The Baker takes a look at international in-store bakery trends and the equipment requirements of such an operation

International trends, both in the UK and the US, show that despite challenges from overall depressed economies, and health and diet concerns, in-store bakeries have shown solid growth.

In the US, sales of in-store baked goods reached $13.4 billion in 2013, up from $12.8 billion in 2012, according to the ‘In-store bakeries: U.S. market trends’ report from market research firm Packaged Facts. The report also noted that retail’s reliance on in-house bakeries, combined with higher price points, has allowed the in-house baked goods market to increase every year since 2008. Packaged Facts expects these gains to continue through 2017 and beyond.

Consumer perception of the freshness and quality of the products created in in-store bakeries is driving sales, according to the report, which also noted that the success of in-store bakeries has not been lost on competitors in the retail space – hence, they have become critical components in warehouse stores and supercenters across the US.

There can be no doubt that consumer purchasing habits are driven by products that deliver value for money without compromising on taste and premium ingredients. Convenience plays a large role too. This is illustrated by research on the UK in-store bakery market, which grew by more than 14% year-on-year.

The researchers predict that consumers will continue to select freshly-baked items as part of their weekly or top-up shop. UK consumers purchased in-store baked bread on average 20.3 times per year, for example.

A few years ago, research indicated that in South Africa there were approximately 600 in-store bakeries in the major supermarket groups, 250 franchise bakeries and around 4, 500 small independent bakeries.

While in-store bakeries provide the convenience consumers are after, they are limited in the number of baked goods they can produce due to space constraints and other operational requirements. This is especially applicable to the low-volume items and products that require intensive labour.

Access to a complete range of products is important to consumers. UK research indicated that the entire sector of baked goods experienced growth including sweet and savoury snacks. Bakery ingredient manufacturers have recognised the need for these items and have developed a selection of high quality products that are either fully frozen/par-baked, frozen to oven or thaw-and-bake, allowing in-store bakery operations to offer their customers a comprehensive range of baked goods.

Convenience store bakeries have also sprung up around the country. In fact, according to Bakery Management Systems (BMS), convenience store bakeries came about after the advent of frozen dough hit the market as frozen dough products made it much easier to produce acceptable quality products, including fresh rolls and confectionery items.

The BMS website also notes that since 1999, small bakeries were installed at a number of Petroleum Food Marts (PFM) with outstanding results and that today many of them are producing excellent sales results.

Setting up a fully-equipped in-store bakery is no mean feat. It requires significant financial investment in equipment that can run into millions of rand; never mind staffing and other operational overheads like rent, electricity and the like.

This is possibly one of the reasons why smaller retail outlets and forecourt stores often limit their equipment to bake-off ovens that allow for the in-store preparation of frozen dough products.

A fully-equipped in-store bakery will need a much bigger range of equipment that includes ovens, provers, bread moulders, cake mixers, dough dividers, spiral mixers for dough,  bun dividers, roll moulders, bread slicers, pastry sheeters and so the list goes on.

Picking out the right equipment for a store’s specific needs can be quite a challenge. There are a number of bakery equipment suppliers that operate in South Africa such as the Tromp Group, Tombake, Macadams, Arbonia, MBake, Dale Automation, Bakersmate, Bakesure and Southern Bakery Equipment. Regardless of which equipment supplier you choose, when planning and establishing an in-store bakery operation, your supplier needs to have a good idea of the area, budget and set-up plans in order to come up with the best equipment solution. This will require regular consultation and a site inspection.

When space constraints are an issue, careful attention must be given to the size and requirements of the particular bakery. This is particularly relevant when selecting an oven as one rotary oven can fulfil many different baking tasks and requirements. These ovens also come in many configurations. Care should however be taken when selecting an oven to ensure that later expansion will not necessitate the purchase of new trolleys, baking trays and baking pans.

An innovative new concept introduced by Infanta Foods, called “Bakery in a box” was developed to assist bakery owners with aging equipment, limited space and expensive rentals, but also as a stimulus towards the creation of individual entrepreneurship.

This turnkey principle operates in a 5m x 3m area. Its core functionality is optimisation for specialised products. The box includes all necessities such as a three-deck oven with back, middle and front heat, a proofer, a fridge, a tray rack and trays, a work bench with a refrigerator, a spiral mixer, pastry sheeter, a long body planetary mixer, a semi-automatic bun divider, and all the other necessities.

Placement of equipment needs careful consideration and will require proper planning to ensure logical production flow; material and product movement and ergonomically designed staff work areas. Floor layout must also take into consideration temperature control in the bakery as ovens and provers produce a lot of heat, and steam and improper placement could have an adverse effect on un-cooked items and raw materials.

Another consideration is that refrigerated storage should also be separated from heated areas to ensure efficiency of cooling condensers and compressors. Proper ventilation and dust extraction also need thought and planning.

Six essential pieces of baking equipment

According to Macadams International, the six essential pieces of baking equipment for a commercial bakery are:

1. Commercial Baking Ovens

Convection oven: internal fans circulate the heat. Best for loaves of bread and individual cakes

Rack oven: bakes several racks of goods on top of each other. Best for production bakeries as you can bake a large batch of cookies or cakes at once.

Stone deck oven: for artisan bakers who rock it old-school; makes use of a heated slab to produce crispy breads that are soft inside.

Revolution oven: trays inside the oven revolve to bake numerous goods at once; for the production baker.

2. Dough mixer

3. Dough sheeter

4. Proofing cabinets

5. Retarder unit

6. Bakery display case