Business and Operations
Tweaking your bakery operation
Bakeries can find cost savings in unexpected places and Peter Jacobs is on a mission to help
April 5, 2023 By Colleen Cross
Peter Jacobs is on a mission. The energetic Certified Master Baker wants to help bakeries of all sizes bolster their bottom line.
Bakeries can find cost savings in unexpected places, says Jacobs, who has worked in the Canadian baking industry for more than 30 years, and since September 2021 has been an independent consultant through his business, The Baker’s Workshop based near Newmarket, Ont.
Jacobs took his first steps in baking at age 12 working with his older brother-in-law putting glazes on Danishes, washing dishes and scrubbing floors. “I felt I was treated not as a kid but as a full, whole person,” he says. “I didn’t get paid at that point. I just went because I liked it.”
He did his apprenticeship at the bakery and by age 18 had his diploma as journeyman baker and at 20 his second diploma as journeyman pastry chef. He recalls the rigorous first-year training: “We had three months when we learned about flour – wheat, rye, barley, spelt, ash contents, pastry, etc. Then three months of fats – oil, butter, margarine, shortening. Then three months all about dairy. Then another group of sugars. When you know the foundation, you start to combine them. You build on that.”
In 1984 he visited Canada and “fell in love with it for its multiculturalism, its size and the opportunity for my trade.”
After getting work at the Swiss pastry shop – they were looking for a chocolate specialist and Peter had training in chocolate – he was granted landed immigrant status in 1990. Jacobs sold his shares in a business in Germany and immigrated to Canada with his wife and two kids.
Over 33 years, he worked in product development for Upper Crust in 1991, ran his own pastry shop and held positions at Fiera Foods (R&D, product development), Puratos (product development baked confectionary and technical applications support), BakeMark (technical director applications) and Lesaffre as regional sales manager for Eastern Canada.
Jacobs was encouraged by his then-boss Bill Varney to get his certification through the Retail Bakers of America and in 2010 he earned the title of Certified Master Baker. The intensive 18-month process involved a food management/sanitation course and written exam of 2oo-plus questions. Candidates must score 70 per cent or higher in written and practical exames. They then do a practical test in which they prepare 10 stipulated recipes from a library of 150.
He highly recommends striving for certification status, such as the CMB or Red Seal: “Any education you can get, any certificates or course credits you can earn, help you market and set yourself apart.”
In the workshop
In 2013 Jacobs retrofitted part of his home near Newmarket, Ont., to a 400-square-foot, self-contained, room cleverly insulated using freezer panels. Anchored by a massive butcher-block table on wheels, the workshop is outfitted with ovens, a sheeter, fridges, a large mixer and other small appliances.
“My client base is small bakeries, pizzerias, industrial bakeries and ingredient suppliers,” he says. “I create cost-efficient formulas for them, clean up ingredient declarations and come up with prototypes that they can present to their customers. I also provide background work for case studies for clients.”
The veteran baker also has helped many operations work out bottlenecks in efficiencies, become more productive and profitable, adjust existing formulas to find ingredient cost savings, understand the feasibility of new products and equipment, do lab shelf-life support testing for pH regarding mold growth and train staff.
He looks at a bakery’s production flow from an independent perspective. “Every bakery is struggling to find labour. I look at what equipment is sitting around, the different personnel that are working, some more engaged than others. Some areas of the bakery you need someone more engaged. So, you match people and eqiupment to the right positions. There are different ways I look at production flow that other people might not. There are also ways to be more efficient besides revamping or hiring,” Jacobs says. He is excited about using his new M.O.L.E. data logger from ECD, technology that records temperature changes during baking and freezing to optimize quality and productivity.
Jacobs attends baking trade shows worldwide, including the BAC’s Bakery Showcase, IBIE, Südback in Germany and Europain in Paris. “Lately I see a trend of going back to a more traditional artisan-style product. Quality of product starts to come around to quality over quantity and that might be influenced by the younger crowd. There’s a shift to ‘I’d much rather have something good and small and enjoy it, than have a lot of something.’ ”
Jacobs says operators may be biased toward products or equipment from certain suppliers. A lot of times, you use something in the dough to fix the problem at hand and something else changes over time without re-adjusting what was done before, he explains. Or there may be a new ingredient or product that will help. Some ingredients may no longer need to be there. “Why not go back to basics and see what happens?”
Listening to Jacobs’ excitement about the possibilities for bakeries brings a sense of optimism.
“I want people to know there are consultants who can help, and that I am one of them. If they need someone with a fresh set of eyes to point out the good, the bad and the indifferent, for them to be more efficient and profitable, then I encourage them to reach out.”
Peter Jacobs can be reached at 416-315-9587, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram @the_bakersworkshop or on LinkedIn.
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