Walking into the reception of the Warburtons bakery, this could be the entrance to any business on the Millmarsh Lane industrial estate. That is, until the smell hits you.
The smell of food can be alluring at the best of times, but with the aroma of freshly baked bread invading your senses at every turn, it’s a wonder any work gets done at all.
The company was first established in a grocery shop run by Thomas and Ellen Warburton in Bolton in 1876. Almost 140 years later, it is still in the family but its products can now be found in shops and supermarkets across the UK. The Enfield bakery is one of 12 across the country, though it is the only one in the south-east and that means it is responsible for serving customers in London and beyond.
To meet the needs of its clients, the bakery has invested £70million in the site since 2003, covering the plants, other buildings and equipment.
It is a 24/7 operation running 364 days a year to produce 33 different products from Warburtons' range of 105 items. Only on Christmas Day does the smell of fresh bread have a chance to fade away.
Loaf tins filled with dough head to the ovens
Factory manager Mark Picconi, who has been at Warburtons Enfield since 2004, explains the demands facing the business.
“What’s unique about Enfield is the challenge of working in the city of London,” he says. “We operate a night delivery service so our van drivers are out at 4am and back at 12pm, delivering through the night.
“It’s very automated. When we built the factory in 2003, it was half automated. As sales have grown, we have brought in robotics and things to complete tasks that previously people may have done.
“There’s still a challenge in Enfield to get people to come and work for us. The industry is growing so there’s even more demand for people to come and work.”
Warburtons currently holds a 15 per cent market share in London and banners outside the bakery showcase its ambition to increase that to 25 per cent within the next three years.
A further sign of the company’s investment in Enfield is in the shape of £1million plans to transform one plant – called Hot Plate 1 – into the largest crumpet plant in the UK.
“Our ambition is to keep growing in London,” Mark says. “What we’re seeing is the product mix is changing slightly. Bread tradition is migrating into wraps. That’s something we now offer.
“We do a lot of work with nutritionalists around white bread and the myth that it’s unhealthy. It’s about having it in the right quantity. In moderation, it’s fine. People are now moving into more ‘half and half’ product types. Another growth area is the ‘free from’ range – gluten and wheat free products – which are produced in Newcastle.
“We’re trying to go with the trends and what consumers want. We know for a fact that whatever happens in London, it’s the trend and we need to make sure we meet that trend. London starts the trend and then it goes north, south and west.”
Cooked loaves leave the ovens to cool
Inside Warburtons' main bread plant, the roar of the machinery and the smell of baking bread battle for control of your senses while loaves – in various stages of baking – pass along rows of conveyor belts beneath you, beside you and above your head.
From the machine that divides the prepared dough into precisely measured portions that are placed into individual tins, to the ovens and the suction cups that pull the freshly baked loaves from the tins and onto another ramp to cool, it’s a whirlwind of activity.
What is also noticeable, however, is that lack of staff involved in the production process. Just a handful of workers can be seen in different parts of the plant, overseeing individual sections to ensure the three million units produced each week stay on track, ready to be loaded onto one of the fleet of bright orange lorries and sent to their destinations.
Those destinations also include some of the 30 good causes that Warburtons Enfield will support this year through grants, staff volunteer opportunities, and the donation of its products.
Charities and organisations can apply for grants worth up to £250, or between £1,000 and £10,000, with Enfield Citizens Advice Bureau and Enfield Carers among those to benefit from the largest donations.
Edmonton Food Bank also receives 80 units a week from the company, which takes its community work further by supporting the breakfast clubs of ten schools with deliveries of fresh produce each week.
Vanessa Taylor, the bakery’s community champion, adds: “Warburtons is a family business and it’s a part of what they do. Families, communities and businesses – if we create benefit for one, we create benefits for the others.”
Delivery trucks at the ready
Warburtons Enfield by numbers
• Consumes one million kilograms of flour a week
• Produces three million units per week for London customers
• Produces bread at 16,560 units an hour (800g loaves) and 23,000 units an hour (400g loaves) from two bread plants
• Produces 25,800 crumpets per hour
• Operates 24 hours a day, 364 days a year
• Serves 2,000 customers every day
• Runs 70 vehicles and 12 articulated lorries every day