The Flat Bread Company
NEW INNOVATOR: INNOVATION IS not all about new products. Of equal value are new process innovations, especially in a manufacturing environment. By coming up with a smart idea to re-engineer a piece of troublesome baking equipment, the Clara-based Flat Bread Company saved itself €900 an hour in machine downtime and greatly improved its efficiency.
The Flat Bread Company was set up in 2008 and while its name may not be familiar to Irish consumers, its products will be – it supplies the thin and crispy crust bases used in Domino’s pizzas. A cooler is used during the baking process and the company’s original system left something to be desired according to company co-founder and managing director, Kieran Walsh.
“It was driven by a poorly designed, troublesome, inefficient transmission system which caused a great deal of downtime in our factory,” he says. “This was replaced by an efficient, highly automated, flexible system which was designed in-house by our engineering manager, Gerry Naughton. This has saved us a significant amount of downtime.”
The Flat Bread Company employs 29 people and makes both pizza bases and tortillas/wraps. It recently launched a fresh tortilla product on the Irish market and is about to roll out a new product line-up aimed at its Middle East customers. More than 90 per cent of its output is exported to its main markets in the UK, Greece, Bulgaria and the Middle East.
Kieran Walsh studied bakery technology at college but it was while working with the Kerry Group that he hit on the idea of setting up a flatbread bakery. He was aware that Domino’s in Europe was looking for a local supplier and together with his brother Sean, a craft baker, and colleague Niels Ladefoged, he put together a business plan and pitched it at Enterprise Ireland. They were accepted onto the High Potential Start Up programme and the first breads rolled off the production line in 2009.
The company has recently invested in a new packaging line that will allow it to break into retailing with a fresh (as opposed to long-life) product. “We are looking at either developing our own retail brand or working with an established bakery name to bring our products to market,” says Walsh.
“There is a fair degree of skill required to make our products and the calibre of what we do is appreciated by our customers for whom it’s as much about quality and consistency as price,” Walsh adds. “Our focus is on winning business from companies that can provide us with serious volume.”