Canada Bread's Langley, British Columbia, plant is located south of Vancouver.
Canada Bread's plant uses two mixers on its bread line. The plant also houses a bun and roll line.
Canada Bread's bread line processes an array of bread products, including traditional sandwich breads and whole grain loaves.
Canada Bread uses two flying knife dividers on its bread line.
The company's six-strap pans ensure balance throughout proofing.
Canada Bread uses two antennae to ensure that only one piece of dough is placed in each pan.
Canada Bread tops its products with a variety of ingredients after the proofer and before the oven.
In January 2001, Canada Bread relaunched its Dempster's® WholeGrains™ product line with six varieties of breads made with whole grain flour. Although significant at the time, the importance of this relaunch is magnifying as North American consumers trade up to whole grain and premium bread products.
This widespread shift in the North American bread market has created a dividing line in the commercial baking industry. On one side of the line are bakers with a product mix that heavily leans toward white bread. For the most part, these bakers are recording stagnant sales. On the other side of the line are bakers with a solid product mix containing traditional pan bread items and premium products, such as whole grain breads. These bakers are thriving due to the increased consumption of premium products, which possess higher prices and profit margins.
Canada Bread's fresh bread division is entrenched firmly on the profitable side of the line. For its third quarter, the company's Bakery Products Group's sales increased nearly $10 million compared to the prior year's quarter, and the division posted a 68% gain in operating income. The company attributed a significant portion of these increases to the strong growth of its premium and whole grain products.
"What we are seeing is a big mix shift," Barry McLean, Canada Bread Fresh Bakery's president, says. "Consumers have really moved out of white bread in general, and in particular private label white bread, and into value-added whole wheat and grain products."
The company capitalized on this mix shift by placing an intense focus on its Dempster's® WholeGrains™ product line. This line, along with the Dempster's® brand name, represents the company's national health and well-being flagship brand.
To date, this focus has paid off considerably. From 1985 to 1995, white bread dominated the company's fresh products portfolio, with sales of these products accounting for 48% of the company's business. During this same period, whole wheat and grain products accounted for 16% of the company's business. Nearly 10 years later, the company's wheat and grain products have grown dramatically, accounting for 25% of the company's business, while its white bread sales have waned to 29% of the company's fresh product sales.
Whole grain relaunch
When Canada Bread decided to reformulate and relaunch its Dempster's® WholeGrains™ line, it did not anticipate the suddenness of the bread preference shift. "We didn't have any inkling at the time that Atkins would become so popular," McLean says. "But, we did believe that consumers were going to continue to trade up in terms of looking for more nutritionally complete healthful products."
This foresight firmly placed the company in the whole grain market before Atkins and similar fad diets consumed North America. As a result, Canada Bread's whole grain products received maximum exposure before consumers started flocking to whole grain products.
As one of the first Canadian commercial bakeries to enter the national market with a comprehensive line of whole grain breads, Canada Bread has built name recognition in an emerging category. Its Dempster's® WholeGrains™ relaunch solidified the company's offerings in the premium bread market and is contributing to the company's success in the bread aisle.
Before relaunching its Dempster's® WholeGrains™ line, Canada Bread's grain bread product portfolio consisted of multigrain breads, but no whole grain breads, "which to us is the distinction between providing a betterfor-you product and a true healthful product," McLean says.
As part of the relaunch, the company reformulated three of its existing grain breads into whole grain breads, and introduced three new whole grain products. Today, the company's Dempster's® WholeGrains™ line consists of nine whole grain breads: 12 Grain, Bran, Flax, Multigrain, Soy, Stone Ground Whole Wheat, Sunflower Multigrain, Wheat & Oats with Honey, and 100% Whole Wheat. Out of these, the company's two biggest sellers are 12 Grain and Flax.
The company also undertook an extensive marketing and public relations campaign to promote the relaunch and whole grains in general. "One of the things we found in the research leading up to the relaunch was that consumers understood the importance of eating whole grains, but they really didn't know what they were," McLean says. "Consumers really didn't know how to tell if the product they were buying was whole grain or was just an assorted grain product. And in the marketplace, there were more products that pretended to be whole grains than were whole grains."
The company alleviated this confusion by making whole grain education an integral part of its public relations and marketing campaign. The most visible aspect of this campaign is the company's bread bags. The underside of these bags contains an illustration of the three parts of a whole grain, and defines what makes up a whole grain bread. Besides providing information on whole grain breads, the illustration supports the communication that Dempster's® is a whole grain product. "Canadian food regulations do not currently allow specific health claims for whole grains like Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does," McLean says. "We can communicate the product is made with whole grain, however, we cannot communicate the health benefits associated with the consumption of whole grains."
As a result, the company places a significant focus on educating consumers through packaging and alternate means, such as the Internet. The company launched a website, www.wholegrainsbureau.ca, that disseminates relevant information on whole grains, including their makeup and the healthful benefits of consuming a diet rich in whole grains.
The whole grain payoff
Since the relaunch of its Dempster's® WholeGrains™ product line, the company has experienced extremely positive results. The company's whole grain sales have grown an average of 19% a year since 2001.
To manufacture its whole grain breads, the company relies on a network of 22 fresh bread bakeries positioned throughout Canada. These 22 plants service all of Canada.
The company's Langley, British Columbia, plant, which is located south of Vancouver, serves Western Canada. The plant houses two high-speed lines that produce an assortment of breads and rolls. The plant's bread line produces the entire range of Canada Bread products, from traditional white sandwich breads to upscale whole grain loaves.
The plant stores its flour in three silos that hold 85,000 lbs each. Two of the silos hold standard wheat flour and the other contains 100% whole wheat flour. This flour, as well as other ingredients, are conveyed to one of two horizontal mixers. The two mixers sit facing each other and operate on alternating schedules. For example, when one of the mixers is mixing dough, the other is discharging its contents into a hopper that resides between the two mixers.
The hopper chunks the dough and conveys it to the makeup department. The company uses an extruder, which degasses the dough, and two flying knife dividers. The company's bread products range in size from 16 ozs. to 26.25 ozs. for its 100% whole wheat bread.
The company shapes its products with standard equipment such as press boards, rounding bars and curling chains. After the dough is panned, it traverses through a proofer for 55 minutes at 106°F and 84% humidity. According to Robert O'Reilly, the Langley plant's production manager, the company uses six-strap pans to provide complete balance throughout the proofing process. The company installed sensors on the conveyor before the proofer to alert employees of any skewed pans.
After proofing, the products traverse through a series of optional equipment, including a splitter, water sprayer and pan lidding system, which is used for sandwich breads.
The company bakes its products in a single-lap tunnel oven that contains eight zones. The 70-ft. oven bakes products for 20 minutes to 28 minutes.
Exiting the oven, products are depanned and cooled on a racetrack-style cooler that is mounted from the plant's ceiling. The company uses a robotic system to handle its pan storage and retrieval. The system stores about 10,000 pans and supplies the necessary pans when a formula is called for at the front end of the line.
After cooling, breads are sliced and bagged in one of four packaging lines. After bagging, a tray orientator aligns the products in trays and conveys them to the distribution room. Four automatic tray handling systems then stack the trays and prepare them for distribution.
With its Dempster's® Whole-Grains™ product line averaging double-digit growth, one of Canada Bread's main priorities is to continue to innovate new products aimed at the healthful bread market. "Innovation is what really creates value," McLean says. "It's what distinguishes our product from the next one, it's what allows us to price at a premium, and it's what allows us to meet a consumer need and be a consumer choice."
The company's focus on innovation led to the creation of its soy and flax varieties of whole grain breads and an entire line of whole grain bagels. "Over time, we have taken our leader-ship position in whole grains and expanded it by adding incremental benefits," McLean says. "Last year, we alerted consumers to the fact that both our Flax and 12 Grain varieties provide a natural source of omega-3, and we saw a significant growth in sales."
The company plans to continue this strategy by defining healthful, popular ingredients and incorporating them into bakery foods.
So far, the company has defined impending trends in the bread market and capitalized on them. But, it is not resting on its recent success. "The big question right now is not what consumers are doing today, but what they will be doing two to three years from now," McLean says.
Although understandably unwilling to disclose his thoughts on what the next couple of years will bring, McLean is very confident that the trend toward more healthful products has strong legs "in large measure, because there is a greater degree of awareness of the importance of eating healthy."
If these predictions prove true, Canada Bread is positioned to capitalize on the bread market regardless of where fickle trends lead consumers next.
Company Profile Canada Bread
Headquarters: Toronto, Canada