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Thursday 21 October 2021

Covid, escalating costs and cardboard bread tags – GWF’s Bosomworth

26th August 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

George Weston Foods, the company behind bread brands Tip Top and Bürgen, has increased production of its leading product bread lines in response to surging demand during the snap lockdown.

New Zealand general manager of two years Mark Bosomworth said the group was also balancing production between its bakeries so it could continue to supply fresh bread to supermarkets every day, as well as taking “stringent measures” to protect against the Delta variant responsible for the latest move to Covid-19 alert level 4.

Mark Bosomworth

“We will be able to meet demand as long as people don’t panic buy and stockpile,” Bosomworth said.

The company, which moves more than 1.8 million baked goods every week, said it was also working closely with leading supermarkets to streamline deliveries and closely monitor stock levels.

“Baking and distributing our goods while Delta is in the community means we have to take even more stringent measures to ensure the safety of our workers and continuity of supply so that people can continue to feed their families well during lockdown.”

GWF is the New Zealand subsidiary of global giant Associated British Foods and employed more than 6,000 people across 40 sites in New Zealand. When all outlets are open, it delivers good to 14,000 locations every day.

The latest lockdown came at a time when Bosomworth said the company – like many in the food manufacturing business – was facing rising costs as a result of increased global demand for ingredients.

Its biggest ingredient was wheat, which was largely imported from Australia, but even the cost of local ingredients such as meat for its Big Ben pies was rising given huge demand from China and North America for New Zealand beef and lamb.

“The cost increases we are seeing in my experience – and I have been in the industry for very many years here, in the UK and Australia – I have never seen the types of sudden changes in cost prices that we are seeing at the moment and it is across whole array of different areas.”

Bosomworth’s career spans Australasian FMCG big hitters including Woolworths, Fonterra, Australia’s GrainCorp Foods, Goodman Fielder, Mars, United Biscuits, and packing company Huhtamaki while in his native UK.

“We’re seeing a boom globally in consumption… and when there is a shortage of stuff to move around the world, New Zealand suddenly becomes the most expensive place to ship too.

“That is a core factor, and has a knock-on effect on everything. All the commodities that we use to go in our products, all the packaging that comes from overseas, all the ingredients that come from overseas – so that has a cumulative effect in raising prices.”

In terms of passing these costs on to the consumer, Bosomworth said it was something the business constantly kept under review, and pointed out there was one cost the company would not be passing on – that of the more expensive recyclable cardboard bread tag which have just been put into production.

The change from plastic to cardboard tags was a four year process that saw the company cut ties with its former supplier, Kwik Loc, and find a new supplier which produced both the new machinery GWF had to acquire and the cardboard tags the company needed – some 17 million a year.

“We would have done that many months ago,” Bosmoworth said.

“But with supply chains and shipping routes disrupted, we had to wait in line for the machines to be delivered. We are not retrofitting, we have invested in a completely new packaging solution, hence why going on two brands, Ploughmans Bakery and Bürgen bread, initially.”

When more machines were delivered next year, all products, including its popular Tip Top brand, would move over to cardboard bread tags, removing 17 million tags or 30 tonnes of plastic from the system.

“We made a significant investment in machinery, and the bread tags costs us more but we determined that is a cost we will cover because we think it is the right thing to do and we think consumers care,” Bosmoworth said.

Rival Goodman Fielder also recently started the transition to recyclable cardboard bread tags, initially one day a week at just one Auckland bakery.



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