Constant innovation and a culture of investing in people keep Barnsley-based Fosters Bakery ahead of the game in a challenging market.
Innovate for success
When you’re this size, you’re never going to survive just making sliced white bread; that’s not what we’re about. We are a niche operator massively into innovation. We are also extremely well connected. We’ve forged links with so many organisations it’s incredible, from Sheffield Hallam University, Oxford Brookes University to the regional food group for Yorkshire and Humber and CenFRA [Centre for Food Robotics and Automation]. Michael Taylor our Operations Director has just recently been appointed Chairman of the Board of CenFRA Limited a Yorkshire Forward funded company. We do a lot of research into new product development and innovation, but we also do a lot of work on process innovation and automation.
As a business, we keep our eyes and our ears open for new ideas. John Foster has been on a research trip to Singapore and Japan, and Michael Taylor, our operations director, recently went on a trade mission to China. When he came back, he produced fantastic prototype products with ginseng and aloe vera and gingko biloba. Supermarket buyers were impressed by them but they’re not biting yet, partly because everyone is still hung up about what they can and can’t say about functional ingredients under the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation. The truth is that with a lot of these products, you don’t actually need to make hard health claims to get your message across anyway. We firmly believe that functional foods will increasingly be sold and marketed via the gossip columns rather than the Lancet. It’s the ‘Granny knows best’ approach to food.
However, it also takes time for people to get used to unusual combinations. We made these fantastic aloe vera muffins and the first thing the buyer said was, ‘why have you put shampoo in your buns?’