The Cornish pasty seems an unlikely vehicle of economic regeneration. But Ginsters, which manufactures Original Cornish Pasties and a growing range of slices and chilled savouries at its bakery in Callington, Cornwall, believes passionately in a local sourcing policy that goes far beyond the usual lip service. In fact, it is a vital element in the company's success.
Ginsters, the fastest-growing part of privately owned Samworth group, is unlikely to find a Cornish supplier of pepper - a vital flavouring - or automation, a key part of its manufacturing process. But 32% of its raw materials do come from farmers and other suppliers within a 20-mile radius. That's pounds 7 million and rising as local providers' chicken and pork come on board.
But the effect goes further than the immediate boost to the Cornish economy.
Ginsters has introduced some of the suppliers it has cultivated, such as a local butcher/abattoir, to its supermarket customers, thus giving them the chance to expand on their own account into a market that dwarfs Ginsters' own.
Local sourcing is good business and good civic sense. Anil Ahir, the production director, lists the advantages: freshness, quality, a faster response to problems - and a saving of 300,000 food miles a year. Using local ingredients also underpins the integrity of Ginsters' marketing message: 'Cornish through and through'.
Ginsters is not just a local role model, however. Its success is founded on a deep-rooted culture common to the Samworth group in which people and product quality figure as much as profit. The business plan is supported by a performance-management system that harnesses people development and technology and product innovation to raise levels of customer service.
And it is committed to private healthcare, final-salary pensions, and a profit sharing scheme for its loyal workers, most of whom come from the locality.
The Cornish bakery's progressive manufacturing record is complemented by a sophisticated logistics system that uses its own fleet of 150 vehicles to deliver products direct to motorway service stations, garage forecourts and convenience stores anywhere in the country the next day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has a robust 80% of the growing on-the-move market. It also has a 30% share of its category market at the big retailers, which it supplies both as a brand and own-label manufacturer.
Ginsters' people- and technology-centred formula has fuelled impressive productivity growth. Since a multi-million pound refurbishment, output has grown from 500,000 units to three million, tonnage has trebled, but staff have increased by barely a fifth. Labour costs are necessarily a central concern, and the company is heavily automated, but the 'people strategy' is to prepare and upgrade the skills base needed to support advanced manufacturing through an extensive learning programme, including an on-site e-learning academy.
Ginsters cheerfully adopts new technology. It runs a 'Gintranet', has adapted a 'pastycam' to monitor products emerging from the ovens, and has developed an innovative online visioning system for added quality control. And, as befits a Soil Association-accredited factory, it sends all its food waste to a biogas plant - four years in development - which feeds power into the national grid. Pasty power is no idle boast.
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