Signature plans to open 20 bakeries in India

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

William (left) and Charlies Eid have ambitious plans
William (left) and Charlies Eid have ambitious plans

Related tags India Bread

Signature International, which already has a production facility built to European standards in the city of Nashik – 200 miles north of Mumbai – has plans to build 20 flatbread manufacturing plants across the Indian subcontinent within the next five to 10 years.

The Indian business, set up by Charles and William Eid in 2011 following the sale of Honeytop Foods in Dunstable in 2011 to Aryzta, is owned 50:50 by the brothers and Aryzta. The brothers also bought back into the UK business, now called Signature Flatbreads, earlier this year.

“The vision was 20 factories in India by the year 2020,” ​said William Eid. “It is still the vision, but we are probably a little bit behind. We didn’t build a huge bakery – it’s a bakery that has just four production lines – on the basis that growth in India shouldn’t be in one location.”

Despite the slower than expected start, the Indian operation, which produces flatbreads including chapatis primarily for sale in hotels, business canteens and foodservice, including quick service restraurants, is now turning over £5M and is profitable, said Eid. “But the growth is going to be very rapid. We expect growth of 40% a year.”

Indian operation

Charles Eid added: “The beauty of the Indian operation is it also supplies internationally to the Middle, Far East and Africa, not just the local market … And, very importantly, because we are operating to European standards within India, we have been adopted as supplier of choice by all the quick service restaurants.”

The brothers are currently investigating setting up their second Indian bakery, which will be built either in the western state of Gujarat or in New Delhi over the next 20 months.

“We were driven to set up the bakery in India because it was an economy that is just beginning to industrialise – it is a fifth of the world’s population – and very much in growth and, of course, flatbreads are staple foods,”​ said William Eid.

“We felt that we had the skills to develop really authentic flatbreads,”​ added Eid.

Longer than expected

“Perhaps we were a little bit presumptuous because it took much longer than we expected to perfect the breads. We spent a good two years getting our breads to be accepted by five star hotels in India.”

Eid said the reason for this was that the equipment that it was using needed to be modified and the company’s value proposition had to be adjusted to meet local market price points.

“The local population, or course, would not compromise on what they would expect to have as a staple food,”​ he said.

“Disposable income is not high and when they do spend their money they want absolute value for it. And unless you have real authenticity in the breads that you make, you don’t attract the custom.”

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