Have you bought any cakes in Spain from a supermarket – as opposed to a corner shop? What about bread rolls and pastries?
I know, I know that is a dumb question – pretty much all of us have, even if we have just come over to Spain for a brief holiday!
I ask this because if you have bought a cake, pastry or bread in Spain from a supermarket then you will almost certainly have bought one from the biggest producer of bread and pastries in Spain – a company called Dulcesol. This is located close to where I live (Gandia in Valencia Province) and is one of those great success stories that always take my breath away. In the case of Dulcesol this is because it is a family business that, in fifty years, has gone from a tiny bakery in a little coastal pueblo to a national Spanish business producing over 115,000 tons of bread, pastries and cakes a year.
Can you imagine – 115,000 tons of inherently light weight produce created and sold every year! The quantities are simply breathtaking.
Indeed, Dulcesol produce some 1,000 different varieties of products with an astonishing 20,000 bread rolls, 1,900 apple pies, 25,000 chocolate donuts and 9,000 muffins (amongst many other products) coming of their production lines every hour – with production varying between 16 to 24 hours a day, 6/7 days a week.
In any event, a few days ago I was invited by the owner of Dulcesol, Juanjo, to see what happens in one of their two factories and the accompanying pictures may interest you if you have never seen a bread and pastry factory in full production.
Certainly, one of the most striking things about the Dulcesol factory that I went to in Villalonga is the sheer scale of everything . The factory is simply enormous with both Dulcesol factories (one in Gandia, one in Villalonga) taking up some 80,000m2 of space and employing 1,100 people – making Dulcesol the biggest private sector employer in the area. Meanwhile, of course, indirectly Dulcesol creates employment for hundreds more people involved in the transport and production of raw and finished good for the factory.
Of course, the most extraordinary thing to see is the production lines which can extend (if they were in a straight line) for around 250 metres in length. Quite literally, at one end raw materials enter the system (normally pastry) to appear at the far end as cakes or bread wrapped and sealed in the bags in which they will appear on a supermarket’s shelves.
The production lines are nothing if not expensive to construct and give some idea of the complexity of the business and the huge investment required to keep a factory like this productive in an extremely competitive industry. Indeed, I was shown a new production line being erected which Juanjo said would cost some 12 million euros by the time it was finished.
All of the design of any production lines is undertaken by Dulcesol who believe that their production lines are unique in the world of cake and bread manufacture. This not just about their sophistication and ability to produce different products but also for ability to adapt the new production lines to new orders with the minimum lost time and productivity. According to Juanjo, a new production line can take 6 months to think about, 6 months to design and around a year to a year and half to construct and get working. Quite an investment, each time…
Indeed, Juanjo stated that Dulcesol invest some 20-25 million euros a year in keeping the business up to date and on improvements – such as on a very impressive, state of the art, storage and warehousing facility and an astonishingly sophisticated new production line being constructed whilst I was there.
Interestingly, as Dulcesol become ever more sophisticated their production has gone up – whilst their employee numbers have actually reduced. In 2007 they produced 85,000 tons of produce with something like 1,500 employees compared to last year’s 115,000 tons with only 1,100 employees. Obviously, this has a helpful impact upon their overheads with 11% of their costs being attributable to staff and some 60% to materials.
If you have not seen the name of Dulcesol on the packets of cakes or bread in Spain then this is because Dulcesol do a lot of ‘white label’ production – meaning that they act as producers of bread, cakes and pastries in Spain for many other brands. So, their own produce is packaged at their factory in packaging that has the name and label of the retail supermarket or business concerned.
However, that does not mean that you will not see the name Dulcesol on packets of bread or pastries in Spain. You will not least on what Juanjo said was a spectacularly successful response to the economic crisis. Cleverly, Dulcesol produce some 70 different items that are for sale for only 1 euro. These are extremely popular and show how sharp and responsive Dulcesol is with regard to its marketing.
In fact, Dulcesol do not just produce cakes, pastries and bread for Spain alone. They are now pushing into the North African marketplace and also into France. So, the company is still growing and determined to convert the rest of Europe to Spanish bread and cakes!
So, what is the secret to Dulchesol?
Well, Juanjo put Dulcesol’s success down to a number of factors, all equally important – a great diversification of products, good quality control and production, an excellent distribution network and fine staff.
However, I have a feeling that the secret of Dulcesol’s success is that the company is a family business and one in which the family themselves are still intimately involved.
Certainly, walking around the factory, it was clear that Juanjo knew all the staff – from the cleaners through to the production workers and engineers. He knew every inch of the factory and was constantly stopping to adjust something or other on the production lines whilst frequently inspecting the quality of the produce. In other words, Dulcesol has owners who are (despite the colossal size of the business) ‘hands on’ and ‘hands-on’ on a daily basis.
So, next time you sink your teeth into some pastries in Spain or a bread roll or cake from a supermarket in Spain – think of Dulcesol! You may not be eating one of Dulcesol‘s products but within a couple of days you will probably have done so…