Fire-hit bakery forges ahead in new export markets

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A bakery that’s bouncing back after a devastating fire is breaking into new export markets in Europe and the Middle East – and has also set its sights on America.

Things looked bleak when a blaze ripped through the headquarters of the Village Bakery last August, destroying their offices, a state-of-the art bakery, their pioneering Baking Academy and cutting edge development kitchen on Wrexham Industrial Estate.

Luckily, nobody was hurt and undaunted the staff and management of the family firm vowed to come back stronger than ever.

Now, managing director Robin Jones has revealed the company has started supplying new customers in Iceland, Malta and Cyprus with Welsh batch loaves, rolls, pancakes, crumpets and Welsh Cakes.

He will also tell local business leaders at a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University on Thursday, February 27, that they have high hopes of securing major contracts in southern Europe and America.

The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.

The other speakers are Sara Moseley, Director of MIND Cymru, and Kathryn Roberts, the Wales representative of the Downing Street task force on well-being in the workplace and how it can boost productivity.

Immediately after ascertaining that everybody had escaped the fire safely, the Village Bakery team started planning their comeback.

Production was ramped up at the other three bakeries to maintain supplies to their customers and Mr Jones  paid tribute to the staff who had responded magnificently to the disaster.

The company has also announced plans to build a new super bakery in Ash Road on Wrexham Industrial Estate which will, says Mr Jones, be the most modern in Europe.

Nobody was made redundant as a result of the fire and 30 of the displaced staff are now making a new range of American-style bagels, using a specialist production line imported from Canada.

The bagels are being sold by a well-known retailer in more than 600 of their UK stores.

According to the company, orders for other products are also rolling in because their wholesale customers have been so impressed by the positive way they have reacted to the setback.

Mr Jones said: “As well as our successes on the home front, we’re also forging ahead with new export markets .

“It is something we’ve been working on for about 18 months, but in the last few months it’s come to fruition.

“We’ve now got products into a retailer in Iceland, the country not the supermarket, and we’ve also got products going into independent retailers in Cyprus and Malta.

“Export is an area we’re keen to grow and we’re now also working with a very large customer in southern Europe, so hopefully by the summer the products will also be being sold there.

“We deal with all the major retailers in the UK now and we also supply their overseas stores in places like Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East.

“What we’re doing now is a natural progression – the brilliant thing about exporting is that there’s a big world out there and there is huge potential.

“The perception of British products is excellent and then when you add in the Village Bakery’s Welsh heritage it just adds further provenance to the story.

“We’ve even had interest from the United States where they were blown away by our Welsh Cakes, and that hopefully should start in July.

“The fire obviously did set us back a bit, hence why we’re only launching now in Iceland, Malta and Cyprus but we’re not dwelling on that and feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s very much business as usual as far as we’re concerned.”

Gill Kreft, the chair of Wrexham Business Professionals, said: “The way the Village Bakery has responded to the dreadful fire last August has been nothing short of miraculous.

“The fact that they recovered lost production capacity so quickly, that they are also launching new products and breaking into new export markets is testament to the indomitable spirit of the Jones family and their incredible staff.

“We are proud that they are flying the flag for Wrexham in particular and for Wales in general and I am sure we can all learn from their success and apply those lessons to our own businesses.”