As Virginia-based Markel Bakery Group strengthens its worldwide presence, the Group aims to define the next big thing in baking. CEO Ken Newsome describes for Dan Harvey how this vision will become reality.
Providing the highest quality products and the most innovative process solutions for bakers worldwide, the Markel Bakery Group “has set its sight on becoming one of the next great industrial companies,” says Ken Newsome, the Group’s CEO.
This kind of self-assigned commission can be dangerous, as acquisitions similar to the Markel Bakery Group have been viewed as unsustainable within the baking industry. However in this case, the Group has the leadership, vision and ownership support to harness their potential.
A Demanding but Supportive Parent
The Markel Bakery Group is part of the larger Markel Corporation, a multi-billion dollar publicly traded specialty insurance company that decided to extend its boundaries by making investments into private operating companies, some of which it brought beneath its Markel Ventures group umbrella. The Markel Bakery Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of Markel Ventures, and it is comprised of three companies, industry-leading bakery equipment enterprises acquired since the year 2000; AMF Bakery Systems, Reading Bakery Systems, and Tromp Bakery Equipment.
To understand why Markel Group is well poised to achieve its ambitions, one must closely look at each of these three components:
- AMF Bakery Systems, based in Richmond, Va. is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-speed bakery equipment, according to Markel. AMF provides complete automated bakery solutions for dough mixing, dividing, make-up, proofing, baking, cooling, packaging, basket/case loading, and product distribution. The enterprise operates in the bread, bun, and soft roll baking market.
- Reading Bakery Systems, located in Robesonia, Pa. and established in 1947, operates in the global snack food industry, meeting customers’ process and product challenges via high-quality systems and components. The business includes a dedicated research and development facility that helps customers develop new snack products as well as validate new ingredients, test new machinery, and understand mixing, forming, baking and drying innovations. Reading Bakery Systems boasts high-production processing lines capable of churning out a wide range of snack products.
- Tromp Bakery Equipment, founded in 1985, is settled in Gorinchem, the Netherlands serving the specialty dough and savory goods markets. It produces high-quality stainless steel food production lines specially designed and produced for a wide variety of artisan bread products, pies, pizzas, puff-pastry or Danish pastry dough products. Tromp has sales representatives in most countries throughout the world experienced in many disciplines of food processing equipment.
Achieving its Aim
The Markel Bakery Group relies on a cohesive set of values and culture to drive their success. “We have defined our strategic plans by implementing the ‘Markel Way,’ our internal system for managing businesses,” says Newsome.
“Our most valued assets, he continues, include our people, our manufacturing plants, and our processes. The “Way” translates into honing a focus on the Group’s two primary principles, which are flawless execution and continuous improvement. Although continuing to operate as independent entities, the Markel Bakery Group companies will further develop their assets by adhering to these same Markel Way principles.
Beneath the Markel Bakery Group umbrella, you will see a see a transfer of technologies between the three companies, a strategy designed to improve technical solutions for all customers. Newsome provides an example: “The Reading company is the world leader when it comes to continuous mixing, a technology that really has not crossed over into the AMF bread and bun world. However, now AMF is working with Reading and its customers to develop the mixing technology specifically for the bread and bun market.”
Additionally, mentioned Newsome, “Tromp is an expert in the area of sheeting dough, a technology that will allow AMF customers to diversify their product offerings. We are working to develop production lines that extend beyond classic sandwich bread or the fast-food type of hamburger bun, allowing customers to also produce baguettes, croissants or ciabatta breads.”
Taking Business Abroad
Along with cross-selling technologies throughout its organization, Markel Bakery Group has the means to build an international infrastructure. “We already have a global presence, with another recently established manufacturing site in China,” reports Newsome.
This global presence also includes sales offices and/or manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Paraguay, United Kingdom, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, China and Singapore. “We are now in the process of determining our best manufacturing strategy in Latin America,” he adds regarding the company’s forward direction.
He reveals where all of this is heading: “All of what we do – the advanced technologies within individual companies, combined with operational excellence, the cross-selling of technologies to provide the best solutions, the building of the international infrastructure – will help us capture growth in emerging global markets. We aim to lead our industry with a level of expertise and innovation that is unparalleled in these markets.
Newsome reports that, currently, no competitor can achieve the cross-over of technology move more as effectively than Markel Bakery Group, providing exceptional value to food producers at every stage – from initial consultation and engineering services to completely automated solutions with ensuing technical support. With their seamless operational capabilities and technologies the Markel Bakery Group helps their customers develop – an ever-growing menu of high-quality breads, buns, snacks, cakes, pies, pizzas and specialty bread products.
“All three of our companies traverse through the mixing of dough to the cooling of the finished product. Providing complete comprehensive baking solutions for an extensive range of products, the Markel Bakery Group has the technology to transfer and package these baked products in preparation for distribution.
“Collaboration is vital,” underscores Newsome, regarding the relationship that the Markel Bakery Group companies have with one another as well as their parent company.
He also relates a somewhat startling fact. “These acquisitions have made our company three times the size it was four years ago,” says Newsome. “Through the progression of our processes and refinement of this global infrastructure, we are able to establish a sustainable and prosperous future as the Markel Bakery Group.”