Me and My Factory

Cake manufacturer reveals expansion plans

More orders and factory expansion are on the cards for Cake's Tracey Lindle

Fledgling company Cake is ready to take on more orders after moving to a new factory in February, bakery manager Tracey Lindle tells Noli Dinkovski.

Cake was set up in 2011 as an extension of the Lomond Foods wholesale business by directors Sam and Barbara Henderson, who saw the rise of coffee shops as a huge opportunity.

We believe the coffee shop market in Scotland is lagging behind England and still has another decade or so of growth.

I joined Lomond Foods nearly 10 years ago, having studied food nutrition at university. Initially, I started in telesales, and worked my way through various departments before helping to set up Cake.

At Cake, I was technical manager, then I looked after the quality side, before progressing to bakery manager, so I’ve a good grounding and knowledge of all aspects of the business.

As my job title suggests, I’m responsible for the smooth operation of the bakery, including production planning, making sure the machinery is running, and having the right staff in place.

We make a wide range of cake products, including cake loaves, sponge cakes, biscuits and scones. One of our most popular products is millionaire’s shortbread – a caramel shortbread topped with chocolate. Empire biscuits are a good line for us as well.

Bespoke to order (Back to top)

As production batches are relatively small, we are flexible enough to make products bespoke to order. For example, we make our millionaire’s shortbread in different shapes and a number of base thicknesses.

We used to operate out of a very small room at our wholesale business, which we nicknamed the ‘cupboard’.

In February of this year, when the wholesale operation relocated to north Glasgow, we moved a couple of miles from our original site to this factory, on the south side of the city.

This site is seven times the size of the old one, and it will enable us to grow considerably. Our turnover is currently £1.5M, but we think we can handle £5M at least.

We’ve put in a lot of new machinery to coincide with our move. One major investment was in our new digital rack oven, which rotates the racks as they cook, ensuring the products are cooked evenly.

We also have a new cooling tunnel, which has sped up the time between baking and assembly. It’s a space-saver as well, as there are fewer trays left waiting to cool down.

Factory Facts

LOCATION: 70 Spiersbridge Road, Thornliebank, Glasgow. G46 7SN

SIZE: 5,800m2

STAFF: 22 (including one part-time)

TURNOVER: £1.5M

MAIN PRODUCTS: Cake loaves, sponge cakes, shortbread, biscuits, scones, flapjacks.

CUSTOMERS: Half of the products are sold through Lomond’s wholesale operation. The other half goes through retail and wholesale.

PRODUCTION AREAS: Four main areas – baking, assembly, finishing, and packing.

FACTORY OUTPUT: At least 100,000 portions a week, equivalent to 10t of product.

Our ultrasonic cutter, meanwhile, allows us to programme in pre-set cuts for a range of products.

Although you can only put one item in at a time, cutting a product into, say, 12 by 14 squares is considerably quicker than having to do it manually. The portions are accurate as well, which is what customers want.

Handmade, rustic look (Back to top)

There is a big trend at the moment for bakery products to have a handmade, rustic look – particularly in cafés and coffee shops. All of our cakes are finished by hand, and the challenge for us now is to maintain that authenticity as the business grows.

All of our products are frozen, which you might think goes against the homemade ethos, but freezing them doesn’t really affect the products in any way.

What it does do, however, is prevent them from being bashed and battered while in transport. Sponge cakes, for example, are very difficult to transport otherwise. Freezing them also means we don’t need to add preservatives.

As well as providing bespoke products, the size of our company means we are able to move very quickly with new product development (NPD). Tastes are always changing, and we can meet those demands by developing products in a matter of weeks, rather than months.

We like to engage staff in the NPD process, so we will regularly put samples in the canteen, and find their feedback really valuable.

We also want to be proactive in driving trends. Sam recently went out to New York to wander around the sandwich bars and food shops in order to pick up ideas.

Food trends (Back to top)

A lot of food trends definitely come from the US, across to London, before slowly working their way north. We want to get to them before they come to us.

One idea Sam brought back with him was a twist on a traditional brownie, which had M&Ms on top. We’re planning to do something similar as a result.

Another important area of NPD for us is low or no-sugar products. We’re working on a no-sugar cake, and we’ve got the base sponge right, but we just need to work on the appearance.

It’s difficult to add a topping or filling without including sugar – you can’t use a syrup or a drizzle. Our latest idea is to do something with lemon and poppy seeds.

When you start from scratch, you are very turnover driven, and looking to stand out and offer something different in a crowded market is always a challenge.

But we’ve come this far from nothing in just five years, and we’re now at the point where we can start choosing our direction – so we know the business is working.

Meanwhile, watch the bakery manager explain how Cake intends to grow into a £5M business and the opportunities around low-sugar products in our video interview.

 

Tracey Lindle – a quick look

AGE: 32

DOMESTICS: Married, with two children.

OUTSIDE WORK: My children are two and five, so take up most of my spare time. But I do enjoy swimming, jogging and socialising.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: Becoming bakery manager, having been involved with Cake from the start. It means a lot to me to be handed the responsibility I’ve been given.

ADVICE TO YOUNGER SELF: Try not to worry so much. Invest the right amount of time into your work, and trust in your ability.

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