Sorcha Sweeney, financial director with Gallagher’s Bakery, explains: “As a busy operation servicing our clients but at the same time constantly looking for ways to innovate and diversify to remain competitive, we saw a market opportunity to improve our gluten-free processes.
“I had attended an information night in Kildare which informed small to medium businesses about the state-related support that was on offer and InterTradeIreland were there, showcasing their range of programmes.
“One of the programmes on offer, FUSION, links companies with a graduate trained in a specific discipline and a third level organisation with technical expertise in the arena who all work collaboratively to focus on the commercial project. Each participant can benefit from the involvement with new skills, learning, contacts and information gained.
“I realised FUSION could be our way of moving the gluten-free element of our business forward into the future and give us the competitive edge to take the product even further in the home and export markets. To have the assistance of a dedicated graduate with the support and expertise of a third level institution would allow us access to a level of learning and understanding that would otherwise not be possible.
Gallagher’s 18-month FUSION project commenced in November 2013 and investigated the manufacturing process involved in gluten-free bread, which can cause a huge variability in product texture and waste.
Sorcha explains: “Waste levels for the gluten-free processes were ranging from 8 – 17% prior to the FUSION project and we were struggling to identify the root cause of the waste.
“We wanted to standardise the operating procedures to address issues related to waste and consistency and understand the huge levels of product variance and the link between ingredients, which impacted on production and product quality.
“During the duration of the project, Annette Ferguson our graduate worked with CAFRE, our academic partner, to document the science of each ingredient, which was crucial to identifying the links between each ingredient and the resulting impact on product quality.
“Following the implementation of the process improvements determined under the FUSION programme, waste levels are now averaging 10% and consistency and quality of the product have improved. This has been reflected in an increase in monthly turnover of 40% since the start of the project.
“In addition, by reducing waste levels, the company can tender more aggressively for new contracts as the waste variable has stabilised. Post FUSION, we have secured new contracts in Belgium, Italy and Norway, which should increase our turnover by around 5%.
“Taking part in FUSION has brought immense commercial benefits to Gallagher’s. We have saved more than €58,000 a year by amending the make-up of our sour dough ferment and by working with CAFRE and their research papers on sour dough fermentation. This helped us to develop a natural preservative range that is now distributed to customers in America.
Sorcha adds: “Collaborating on a cross-border basis allowed us the access to the right people to make our project a success. I would strongly encourage other companies considering teaming up to look at the FUSION programme for opportunities and to take the time to select the best people. Personalities and skills are both important, as is the drive to succeed.
“This was our first project involving academia and it was even more useful that we imagined and something we would strongly consider in the future. Sensory testing can be ‘make or break’ for a product and our involvement with CAFRE allowed us to trial products in real-life settings.
Get in touch
For more information about Gallaghers Bakery - Visit their website.
For general information anout InterTradeIreland visit www.intertradeireland.com
For information on the FUSION programme visit www.intertradeireland.com/fusion