The Future of Bread Lies in Its Past

Puratos Canada

Do your eyes widen at the pastries, cakes and aromatic breads at the bakery counter? That’s good business for a company that specializes in supplying ingredients to bakers while passing along the art of bread making.
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When you work in the food industry, you’re always looking at what’s going to be the next big thing. What do people want to eat? What are the trends in taste preferences, ingredients and the convenience of shelf life? How can companies better serve their customers by offering the right solutions and providing the expertise needed to grow their business?

That’s a lot to consider. That’s how Puratos Canada in Mississauga, Ontario, the Canadian subsidiary of the global Puratos Group, has made a name for itself. The company supplies bakers, pâtissiers and chocolatiers with a range of ingredients and a wealth of expertise on customer insights, recipe development and innovative technology to allow its customers to make exceptional baked goods.

The delicious raspberry Danish you bring home to enjoy with coffee on a relaxing weekend morning? The pastry’s taste, texture and addictive fruit filling – and maybe even the recipe! – could well be courtesy of Puratos.

“We’re not just dropping off bags of bread mix or buckets of fruit filling,” says Liesbet Vandepoel, Director of Marketing. “We want to make sure it comes along with insights and expertise from the production side of how to do it, and with customer insights as well.”

Puratos Canada has strong links to its Belgium headquarters and partner facilities in the U.S. And there’s an expansive network of expertise around the world to draw upon. In fact, 2.5 percent of the company’s global revenue is dedicated to research and development. The Research & Development ‘Inspirience Center’ in Belgium looks at long-term technology developments, such as collecting enzymes and working with universities to produce its own enzymes for the bakery industry. For example, the team discovered an enzyme in Antarctica that is active at very low temperatures so it can be used through the entire production process.

Revenue for the entire Puratos Group is about to meet its goal of 2 billion euros in 2018 and so far the company is on track to meet a projected 5 billion euros by 2030. Every bag of ingredients adds up.

The company just celebrated 30 years in Canada this September with an employee-and-family party, an enormous cake made with Puratos ingredients, and more food and fun. “We’re still a family-owned company,” Vandepoel says of the Puratos founders in Belgium, dating back almost 100 years. “People are key to what we do and have a genuine passion for food and the food industry,” she says. “Food brings people together.”

Recent strides include a new production line to double capacity, and working with local suppliers – another strong focus – to improve fruit supply. The humble apple, for example, comes in many different varieties, so it’s important to select the right one for texture and taste for customers. The second step is about processing; with a fruit filling, the focus is on keeping the integrity of the fruit and the original flavour and texture without artificial flavours and colours.

The company has its own onsite bakery where it hosts customer workshops on new techniques and recipe development. Puratos is known for innovation and looking carefully at trends, and it even has a mobile sensory analysis lab, the Sensobus, that travels to supermarkets, collecting consumer feedback on products, offering taste tests and questionnaires about sensory experiences. “With all these insights and expertise, while working collaboratively, our mission is make our customers’ business more successful.”

Some big trends to watch for? Sugar reduction and clean labels, where people want to see familiar, simple and healthy ingredients listed.

“We’re looking at how to reduce sugar, how to reduce fat,” says Edouard Pot, General Manager at Puratos Canada, while keeping that ‘mmm’ taste factor. That’s a paradox and a challenge for the future. And how to increase fibre, and grains and seeds. We’re looking at these in terms of health and wellbeing, which is a request from consumers and customers around the world. We want to make sure the ingredients used in your breads and cakes are good for you.”

Puratos’ customers always want to know the next big thing in bread, which is a food staple and a product favourite. On that end, company R&D is focused on marrying healthy ingredients with the convenience of shelf life, so people can experience quality taste, texture and freshness. “Combining our technologies with understanding the needs of our customers allows us to bring innovation, quality and great taste to the final consumers.”

There is also a focus on preserving the tradition of bread making by hand and passing on this knowledge to the next generation. Bakery schools have been established in India, Brazil and most recently, Mexico, to teach young people how to make bread with their hands and just four or five ingredients. It’s all about giving them a skill to offer as future employees for Puratos and its customers or to start their own bakery.

“This is sustainability, making sure that bread and culture exists and offering kids access to a valuable job,” Pot explains. Another key program is working with cocoa farmers in Vietnam and recently, the Ivory Coast, to ensure fair market prices and improve yield and operating practices.

“We have a strong connection with the farmers. We give them a bonus every time we sell a product with their cocoa to increase the value of their business,” he says. “We’ve established a center for fermentation as well, so we can really tell the whole story from the bean to the bar to our customers.”

This is good news for Puratos and certainly a way of giving back, Pot says. “We are doing a lot of good things. It’s all about taking initiative and being willing to go to the next stage as well as preparing for the future.”

August 22, 2019, 5:47 AM EDT

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