This fall the Cigi baking area was in the midst of another busy period of post-harvest quality evaluation of bread baked with specific identity-preserved (IP) CWRS varieties on behalf of Warburtons, the U.K.’s number one bakery brand. Although the 145-year-old family company (run by the fifth Warburton generation) has diversified its products to meet expanding market needs – processing about 50 baked items ranging from crumpets, rolls, wraps and sandwich thins to snacks and gluten-free products – Warburtons Toasty loaf bread remains the top seller in the U.K.
Since January 2010, Cigi has worked closely with Warburtons to conduct quality evaluation and analytical work on Canadian wheat in addition to carrying out ongoing testing of cargo samples from shipments of CWRS to the U.K., says Tony Tweed, Head of Cigi Baking Technology. Cigi took over their quality work in Canada after Warburtons closed their technical centre in Brandon, Manitoba which operated since 1995.
“Before 2010 when they were in Brandon, Warburtons mainly used Cigi for an information seminar for the Canadian industry after harvest where they brought in breeders, grain companies, the CWB and CGC,” Tony says, adding that the seminar is still held annually. “Now, they submit all their samples to us. Our busiest time with them is during the fall after the harvest.”
“Warburtons has had a pretty long lasting relationship with Cigi,” says Adam Dyck, Program Manager of Warburton Foods Canada. “Some of our U.K. employees have attended Cigi’s international grain industry programs which established relationships to get us where we are today. Because of these relationships, we decided to close our technical centre in Brandon and move all of our Canadian testing, baking, and analytical work to Cigi which was easily able to mirror what we did there, and in fact enhanced it. We are getting even better results because of the excellent staff that Cigi has, which gives us a lot of confidence in their output.”
Adam explains that Warburtons started its Canadian IP program in 1994 in an effort to achieve and maintain specific quality characteristics desired from CWRS wheat, focusing on three out of the 20 varieties that were available. Today, Warburtons has 400 to 500 producers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan participating in the program.
“We’re a premium product in the marketplace,” he says. “Warburtons is known for its quality, consistency, freshness, all those good things associated with high quality bread products. And the only way we think we can deliver that is through specific Canadian wheat varieties combined with specific U.K. varieties as well. That is the reason the whole IP program was developed back in the early 90s.”
Adam says their IP program in Canada focuses on particular growing regions, use of certified seed and specific standards regarding traceability, on-farm food safety, control of the supply chain, and blending. “We know varieties we don’t like and varieties we do like. So every year when we build our program, we are contracting specific varieties to specific farmers in specific areas.”
Over time, as farms have grown bigger, the number of producers in the program has dropped although many have been involved since its inception, he says. In addition, Warburtons works closely with Paterson Grain and Viterra to implement the program.
“A big part of my job involves spending a lot of time with the breeders here in Canada, looking at new CWRS varieties as they come through the co-op and registration systems, and trying to find something early on that meets our needs,” Adam says. “I’m trying to give the breeders more feedback where I can identify varieties that have a better chance of making our program. This is where the work we do with Cigi is extremely valuable.”
He adds that the Canadian IP program is fine-tuned every year and the Warburtons staff are always learning from the experience offered at Cigi.
The experience is a two-way street as Cigi is also learning from the working relationship, and from using equipment Warburtons installed at Cigi, says Tony. “It’s a very specific process and type of bread that CWRS is being used for compared to other uses around the world. They do this because maintaining quality is key to their whole business.”
Cigi baking staff have trained at Warburtons’ technical centre in the U.K. to ensure their requirements are being met. Post-harvest, Cigi evaluates samples from individual farms and once Warburtons sees the results they decide on composite samples which Cigi then analyzes and bakes for evaluation. Warburtons staff are also onsite when Cigi staff conduct the milling, baking and analysis on the harvest samples in October. Tony adds that although most of the evaluation of the harvest and cargo samples occurs in the baking area, Cigi’s Analytical Services area can be called upon if results are questionable and conduct other tests.
Adam credits Cigi’s commitment to the post-harvest work which has to occur within a tight time frame. “We see it as a long-term relationship. We have been very happy with Cigi’s performance to date and see no reason why that would change any time soon. We believe that we are still in the infancy stages of our relationship, and together we will accomplish great things in the future.”
Article originally published in Cigi.ca e-publication, Fall 2011.