Delicious and nutritious, biscuits are the first and best convenience food, much-loved by consumers the world over. Following a near continuous period of uninterrupted economic growth, Asia Pacific is booming and the rising disposable incomes of a burgeoning consumer class means that demand for biscuits, snacks and confectionery has soared, to the extent that region’s biscuit and confectionery market is now one of the world’s biggest and fastest growing markets.
With a growing market that is yet to reach its true potential, there has never been a better window of opportunity for the region’s domestic biscuit and confectionery producers to capture market share from the industry’s global giants. Until recently, the divergence in process knowledge, industry experience, equipment and the capacity to invest between large global producers and the smaller domestic Asian producers meant that foreign multi-nationals lead the growth in many markets. Bridging this gap became important for Asian producers and this facilitated the growth of Baker Pacific.
“As companies in Asia grow, they need expertise on formulations, ingredient specifications, processes and the development and commissioning of new products. I saw in 2000 many local biscuit production lines and some imported lines and at that time overcapacity. However the capacity was underutilised mainly because of a lack of capability to develop successful new products for a growing market. This is the opportunity which enabled Baker Pacific to start”, explained Iain Davidson, founder and Director of Baker Pacific.
Made up of a small team of industry professionals from UK, China, Korea, each with over 30 years of experience in the food industry, with leading biscuit, confectionery and engineering companies, Baker Pacific established a valuable source of expertise and knowhow for the Asian biscuit and confectionery industry.
Even in a market place as competitive as Asia, Baker Pacific’s services have been sought after by leading companies in the industry. Drawing on the experience and skills of its team in production, R&D, project management and engineering the company is capable of providing clients with industrial market studies based on first-hand experience in Asia, new product development and the transfer of process technology for biscuits, cookies, chocolate, wafer and confectionery.
Indeed, it is through such work in a consultancy capacity that Baker Pacific first made its name, but as Iain explained it was his decision to begin manufacturing biscuit ovens that were both high-quality and affordable that took the company to the next level:
“At the beginning, the business was consultancy based, and later we began to design and build biscuit baking ovens for a multi-national company with investment in biscuit factories in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan. This was partly because I had, with a Japanese colleague, established an oven manufacturing facility for Baker Perkins at Dalian in the north of China.
Having agreed to build ovens for this multi-national, we built ovens in India, Indonesia and China where we have continued our work. We now have a good agreement with a company called Dingson Food Machinery Ltd. in China and we’ve already transferred some of our technology for a specific oven type to this company. We work closely with them and have built a strong working relationship.”
The rest, as they say, is history. An ability to deliver biscuit baking ovens to international standards at very competitive cost, enabled the company to grow. Asian biscuit companies wanted to source equipment locally as it was increasingly difficult to justify investment in equipment from Europe and USA. While Asian companies were able to source good process equipment in Asia, they were reluctant to purchase ovens from China, where, at that time, most ovens were heated by electricity, or India, where the predominant fuel was diesel oil. The growing market in Asia was increasingly using gas fired ovens.
Iain elaborated on this saying: “ The oven is a critical part of the production line and the experience didn’t exist, at that time, in China and India to build reliable gas fired ovens to international standards”.
So we brought European technology to start building gas fired ovens in Asia. We were a small team, using contractors, so we didn’t have investment in a factory, our overheads were very small and our costs competitive. At that time steel fabrication work in China was purchased for around 50% of a UK factory cost in terms of labour, materials and overheads. We were able to meet the standards required by multi-national companies at very competitive costs”.
These are exciting times as the business develops. Iain has recently written a process and engineering manual titled Biscuit Baking Technology – a guide to the biscuit baking process and the design, operation and maintenance of biscuit ovens. The book is based on over 40 years of experience not only by himself, but his colleagues, the late Glyn Sykes, who provided all the biscuit process knowledge for the company and without which the company’s achievements would be less, John Lilley our Chief Engineer and Steve Eldridge, our Design Engineer.
Now that Biscuit Baking Technology has been published by Elsevier, Academic Press and sold widely throughout the industry, Iain next challenge is the BISKAID project – a venture to provide nutritious biscuits that are fortified with vitamins and mineral to refugee camps and disaster zones. In a world that is so characterised by conflict and geopolitical turmoil, delivering a means of feeding potentially millions of displaced people could be the single most important achievement for the company.
Iain continued: “Biscuits have a long shelf-life, can carry many kinds of nutrients, can be easily baked, packed and distributed, so the biscuit is a valuable food for these camps. Unlike breads, which have a very short shelf-life and are difficult to distribute to large numbers of people in these huge camps”.
“I have now been in contact with organisations such as the World Food Programme, the United Nations Refugee Agency and other such organisations, who are supplying biscuits bought from existing commercial companies. From a CSR standpoint, it maybe that some of these companies will get more actively involved in our kind of project”.
In terms of what the future holds, the coming years look promising indeed. Certainly, from a market point of view, Baker Pacific is in a growing market, which is projected to continue posting very strong growth in South East Asia, in China, in India for the foreseeable future. Demand for biscuits continues to rise because by developed world standards, consumption per head in India, China and Indonesia is very low and these are countries where biscuits and confectionery are certainly very much appreciated!