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Over a century ago, in 1919, a father and son duo in Brussels spotted a gap in the market for the production and distribution of raw ingredients for bakers and confectioners. Their business would become known as Puratos and would develop a reputation for innovative solutions for the health and wellbeing of people everywhere in the supply of bakery, sweet goods and chocolate ingredients.
Today, with over 10,000 employees, a tenth of whom are R&D researchers and technical advisors, this philosophy continues to drive the business today. And now, with a presence in 135 countries, it does so on a global scale.
“Puratos is just a fantastic story of growth and innovation,” says Andrew Brimacombe, President of Puratos USA. Having become familiar with the business as a customer in a previous role, he jumped at the chance to join them in October 2018.
“I just saw it as a fantastic opportunity to make a deeper impact in the United States market,” Brimacombe reveals.
Brimacombe and his team have identified four key pillars of focus: employee experience, customer experience, operational excellence and differentiation and innovation. It’s the first of these where it all starts, he explains.
“If we can have engaged employees who are focused, they will in turn help our customers to be more successful, which will ultimately make the company successful.”
The company has invested in automation in the factories, as well as in systems and processes.
“Automation is about attracting employees, but it’s also about building new capabilities to meet customer demands,” Brimacombe notes. “Similarly, we’ve been investing in health and wellbeing internally, thinking about our own employees and their lifestyles.”
Initiatives including flexible Fridays, along with a hybrid working model, are modern additions to a “magic” culture that has grown out of long-standing family values.
Although Puratos is a B2B company at its core, there’s immense value that comes from understanding what the end-consumer wants. This allows them to give clients, from large retailers and food service operators to individual artisans, the right products to succeed in the market. “Our language is finished goods,” he explains. “We inspire customers with renovation and innovation from around the world as our global presence allows us to stay close to trends from around the world.”
As such, the movement it has created, called Taste Tomorrow, has grown into the biggest consumer study in bakery, patisserie and chocolate in the world, and also includes always-on social listening to tap into what consumers are saying online. “That way we can see and share the latest trends, flavors and even viral videos in real time,” he says.
“We also have our Sensobus, which is a huge truck that we can park in a grocery store parking lot,” he explains.
A mobile sensory analysis laboratory, the Sensobus accommodates up to 250 customers per day who can enjoy samples and offer feedback. Clients are then provided extensive data about their target market.
This extends to innovating core products that meet emerging customer needs, such as sunset glaze, a UHT-based alternative to egg glazing, and the reintroduction of traditional ingredients such as softgrains and sourdough. Puratos’ leadership in sourdough is inspired by its dedicated Sourdough Library in Belgium where the world’s largest collection of sourdough starters is kept.
“I think the sweet spot is to make fantastic, great tasting products that people can enjoy – and that bring joy – but, at the same time, make them better for you,” Brimacombe says.
Sustainability is a core focus for Puratos. The company invests a great deal in sustainability through three ambitions: Better Health, Better Life, Better Planet.
With a goal of carbon neutrality by 2025, its operations already run on 100 percent renewable energy in the United States. Wastewater treatment plants are also in construction as it looks to become water balanced by 2030.
“We believe deeply in supporting the communities in which we operate around the world,” Brimacombe adds.
Already, seven bakery schools have been established to support the next generation of bakers globally, including one in partnership with the high school right next door to its United States headquarters in New Jersey. There’s also Cacao-Trace, the company’s sustainable cocoa sourcing program where farmers are paid a premium for their beans, with a higher standard of product delivered in return.
Above all, Brimacombe understands the importance of staying true to the company’s values.
“The company has evolved tremendously over the past 100 years,” he concludes. “But when we go through the challenging moments, we always come back to those values.”