Q-Bakeries Belgium

Acquiring success

Fast growing Q-Bakeries Belgium, a leading player in the domestic bread and patisseries industry, looks forward to future growth

Born out of the success of a family bakery, Q-Bakeries Belgium is part of Aveve Group, the 105-year-old purchasing and marketing company of the Boerenbond, based at Leuven, Belgium. From production and distribution units at Heusden-Zolder, as well at Diest, Morlanwelz, Kobbegem and Ardooie, the company delivers fresh products daily to the country’s supermarkets.

Over the years, Q-Bakeries has expanded dramatically via both internal expansion and acquisition. Leo Weyns, commercial director explains: “In order to guarantee the regional character and freshness of the range, it was decided that Q-Bakeries would fuse with local bakeries, often with a long tradition.” He continues:

“We are one of Belgium’s leading commercial bakeries, supplying and producing bread and other bakery products for leading retail outlets. Utilising a fleet of approximately 100 trucks, we deliver directly to 600 customers per day, seven days a week. We also indirectly supply 1800 customers per day via the central deliveries we make. We have six production units geographically spread across Belgium and each one is tasked with supplying freshness and character on a local level. Four of our units specialise in producing daily fresh products, while two are the industrial units, which supply the pre-packaged products required by the supermarkets.”

In recent years, the Belgian market has transformed. Once the supermarkets offered a rather small range of bread and patisserie. Today they are perceived by the consumer as the specialists in this segment: innovative, offering a bright range of daily fresh unpacked bread, over sliced and packed bread, and the finest pastries. By consequence, the local bakers that used to dominate the market are losing their appeal. As Belgian consumers become increasingly dazzled by the competitive prices and convenience of supermarkets, the industrial side of QBakeries’ operations has grown to meet the increasing demands.

In a further sector development, a new pattern has emerged, which has seen Bakeries Belgium widen its reach to serve customers in new sectors such as hospital, institutions and rest home catering. Indeed, the company leads this trend: “The demand for our products in hospitals is a growing movement. This new pattern is a direct consequence of the aging population and it is an area of interesting potential for us,” says Leo.

In 2006, Q-Bakeries Belgium will achieve a turnover of about 60 million euros. Leo attributes this strong performance not only to the internal growth and acquisitions the company has made but also to the strengthening of its position in core markets. He explains: “Our turnover has increased strongly over the last five to ten years for two reasons. Firstly, it is because of the commercial and strategic decisions we have made, particularly in terms of the markets we have moved into with a very high performance level (service, quality, competitive). Secondly, and as a consequence of that strategy, the increase is due to the acquisitions we have made. In making such acquisitions, and through their subsequent renovation, these stores have gone onto become great success stories. Interesting to know is that all our production divisions are BRC certified, which is really a high standard certification and a necessity for being a valid partner of all Belgian retailers and hospitals.”

Q-Bakeries Belgium, a fast growing company, looks forward to even faster growth in Belgium’s fresh bread and fine pastry market. Leo adds: “Our core business will remain as it is today. There are competitors that operate in a similar fashion to Q-Bakeries, but most of them are active in largely local circles. We are nationwide and because of the sort of coverage we have there is not a great deal of direct, tough competition. We are different to other industry players because we can offer, as well as daily fresh products, pre-packed, sliced products that are less perishable, which enables us to meet a variety of requirements.”

“This flexibility, as well as our undoubted quality, makes us an ideal candidate as a supplier, or rather partner, to the supermarkets. We are able to deliver quality, competitively priced products on large scales and on time, which is what the supermarkets require. They can come to us and we will act as a complete supplier, whereas if they choose some of our competitors they would need to find three or four suppliers, and get them working together, just to get the same service we offer.”

Unsurprisingly, like most food sector companies, Q-Bakeries is affected by everchanging consumer trends. For instance, the drive for healthy eating has impacted the way the company operates. Leo suggests this has a positive effect on an already successful bakery: “Consumer wishes to have more variety, functional and healthier products which can only be good for us as an enterprise as it encourages us to be more innovative in our approach. Innovation is of course one of the best ways to gain greater market penetration and plays a pivotal role in our desire to grow.”

“Our range continually evolves and we see innovative, new products introduced on a regular basis. More often than not, they are a consequence of changes in consumer attitudes. I must make it clear that the sorts of issues affecting the food industry as a whole, such as lowering cholesterol, lowering salt and sugar content, smaller packaging (individualisation of the consumption) also affect our business. On the other hand, bread is a natural, healthy product, so we are not impacted as much as other food items like less healthy snacks or readymeals. It will anyhow always be a delicate exercise between being innovative and not losing sight of all that makes us a success,” he concludes.