Remaining agile through tough times
Paul Baker, Founder of bakery brand St Pierre Groupe, explains the importance of adaptability in order for businesses to thrive in the food sector, particularly in light of the current global crisis.
The ongoing health crisis has, and will continue to have, a considerable impact on the food and drink industry. From the way businesses operate to the way that consumers shop, bakery businesses are all having to adapt to the “new normal”. We, like many businesses, have faced challenges over the past two to three months. However, with an entrepreneurial approach, combined with an adaptable supply chain, great relationships with suppliers and a very strong team, our business and brands have continued to thrive, despite these stretching times. We believe that it is this agile approach to business that has helped us survive and grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With demand for all our brands increasing, we have been working strategically with our partner suppliers to manage production capacity and capability.
Since lockdown began in March, we have reported an increase in sales across all our brands including St Pierre, Baker Street and Paul Hollywood. This growth reflects the behaviour of the wider market, with sales of bread and bakery goods increasing throughout the health crisis. We believe this is due to consumers looking for comforting, versatile, convenient and good value foods now that the number of in-home eating occasions has risen so considerably and is likely to remain this way for some time.1
With demand for all our brands increasing, we have been working strategically with our partner suppliers to manage production capacity and capability. To help ensure that our most popular products are readily available for our customers we have made the decision to, where possible, streamline our offering. This was achieved by simplifying the production process and reducing downtime in the bakeries. With the situation and our customers’ needs changing all the time, it has been vital that we adapt to the ever-changing situation quickly and efficiently by working extremely closely with our bakeries, haulage companies, warehouses and customers.
From the way businesses operate to the way that consumers shop, bakery businesses are all having to adapt to the “new normal”.
As an international company with teams in the UK, France, the US and beyond, video calling apps, such as Teams and Zoom, make it easier for us to check in with each other and our supply partners regularly. However, during these times we are naturally using these tools more than ever and have adapted to them becoming one of our key forms of communication without much preparation, given the quick escalation to lockdown and remote working.
It is also, therefore, a natural progression for us to use this for interviews with potential new employees. Whilst a face-to-face interview would be preferred, video conferencing is the next best thing as it allows us all to see one another in a more personal setting, which ultimately makes the interview more effective. Where candidates are unable to visit our offices, we have even taken the opportunity in videos to take candidates on a virtual video office tour as they will of course need to know the environment in which they ultimately will work. As a result of utilising video conferencing, we have successfully grown our team by 33 percent since the beginning of lockdown with a total of 18 hires.
When I take stock of the past few months and the challenges we have overcome, I believe businesses must be confident, agile and strategic in their approach, as these are vital ingredients for achieving dynamic future growth.
1. IGD Post-Coronavirus (COVID-19): how could health and wellness evolve? May 2020
About the author
Paul Baker is one of the founders of £87m international branded bakery business, St Pierre Groupe. Following generations of his family into baking, Paul began his career as a Master Baker, and joined St Pierre Groupe (formerly Carrs Foods International) in 2003. Paul helped to lead an MBO to take the business into private ownership and became a senior partner in 2004.