Monday 25 February 2013

Interview: Chris Hook, Warburtons' Newburn Bakehouse

Warburtons recently invited a group of hungry bloggers to their very own Newburn Bakehouse in Newcastle - home of their fantastic Free From range. We caught up the Chris Hook, Managing Director at the Newburn Bakehouse to talk about their exciting new range, donuts and of course, afternoon tea!

ATC: Why did Warburtons revamp and rebrand their Free From range – how has it been received?
CH: We launched the new brand Newburn Bakehouse, to give it its own identity – which is good because it offers a lot more stand out value on the shelf. We did a lot of market research before we even launched which proved that Warbutons needed a sub-brand.
What we’re doing is improving the recipes. Warburtons launched the range in 2011 and it wasn’t as ideal as they wanted it to be – so we spent a fair amount of time getting the recipes up to a level which was more acceptable. The improvement programme continues – we never really stop.

What new products are being launched by the Newburn Bakehouse?
Some of the new products that we’re launching include; a white baguette, 600g seeded loaf and also a golden syrup and mixed fruit muffin – which we’re calling a morning muffin.
It’s interesting because people were saying what they would really like is a larger sliced loaf that doesn’t get lost in the toaster! And when we first showed it, it was a bit of a Blue Peter ‘Here’s one we made earlier’ moment, as the 600g loaf is just like a normal loaf of bread.
It’s exciting and it’s challenging. When you start out, you look for what the gaps in the market are but you also look for what consumers are looking for.
The real challenge is trying to translate those ideas and concepts into real products – that’s when the real hard work starts.

Can any bakery product be made gluten free or are there some things that just don’t work?
Most things are doable but some are more challenging than others. One thing that’s been asked for a number of times is a donut. And doing a donut is doable but because it’s a fresh product you have to eat it within a day and that’s a real challenge. Those are the areas that are challenging and we try to find ways around that.

What does the new brand stand for?
We are trying to benchmark our products not just against other competitors but also against what our colleagues bake in what we call, the ‘core bakery’ - so the normal Warburtons products.  Our aspiration is to make them taste as good as they do in the core bakery and also appear, look, taste and feel like the real product.
There are products even in our range now that I would challenge anyone to say are gluten free. For example the muffins and spiced fruit loaf. I know people who eat the Newburn Bakehouse spiced fruit loaf out of choice because they like the taste.

What is your favourite product from the new Free From range?
I think the baguettes are fantastic and a close second would be the seeded loaf. I took that one home whilst we were developing it. I’ve got 6 children and my oldest son is wheat intolerant. I just slipped it in and nobody could tell the difference.  

And finally, are you a fan of afternoon tea?
I’m a great fan of afternoon tea. I’m a fan of tea and cake and also toasted tea cakes! I’ve just had one of our gluten free tea cakes actually.
My favourite part of afternoon tea would have to be the selection of little cakes, especially those in hotels!

Any favourite afternoon tea places?
Probably the Grosvenor in Chester and also Bettys – they’re fantastic in there.

We'll have to check that one out! For all the latest updates on Warburtons Newburn Bakehouse be sure to follow @WarbsNewburnBH on Twitter and make sure you check back with us when we sample and give our verdict on their brand new range!

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