Thu | Apr 25, 2019

Maxfield Bakery looks to exports for new growth beyond Easter buns

Published:Wednesday | February 20, 2019 | 12:17 AM
Tarik Perkins, managing director of Maxfield Bakery.

Tarik Perkins is “busy, busy, busy”.

It’s the make-it-or-break-it season for Maxfield Bakery, whose Easter buns bring in 49 per cent of yearly revenue. So Perkins and his upsized team are focused on getting ready to spice up the market with the hearty, fruit-filled product.

Not only does Maxfield’s Easter buns account for nearly half of yearly sales, it also brings in 75 per cent of export income, according to Perkins. To meet demand for the popular product, Maxfield Bakery typically triples its core staff of 34 each peak season to roll out the additional volumes.

Maxfield’s products span breads, pastries and cakes, but its buns have been its mainstay. The bakery also earns income from co-packaging for two companies based in the United States, both white label contracts under which the companies slap their brand on products made by Maxfield.

Co-packaging now accounts for four per cent of revenue and 25 per cent of all exports.

Perkins acknowledges that the overt dependence on a seasonal product that is in demand about two to three months per year leaves the company in a vulnerable position, but is attempting to change that. He sees a lot more room for foreign sales, and is starting to lay the groundwork to eventually redefine the company’s revenue mix.

In the four years that he has been the bakery’s managing director, the company has poured an estimated US$100,000 into improved packaging equipment, baking equipment, and additional oven capacity that position Maxfield to ramp up volume production in order to grow sales. But to sustain and grow its market share, the company recognised that it needed to do more – it needed to address its quality systems.

More immediately, however, even as he is taking steps to modernise the company by investing more in technology, Perkins is trying to safeguard the export market that Maxfield currently has for its Easter buns.

CLOUD-BASED TECHNOLOGY

That’s where Benchmark QMS comes in.

“There has been a strategic drive to not only modernise the information systems but to harvest the power of cloud-based technology. All systems have been migrated to cloud-based platforms – from accounting, to inventory management, to customer service and now even our quality and food-safety management system – will be included in this thrust to include technology in the business,” he said in an interview with theFinancial Gleaner.

With the help of Benchmark QMS, itself a nascent company that has priced its services so that small entities like Maxfield can afford such consultancies – seejamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20190201/start-finds-niche-benchmarking – the bakery is in the process of implementing a comprehensive food safety and quality-management system to satisfy local and international requirements, particularly the FSMA food safety requirements imposed by the United States.

“Without the timely intervention of Benchmark QMS, we would have been shut out of the lucrative export market for this peak period, which could have been catastrophic for the company,” he said.

That’s why Perkins was able to proclaim, with an air of tired anticipation: “I am busy, busy already,” while noting that Maxfield was well advanced in preparing for the company’s most active season.

Maxfield’s main export markets are the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, but it also distributes to the Cayman Islands, Barbados, The Bahamas, and Antigua.

In the past two years, Perkins said, export revenue has grown 80 per cent. Its exports include Easter buns, other spice buns, bullas and rock cakes. But its product portfolio is far more extensive, including regular hard-dough breads, grotto, burger rolls, hot dog rolls, corn bread, raisin bread, cheesebread, birthday and Christmas cakes, wine cakes, marble cakes, tutti fruit, cinnamon roll and Danish pastries.

Perkins said a flat “no” to comment on the bakery’s output volumes, but noted that Easter bun production has increased by 93.7 per cent and is projected to climb to above 105 per cent after the Easter 2019 season.

Maxfield Bakery & Pastries Limited is a 35-year-old operation founded by the Perkins family. It employs 34 people throughout the year and 100 workers during the Easter season.

The company started out at Maxfield Avenue in Kingston but relocated three years later, and now owns properties at Central Road in Kingston – the site of its headquarters, bakeries and a retail outlet – and another outlet at Spanish Town Road, in proximity to Coronation Market in Kingston.

Matriarch Herma Perkins gave up the job of managing director to her son, Tarik, on August 7, 2014, but is still chairman of the board.

Tarik says he is looking to grow the company’s exports by 20 per cent this year. And he expects that growth to largely come from co-packaging arrangements.

He also expects that both the company’s efficiency measures, as well as its participation in programmes such as Export Max III, which was organised by JAMPRO to assist SMEs extend their market reach, will position Maxfield Bakery to hit the target.

The bakery boss says he wants to achieve HACCP certification within the next 12 months and is currently focused on full implementation of the food-safety plan.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com