Innovation in Baking: the story of Bakerz Relish Bakery in Sunyani

Bread is food that crosses cultures and provides nourishment. There are infinite varieties, making it a staple for most people in the world. In Ghana, it is arguably the most common snack among local diets; a Ghanaian breakfast may not be complete without bread.

The old-fashioned way of baking bread as well as the recipes have evolved in recent years.  Bakeries are constantly trying to find innovative ways to beat competition and entice mindful consumers. Some of the basic innovation drivers in the production of baked goods include health, pleasure, change in consumer taste and convenience.

Food companies, including bakeries, are searching for new ways to attract new, conscious consumers. A large number of scientific studies have been published outlining a direct association between unbalanced diets and rising incidences of chronic health-related issues, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity – hence the paradigm-shift.

Consumers now have an increasing interest in food that promotes and maintains energy, enhances satiety, or make consumers feel full after eating. This demand gives the bread, bakery, and pastry (BBP) industry added opportunities to develop products containing new functional ingredients, compliant with these requirements. It is against this background that the innovations in baking have been targetting more healthful products by including more whole-grains, fibre, prebiotics and probiotics, and antioxidant ingredients.

Baking entrepreneurship career

The aforementioned innovative drivers have been the fulcrum of Bakerz Relish Bakery’s operation in Sunyani. These factors have positioned the baking company to carve a niche in the age-old business. Bakerz Relish Bakery is managed by Florence Ofori-Agyeman, a product of Seventh-Day Adventist S.H.S at Agona in Ashanti Region. She pursued HND Marketing at the Sunyani Technical University, and later obtained an MBA in Marketing at the Delta International University, New Orleans, U.S.A.

After her formal education, she worked with a publishing firm for over a decade – supplying books to schools in the erstwhile Brong Ahafo (now Bono, Bono East & Ahafo), Ashanti and Northern Regions. In her teens, she once lived with her senior brother – then a radio broadcaster with Dormaa FM at Dormaa-Ahenkro. Enterprising Florence capitalised on her proximity to border towns and sourceed cooking oil from neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire for onward supply to retailers.

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After 16 years in the publishing business, the dynamic entrepreneur decided to inherit her mother’s business-baking. This was when she realised that the books business had become unattractive due to changes in government’s policy direction on the supply of literature books to schools.  “When things became very challenging, I followed a friend’s advice to go into my mother’s business. But I decided to do something quite different from what I had known Mummy to be doing when I was young,” she told B&FT.

Market analysis is very key in any business plan. Application of this business principle aided Bakerz Relish Bakery to appreciate factors such as the market in volume and in value, the various customer segments and buying patterns, competition and economic environment in terms of barriers to entry and regulation.

Based on this informed premise, Bakerz Relish Bakery in 2015 commenced operation in Sunyani by producing ‘healthy loaves of bread’ free from preservatives – making it different from the usual wheat-flour and corn breads on the market. It started with only a wheat-soya bread, baked with ingredients like honey and sesame seeds. She adopted a door-to-door marketing strategy to reach out to the identified customers. The few customers became her ambassadors who spread the gospel about the new bread, thus attracting other interested customers across the country.

The baker, Florence, later travelled to Dubai in the Middle East for a professional bakery training course to better understand the science behind modern baking. She schooled at Richemont Master-bakers Artisanal. It is a Swiss Pastry and Bakery School in Dubai that provides a modern and comprehensive education, including chocolate, ice-cream and many more.

With a broadened horizon on the business, she has added more product lines with over 19 different bread varieties. The products cover millet, tiger-nut and moringa-based breads, pizza and others cookies. Instead of using margarine and sugar, Bakerz uses substitutes like olive oil and honey respectively. Most of its products are based on recommendations and people’s orders, especially on health grounds.

“Most of our customers who request the millet bread are diabetic, and dieticians recommend it for them because it can help regulate their blood pressure,” she said. Gradually, production at the small company has increased; in a week it produces about 6,500 loaves for customers across the country. Apart from the main production centre, it has franchises in Sunyani, Accra and Berekum.

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Florence operating a slicing machine

Challenges

She tells B&FT some of the raw materials are not handily available in the country and therefore have to be imported. For instance, she mentioned whole-wheat flour – which is not readily available on the local market. “What comes into play here is the exchange rate; whenever the local currency depreciates against the dollar it hurts our business.” Other imported ingredients include almond, flax seeds, king palm seeds and cheese.

“I know government is working around the clock to create an enabling environment for the business community, but as we speak, access to affordable finance is very challenging. Interest rates in the country are still throat-cutting for small businesses like ours. Besides the high interest rates, repayment terms are also not favourable. Managers of the economy must therefore work harder to change the narrative and make sure businesses have access to such funding to grow.”

Future

The Manager of Bakerz Relish Bakery wants to transform the small bakery company into a centre of excellence in baking with a resourceful research laboratory. The proposed research department will examine any new baking input on the market before approval for use. This, she explained, will ensure that substandard materials are unable to infiltrate into its mode of production. She is also looking forward to producing all manner of healthy breads to satisfy people with chronic diseases,m as well as those allergic to inputs of ‘ordinary’ breads.

She advised the public to prioritise their health by being meticulous with food that they consume. “We should not compromise on healthy living by patronising substandard foods. Eating good food will prevent you from a lot of sicknesses that can cost you your entire life to treat.”

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