leads for the company. “Food is only a small part of Hotelympia, but the people who visit it tend to be serious players in the foodservice sector,” he said.
London Bread and Cake Co
David Hall, MD of London Bread and Cake Co, based in Edmonton, North London, which makes 500 ambient, part-baked and frozen craft products, as well as bespoke breads and cakes, told how the wholesale company was branching into retail. In October last year the firm, which has a turnover of around £3.5m and employs 100 people manufacturing for nationwide distribution, bought up three of the liquidated GJ Pearce’s shops in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
“We are diversifying,” said Mr Hall. “We are predominantly wholesale and supply to hotels, cafés, restaurants, sandwich bars and contract caterers. Now we have moved into retail too.”
The baker said that its speciality breads were in high demand from hotels and restaurants, including its tomato pomodoro bap, walnut & sultana bread and basil & herb loaf. The exhibition afforded a rare opportunity to bring together its entire range for customers.
Delice de France
Foodservice giant Delice de France showcased 76 new or improved products. New additions to Delice’s range include Arctic flatbreads – an alternative healthy sandwich carrier; pretzel rolls; and football-shaped rolls, designed with this summer’s World Cup in mind.
“We think these will become very popular,” said David Girdler, marketing director of parent company IAWS. “You can theme your sandwiches to suit whoever is playing whom.”
Delice’s product design team held baking and sandwich-making demonstrations to highlight how products could be adapted to suit different eating occasions. Mr Girdler added that plans are afoot to push premium bread brand La Brea “out of London and into the provinces”.
“We are only one and a half years in but it’s certainly happening quite fast for us,” said Anna Powell, office manager with bake-off specialist Mantinga, which set up in June 2004 importing products from a Lithuanian bakery.
“Hotels don’t have the time to bake their own bread anymore, so the part-baked concept has taken off no end,” she commented, adding that bread bowls for serving soups and stews – a recent addition to its range – had garnered a positive response from visitors. “We’ve certainly got a few point of difference lines, which is something that intrigues and entices people.”
Mantinga’s strongest sellers in hotels are mini-Viennoisserie and mini-Danish, including croissant, pain au chocolat, apple pastry and raisin swirl with custard,.
Meanwhile MD Steven Mackintosh revealed that Mantinga was working on functional breads including: omega 3 bread; branded beer bread (with the beer used to make the dough), which is in development with two breweries; and a move into finer patisserie.
Launching a bread made using stoneground flour from Sarre Flourmill in Kent, was Speciality Breads, based in Margate. “There is more demand for wholegrains, absolutely,” said MD Carolyn Macleod. Hand finished artisan breads with a strong flavour are especially sought after, she added. “This bread is made from a strong wheat with a high protein level, so you get a very gutsy tin loaf.”
Speciality Breads had over 400 leads at the show as it promoted its thaw-and-serve range of breads to hotels, restaurants and caterers. All breads are scratch baked using slow fermentation methods. The range includes butter-enriched brioche loaf; focaccia dipped in rosemary-infused olive oil; and a new US mixed rolls selection, including a lemon and poppy seed tin, corn bread and a sourdough roll.
The company has a turnover of about £1.3m, employs 30 people, and distributes nationwide through wholesalers. Demand from farm shops is especially growing, revealed Ms Macleod.
Specialist cakes supplier Raven Patisserie merged with Passionately Cakes in September last year. The consolidation means it can now service a wider supply, said MD Rebecca Messerschmidt. “Whereas before we just supplied hotels and restaurants, now we have café and coffee shop availability.”
Raven is planning to grow its turnover from £1.2m to £1.8m in 2006 on the back of the expansion. The two companies will come together in a shared facility this week in Braintree, Essex.
“We are bringing both businesses together and one will support the other,” said Ms Messchersmidt. “We have introduced a lot of new working practices, so the company is now thriving rather than ambling.”
Raven majors on individual French patisserie, cakes, bars and wrapped slices and launched a cinnamon apple cake, granola bar and caramel fudge cake at the exhibition.
French bakery Bridor designed the Artisan Baguette for Pret A Manger – which is currently under trial – after meeting at IFE last year, said Arnaud Mahieu, national account manager.
Hotelympia was an opportunity to spread further the company’s message in the UK foodservice market, he added. “We don’t try to do bagels or ciabatta – we focus on typical French artisan breads. We use real artisan processes, including all the resting times for each step of the baking process – that is our strength.”
Bridor, based in Brittany, has been making premium frozen pastries, Viennoiserie and breads for 18 years, selling through distributors in the UK, Ireland and worldwide.
Leicester-based Vittles Desserts re-launched this year, overhauling 85% of its products in the process. The 16-year-old company, which started out supplying local hoteliers, has built up a £2.5m turnover supplying the foodservice sector in the UK and Europe. The point of exhibiting was to bring these changes to the fore, said MD Martin Zalesny. “That’s why we’re here – we’ve invited buyers to come and have a look at the products,” he said.
Vittles specialises in frozen, multi-portion, individual cheesecakes, gateaux, tartes, pies and puddings.
Handmade Cake Company
The Handmade Cake Company has been drumming up business at European trade shows over the past 18 months; exports now account for 3% of its turnover, which stands just shy of £5m.
Export is a relatively straightforward way of growing a business, reasoned sales director Simon Law, but given the easy access to Europe, there remains a dearth of British companies braving the Channel hop. “I’m disappointed with the numbers – particularly of frozen food manufacturers – who export,” he said. “With a bit of application, time and focus it’s well worth doing.”
Around 90% of all Handmade’s products go into foodservice, which is why Hotelympia was one of its main shows, he said. “The vast majority of our products go anywhere that serves good coffee.”
First Choice Coffee
The abundance of coffee exhibitors was testament to the importance of serving a quality coffee. Angela Miller, sales director of First Choice Coffee, which launched its low-to-medium volume compact bean-to-cup Tiger machine, commented: “A baker can lose his patisserie, cake or sandwich business on the strength of their coffee; a good coffee would allow them to compete directly with those high street coffee retailers also offering food.”