A North Wales bakery is in the running for a top award for going above and beyond with its customer service.
The Jones Village Bakery has been shortlisted in the Customer Focus category at the industry Oscars, the Baking Industry Awards.
They were nominated for the way they had supported the launch of a new range of sourdough bread by Marks and Spencer.
The Wrexham-based family firm created an exact replica an M&S in-store bakery at their new, state-of-the-art Baking Academy.
The naturally-leavened sourdough bread is being made on a new £16 million production line at their flagship bakery on Wrexham Industrial Estate and is baked off at 600 plus M&S branches.
The project has already created 100 new jobs and has now led to the company being put forward for a prestigious award at the baking industry Oscars.
The award winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on Thursday, October 20, with the event being hosted by comedy actress and writer Sally Phillips.
The nomination is a source of great pride for Reg Denby, commercial controller for M&S at the Jones Village Bakery.
He said: “We have created an absolute replica of what you would see in an M&S store, with fully operational ovens, chillers, freezers and display stands.
“All the fixtures and fittings are exactly the same as in-store, so when M&S colleagues come here, it feels just like having in-store training.
“We’ve trained over 150 people from M&S branches across the UK so far and the then chief executive has been here three times and you don’t get any higher than that.”
Phil Martin, the Bakery Academy manager, was equally proud.
He said: “This is an absolutely tremendous honour because no other manufacturer is doing what we do with M&S. It’s unique.”
The Jones Village Bakery have been supplying Britain’s best-loved high street retailer for 14 years and they say this new initiative has taken their relationship to “the next level”.
The sourdough launch came about as the result of a visit by the recently-retired M&S chief executive Steve Rowe to their new 140,000 sq ft bakery that’s been described as the most modern facility of its kind in Europe.
Building the new bakery and the cutting edge production line was masterminded by projects director Christien Jones.
He said: “Being customer focused is at the heart of everything we do as we have always prided ourselves on traditional quality and service, so we are over the moon to be shortlisted for this award.
“I think our customers know our team are great but it’s just great to recognise the fantastic job that they do in this way. I’m really proud of them.
“In total, we have been working on this project for three years so it’s really gratifying to hear that the new range is getting a brilliant response from M&S customers. The feedback we’re getting is incredibly positive.
“As of this week, we’ll have launched five products including an 800 gram seeded loaf, a signature loaf, baguettes, an olive bread and a new roll – with more products to follow over the coming months.”
The launch of the new range featured in a high profile TV advertising campaign, with Christien and his brother, Robin, the managing director, having starring roles alongside celebrity chef Chris Baber.
Robin said: “We have been working with M&S for many years and we are proud to be their partners because our values are perfectly aligned.
“There were a couple of visionary people involved from M&S and ourselves and it all stemmed from when Steve Rowe said to me ‘Look, I’ve got tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, I want bread to taste like bread’.
“Another key person was Andy Thomas, their trading manager for bakeries, who shared our vision.
“My aspiration from the outset was to try to get the in-store bakery staff at M&S to the same level of knowledge as baristas in coffee shops.
“They’ve now got that knowledge and they’re simply blown away by the products we make and it helps them sell in-store.
He added: “There’s a lot of heritage at the Village Bakery and there’s a lot of passion.
“Sourdough is naturally leavened bread which uses a ‘starter’ – a fermented flour and water mixture that contains wild yeast and good bacteria – instead of yeast to rise.
“We said that we’d make no compromise bread that’s fermented for 36 hours and now we’ve had no compromise training for all the in-store colleagues.
“This is a retail revolution that’s going to be a gamechanger for bread in the UK.”