Rising reputation

Through its popular ‘Crafty’ range, Genesis Breads is expanding into valuable commercial sectors across the UK

Formed in 1968 by Joseph and Roberta McErlain, the Genesis bakery was initially named after its founders, before adopting the Genesis mantle in 1997. Now run by the six McErlain sons, the company expanded its bakery in Londonderry in 2001, creating over 50 new jobs. In the same year, Genesis was voted Independent Bread Business of the Year, recognising both the quality of the bakery, as well as Genesis’s successful bread-themed restaurant in Magherafelt. Managing director Brian McErlain outlines the growth Genesis has seen since 1997: “Since the McErlains name was dropped from the company’s products and replaced by the Genesis brand, we have doubled our turnover, increased employment from 75 to 135 and invested about £1.5m. We could not have done this without radically rethinking what we do.”

Genesis’ craft bakery team produce an extensive range of scones, rolls, sodas, potato bread, wheaten, and pancakes, based on traditional recipes and organic, natural ingredients. Two years ago, the company focused on the release of its Crafty range of wheatens. The success of Genesis’ honey and yoghurt, and honey, yoghurt, apricot and sunflower seed wheatens can be measured by the impressive sales nationwide, alongside the Gold award the product has received at the Great Taste Awards 2007, organised by the Guild of Fine Food. Genesis Crafty was commended for its different tastes and textures; this quality is assured by the wheaten being hand-made by expertly trained bakers.

Quality of baking underpins Genesis’ entire production process – all products are hand prepared to ensure the best results, even if this means a slightly longer baking procedure. Anna Marie Travers, human resources manager, emphasises the importance of quality: “Genesis Breads has quality at the cornerstone of the business. The core tenet of the philosophy is that we have to be constantly developing new products whilst maintaining existing successful lines at a high standard.” To ensure the quality of products, Genesis has invested heavily in the training of its workforce, a process that resulted in the company being recommended for the National Training Award in 2003.

The entire workforce at Genesis’ bakery is multi-skilled, and everyone has equal opportunities for both training and reward. The company abandoned using craft baking NVQs because of the high levels of paperwork required alongside the demotivation this form of training caused. Genesis designed its own training programme, with more experienced staff assisting new staff in developing their baking skills. Anna Marie outlines how this approach has improved training within the company: “Since the introduction of the skills levels and multi-skilling, organisational performance has improved including the effective use of ingredients and better employment of available staff. Everyone has gained a strong level of confidence in their skills and ability to produce new products while maintaining a reputation for quality. The skills programme is certainly not a ‘quick fix’. It is a sustainable approach, which we will continue to develop and improve upon.”

In 2005, to assist the implemented training programme, Genesis renewed its contract with ICS Computing in its provision of a fully integrated accounting and real time management system, used to drive growth, reduce waste, increase profitability, and streamline processes within the company. Brian outlines the reasons for this renewal: “Genesis chose ICS because they not only provided a system that was an exact match for our requirements, but because the company has an excellent relationship with ICS and they understand the business. Genesis’ previous system with ICS has grown and scaled with us over the years and with the launch of Genesis Crafty range, the company aims to grow by 15 per cent this year. The combination of ICS’s Perito Analyser and Perito Accounts will significantly enhance the margin of the company. Complicated processing such as recipe costing, retrospective rebates, quantity discounts, settlement terms and supplier price support for promotions – all of which are pertinent to the bakery industry are fully automated by Perito Accounts. In Perito Accounts, Genesis has found a solution that encompasses all the nuances of the bakery wholesale industry. The company looks forward to growing another 15 per cent with Perito Accounts as the backbone to our financial infrastructure.”

Genesis is currently a dominant figure within the Irish commercial sector, and its breads are also sold in Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the UK. Equally, the company is finding a large amount of success with its ‘Breakfast Select’ range, currently being sold at Waitrose. The emphasis of the future is to continue this expansion process, and become a dominant figure within the UK market. Encouraging new customers to try its products is key and to this end, Genesis uses a ‘yellow range’ of offers – for example, packaging promotions that give customers extra pancakes, or trial offer price ranges for many of its products. Genesis is aiming to market the sharing quality of its baked goods, particularly in product groups like the ‘Big’ range of pancakes and wheaten slices, and the ‘Wee’ range of sodas aimed at children.

The fact that Genesis is sponsor of the Women into Business Award at the Magherafelt Business Awards 2007 emphasises the respected position the company holds in Northern Ireland, and the example it is setting both for Irish entrepreneurship, and within the baking industry nationwide.