Explore this issueFebruary/March 2011
When it comes to food ingredients, few food manufacturers can match the quality assurance and traceability claims of Warburtons, the United Kingdom’s largest independent baker.
A tour through the company’s website tells the story of how Warburtons has been building a reputation for quality since Thomas and Ellen Warburton founded the company in 1870. And that commitment continues today, said Brett Warburton, who represents the family’s fifth generation to run the business.
“We go to great lengths to deliver the freshest, best tasting, and highest quality products. Unlike most bakers, we don’t simply buy flour. Instead, we have hundreds of farmers growing our own wheat,” he said. “We work with experts, our partners who are best in their field, to ensure consistent quality without compromise, every step of the way from seed to crumb.”
With 14 bakeries and 15 depots located throughout the U.K., the company’s commitment to quality breads, bakery products, and rolls starts with relationships it has cultivated with farmers. About 50% of the wheat used in Warburtons’ products is grown by U.K. farmers, and the other half is grown by Canadian farmers who began cultivating specific wheat varieties for Warburtons in the mid-1990s.
Quality Starts with the Seed
The company’s quality commitment starts with certified wheat seed, according to Adam Dyck, Warburtons’ Canadian program manager. “We’re strong supporters of certified seed and the seed industry, both in Canada and the U.K.” Dyck works with grain companies to manage contracts with more than 600 Canadian farmers in the prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“High-quality, premium bread products is Warburtons’ business,” he said. “We’re not millers, we’re strictly bakers. We require high quality CWRS (Canada Western Red Spring) wheat as part of our grist.”
In the mid-1990s, Warburtons was not satisfied with the consistency of the wheat it was getting from Canada. As a result, the company started its own identity preserved (IP) program that would allow it to test many CWRS varieties and select the ones with the required attributes. The company began contracting directly with farmers to produce the chosen wheat varieties in specific growing regions.