A family-run Barnsley bakery, which was left fighting for its very existence, has proved it has the appetite for growth and is setting its sights on doubling its turnover thanks to help received through the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Grant Scheme.

Headquartered at Worsbrough Bridge, White’s Bakery is a fourth-generation family business that produces a range of tasty cakes, muffins and biscuits, which are enjoyed by school children across the UK. The company is planning to relocate to a larger 20,000 sq ft facility within the next three years, as well as creating a number of new jobs within the business.

The ambitious growth plans are a far cry from the uncertain future the business faced just three years ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic left the 90 year old business fighting for its very survival. Recognising that the business faced the very stark choice of evolving or closing its gates forever, managing director David White began exploring ways of overcoming the barriers that were holding the business back.

Working with a local business consultant, David began searching for the magic ingredient that would change the fortunes of the company. Together, they quickly identified a number of factors that were impacting on the business: a reliance on old and unreliable machinery, the use of cumbersome and time-consuming paper-based admin systems and an unclear growth plan.

To overcome the challenges, David decided to apply to the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Grant Scheme for help. The match-funded grant provided the financial help needed to help White’s Bakery invest in a state-of-the-art metal detecting machine, used to detect potential contaminants on the company’s production line. With all lines tested each hour, the new equipment also replaced a paper-based monitoring system.

At the same time, the company also began exploring ways of digitising other key elements in the business. Working in the food industry, it was vital for White’s Bakery to track and trace every component ingredient used in every single product baked – a process that typically involved recording ingredients by hand. With additional funds secured under the Digital Innovation Grant Scheme, the bakery invested in scanning guns and barcode technology, allowing the vital information to be recorded at the click of a button.

Since implementing the changes, White’s Bakery has not only managed to improve the overall efficiency in the business, resulting in turnover increasing to £2.8 million, but it has also set itself the aim of doubling its turnover by diversifying its customer base.

David said: “There was a real sense, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, that we felt we were doing a good job because everyone in the business was working hard, but the truth is that we were often just busy being busy. We knew that for the business to survive and prosper, it was vital to make changes.

The funds we received from the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme and the Digital Innovation Grant Scheme allowed us to invest in equipment that has proved to be transformational for our business. Working in the food industry, we have always taken our responsibilities to food safety extremely seriously, and the measures we have introduced have helped us to capture an incredible amount of detail, in a fraction of the time. Everything is recorded and monitored, which provides full traceability over our production lines: from tracing component ingredients, to keeping the production line clean and sterile. Crucially, this information can be accessed at the click of a button, rather than wading through reams and reams of paper.

The solutions we implemented have helped us to reduce the time taken to record the vital information needed to deliver the highest possible levels of food safety, but they have also allowed us to capture much more detail. For example, production lines are photographed at the beginning and end of each shift, as well as being backed up by who was working on the line, what was being made, the ingredients used and where they were sold to.

To say the help we’ve received has been transformational for our business has been an understatement, and we’re now working towards doubling our turnover and have exciting future growth plans to scale the business further, which we hope will create new jobs.”

John Mellors, key account manager, Enterprising Barnsley, said: “Backed up by a clear business vision, White’s Bakery is firmly setting its sights on growth and expansion, as well as expanding its operations into new, currently untapped markets. Both the South Yorkshire Productivity Programme and Digital Innovation Grant Scheme were created to help businesses overcome barriers to growth. Having successfully introduced new equipment, as well as digitising its paper-based systems, they have helped to reduce the amount of lost working hours. I’m confident that White’s Bakery has a bright and exciting future ahead of it.”

White’s Bakery was founded in 1931 by David’s grandparents Elsie and Albert White, who ran Worsbrough’s local library. During her spare time, Elsie baked, whilst working in the library. By 1940, the popularity of Elsie’s bread and confectionary had outstripped demand for books, and they converted the former bookstore into a full working bakery. In 2019, White’s Bakery became a fourth generation family business when David’s children Mathew and Georgina joined the company’s management team.

The Business Productivity Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and provides businesses with 50% grant funding up to a maximum of £12,499, and the other 50% must be provided by the business. The maximum project application is £24,999 and can include investment in new equipment or machinery and consultancy services to help them overcome barriers to growth. The scheme is delivered by Enterprising Barnsley, Business Sheffield, Business Doncaster and the Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO).

The Digital Innovation Grant scheme was launched in July 2021 and helps SME businesses across South Yorkshire to access match-funded grants to help them embrace new ways of working and develop their use of digital technology. The programme funds up to 50% of projects with costs totalling £2,000-£10,000. It is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and is delivered across South Yorkshire by Enterprising Barnsley, part of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.