Jackson's Bakery, part of UK food producer William Jackson & Son (WJS), should have the redevelopment of its Hull factory ready for next summer, and the company says it has designed the new plant to be specifically suited to its needs as a supplier of quality sandwich and other bread products to the fast food industry.
A lot of equipment for the new factory will come from UK baking equipment specialist APV Baker, including two Tweedy dough mixing systems, which have improvements to the mixing impact plate and bowl wash-down system, cutting mixer clean-down time by up to 50 per cent between batches of different doughs.
This will be especially useful for Jackson's, according to managing director Stephen Greenfield, because the company uses around 50 different recipes in its baking.
Jackson's will also install two APV Multex4 dough moulders that claim to give a good advantage to sandwich bread makers because of a "strong, straight side shape that fills the tin well".
The improvements have made Greenfield confident in Jackson's future as a specialist bread supplier, and the whole WJS company is hoping to build on profit growth in 2003 after two poor years in 2001 and 2002.
"We are not the biggest bakery in the world but we are of a significant size to satisfy what is a quite demanding industry," said Greenfield. Jackson's actually claims to be the only plant baker dedicated to the foodservice industry and specialising in supplying bread to large-scale sandwich makers.
And there is a fairly healthy market to tap in to. The British Sandwich Association (BSA) estimates the UK sandwich market to be worth £3.3 billion, and it says there is plenty of room for growth in the commercial sector with 80 per cent of sandwiches still made at home.
"More and more people are buying packaged sandwiches to give to their families in lunch boxes," says the BSA, which also claims that UK sandwich sales are rising by 8 per cent every year.
The huge UK market gives small companies like Jackson's a good opportunity to increase their market share, but what Greenfield also wants is export markets in the EU and further afield.
"We are looking to double exports in the next few years," said the managing director, citing western Europe as a key market due to a growing demand for British bread.
He may be right. The UK Federation of Bakers says that "there is increased interest on the continent in importing fresh sliced and wrapped bread from Britain, mainly for the growing sandwich market".
But the federation warns that, even so, all UK bread exports represent no more than 2 per cent of the continental market, suggesting penetration of this market may have to be a gradual process.
In contrast to the UK, craft bakeries are still extremely dominant over industrial plant bakeries in a number of key European countries, holding 90 per cent of the market in Italy, 80 per cent in Austria and 68, 66 and 65 per cent in France, Spain and Germany respectively. This, again, may slow the progress of British plant bakers in continental markets.
Industrial plant bakeries control more than 80 per cent of the UK bread market, though they also have 80 and 59 per cent shares in the Netherlands and Belgium respectively.
Jackson's may be better positioned than most to cope with the wider European situation; Greenfield described the company as a "half-way house between a craft and a plant baker," with the quality of the former and the controls of the latter. Parent company WJS will be relying even more on Jackson's Bakery to achieve its aims in the next few years after the group sold off its retail chain, Jackson's Stores, to the Sainsbury food retail group in August this year.