"Many of our staff are 'lost people', who have wandered out of a business background and fallen in love with great bread made by wonderful bakers," says Tom Molnar, co-managing director of The Bread Factory. This combination of business acumen and pure craft enchanted the judges, who described The Bread Factory as a "sophisticated operation which remains true to its craft roots".
The company employs 240 people, including all shop staff and produces artisanal breads, rolls and Viennoiserie for over 500 customers, including retail multiples and London restaurants. Molnar says the scale of the business, which never detracts from its craft element, enables staff to work in a ground-breaking facility and to introduce their products to an ever-growing audience. His bakers are the heart of the business and he is proud they produce hand-rolled croissants and long-fermented breads using a 15-year-old levain.
Finalist: Bettys & Taylors
Harrogate, N Yorkshire
Bettys & Taylors has six café tea rooms in and around Harrogate and a thriving mail order business. In the past five years it has expanded its bakery and opened a custom-built one. Well-known for its classic, indulgent tea-time treats, having recently celebrated its 90th anniversary, Bettys has revisited some old favourites. "We're remaking classic cakes such as Japonaise, with meringue, hazelnut and buttercream, and elderflower loaf cakes," says bakery director Jo Crebbin.
Everything at Bettys is handmade and Crebbin credits the high skill levels of staff and the integrity of their ingredients as delivering products that are "less about brand and more about values". All the 1,200 employees are dedicated to developing the constantly changing range. This year Bettys launched macaroons and 12,000 are being hand-piped each week.
Finalist: Greenhalgh's Craft Bakery
Greenhalgh's is a family business with 56 shops and 800 staff. It provides breads, savouries and sandwiches to the retail multiples and it currently turns over £26.5m.
Despite its scale, production director David Smart says the firm remains true to its craft roots. "Frankly, if we're mixing 10kg or 450kg of dough, the principles are the same. We still bulk-ferment and cool-prove our dough," he says. The staff's skill base is maintained through a company-wide training scheme, complemented by the abilities of the foreign bakers within the workforce.
Greenhalgh's is well-known for its pies, made, says David, from pure ingredients and without preservatives. He adds that Greenhalgh's is posted on internet site Facebook, and a long-life, square 'half-and-half' loaf was recently added to attract younger consumers.