A strong competitor
Since its acquisition in 2010 by Indigo Food Group, The Welsh Pantry is now a significant manufacturer within the UK savoury pastry market
Following five years of investment and production enhancement, The Welsh Pantry has been transformed into a well-reputed bakery that has merged the long-term expertise of Welsh Pantry with modern equipment and a strong commitment to quality and the environment. “Winning Blend Limited, which trades as ‘The Welsh Pantry’ was established in 1988, and has a strong heritage in manufacturing high quality pies, savoury pastries, ready meals and quiche. In 2010, the business was bought by Indigo Food Group, a successful group based in Bristol who injected a new lease of life into the company under their new management and subsequently invested financially into the business, bringing together a realm of food experience and a passion for high quality products,” explains Alan Shaw, Technical Manager at The Welsh Pantry.
Strategically relocated to larger premises in 2011, the company has since further expanded facilities and invested more than £3 million in equipment. In fact, in the last 12 months alone, The Welsh Pantry invested £2 million on capital expenditure in relation to business improvements; this includes modifications to existing equipment and the acquisition of new equipment to improve manufacturing processes. Equipment added to the company’s premises include a RISCO Mixer RS450, which has enabled The Welsh Pantry to produce larger volumes of mixes while ensuring few cycles and a more consistent product; it has also resulted in enhanced planning functions on site and reduced labour costs. The company has also added a K&G Wetter 360 litre bowl chopper, which has enabled the production of products up to 360 litre mixes from the previous amount of 50 litres, and also upgraded the laminator and flatbed, which has enabled the pastry plant to produce 3.5 tonnes of pastry per hour; this upgrade has also achieved 20 per cent production efficiency on the line.
In addition, The Welsh Pantry has installed a state-of-the-art X-ray machine in the high risk packing department, as Alan highlights: “The installation of the X-Ray machine in the high risk packing department towards the end of 2014 has been revolutionary both for The Welsh Pantry site and the bakery industry as a whole. Quality control procedures have been enhanced without the need to compromise on efficiency, and as a result of the installation foreign body complaints have shown a 50 per cent decline across our pie ranges.”
With these major changes in place, the company has effectively secured its place as a strong player within the bakery industry; a feat that is even more impressive considering the increasingly competitive nature of the business at a time when manufacturers are under further pressure to meet stringent demands, both in business acumen and innovation.
As a 100 per cent privately owned firm, The Welsh Pantry today not only benefits from ultra-modern facilities, but also from quick decision making by a team that is passionate about food and business and is keen to develop further growth for the business. Moreover, as a people-based brand, the company has been consistently working to strengthen staff through training, work-based education and product knowledge, which not only boosts morale and passion for a job well done, but also ensures an increased level of quality in food production, as Alan notes: “By recognising the key to ensuring a high quality product is with production staff across all levels of operatives and management. With this in mind, the Technical team worked together to find ways to educate staff on how to better recognise acceptable and rejected produce, and how to pick up on issues in production and packing before the finished items are dispatched.
“This started with tightening of quality assurance standards using photographic images to aid production staff on the manufacturing line, with feedback used to identify where tighter controls were needed to assure the best quality finished product. Working with retail customers to generate photo standards that reflect the needs of the customer and key areas of the finished product that may require further visual analysis or testing on the line.”
This commitment to delivering product consistency also ties in with the company’s focus on food safety and quality, with The Welsh Pantry achieving back-to-back A grade standards for BRC Version Six and achieving A+ in June 2015. “This year, The Welsh Pantry was accredited with the Green Dragon Level 5 Environmental Management Standard, making it the first food manufacturing site in Wales to achieve Level 5 accreditation. The site is technically approved for several major retail customers including Aldi, Lidl, Asda and Iceland. Other technical achievements include RSPO certification and Red Tractor approval for meat used in our products,” highlights Alan.
This focus on quality and boosting efficiency while also keeping waste and mistakes to a minimum has resulted in a strong customer base for the company, which proudly manufactures products such as hot eating pies, slices, pasties, sausage rolls and selected unique Welsh ready meals for the regional market in Wales. “The Welsh Pantry produce a large range of own branded products that are sold through the van sales side of the business. We manufacture different size and weight sausage rolls in 5/8 and 20 pack. Slices come in a range of flavours such as Cheese & Onion, Minced Beef & Onion, Chicken & Mushroom, Chicken and Ham, Tikka and Balti Curry. We also produce pasties with minced Beef & Vegetable and Corned Beef, these come in individual and three pack multi-packs. The ready meal range consists of Faggots and Peas and Lamb Cawl which is a Welsh Lamb stew produced regionally for the retailers,” explains Alan. Core local customers include ASDA, Aldi, Iceland, Poundland, Tesco, Morrison’s, J Sainsbury, while its national customers are ASDA, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl.
Discussing a recent major contract for The Welsh Pantry, Alan states: “In spring 2014, The Welsh Pantry managed to secure a sought after contract with Asda, resulting in a successful launch of a savoury pie range that September. Throughout the development, launch and continuing supply chain process, The Welsh Pantry have sought to maintain regular communication with the customer and be open and honest regarding the manufacturing processes implemented and materials used. This in turn has caused the customer to instil their trust in both The Welsh Pantry brand and products made.”
Following a truly phenomenal transformation and a number of sought after contracts under its belt, The Welsh Pantry has a positive future ahead as it looks to continue its trend of rapid growth through securing new business while also cementing solid relationships with its current customer base.