Five questions in five minutes with ...Birgit Gunz founder of Frankonia the Bread House

Birgit Gunz Frankonia Bakery

Frankonia turns out over 3.5 million products a year for some of the greatest brands in the hospitality world

Long before the days of Paul Hollywood and the Great British Bake off, a former City worker spotted a gap in the market and Frankonia the Bread House was born. Birigit Gunz, who is originally from Bavaria in Germany, decided to bring the style of breads she grew up knowing and loving to London’s burgeoning food scene. Birgit recognised a gap in the market and Frankonia was born – starting as a shop in Wimbledon in 1998.

The wholesale demand for Frankonia grew very quickly meaning Birgit soon concentrated solely on this market whilst still keeping the breads and pastries hand-made and artisan. Since opening, Birgit has managed to grow Frankonia year on year to a stage where she now employs 27 full time staff, which includes thirteen bakers, pastry chefs, office staff, a fleet of vans, drivers. Some of the products are available nationwide. Frankonia is now a business that turns out over 3.5 million products a year to a client list that includes some of the greatest brand names in the hospitality world.

We caught up with Birgit to get some background to this amazing transformation.

1. So tell me Birgit, what made you leave the big bucks of the City for the long and tough hours of a baker?

Although the city was fun, I always wanted to have my own business doing something I love and it isn’t all about money but about job satisfaction. I wanted to create a business that I could be passionate about, from scratch so I could be proud of my achievements.

2. I see that you concentrate on wholesale and it looks like you have some very big clients on your books not

to mention a very successful business – what inspired the move from retail and do you miss it?

Bread is a low cost item so if you want to have a successful business and make money you need to sell volume. There are 2 ways to achieve this. One is to have many shops, the other is to wholesale bread to the catering world and establishments that use good volume. I opted for dealing with chefs rather than having lots of shops as this would be a scenario difficult to control as I can only be in one place at the time. The beautiful thing about just having one location is that it is easy to stay on top of and making sure standards don’t slip.

3. So Germany has a long tradition of baking, Britain, arguably less so. But with the success of the Great British Bake off,

it seems that everyone in Britain is a baker now! Is that fair? What do you think?

Well I would say the more the merrier! It is true Britain has been through a bread and baking revolution which is great but things already were even on the move before the Great British Bake Off. The show has helped things along even further which is wonderful. I am delighted that our craft that was on the brink of dying has had such a revival and has “risen” to an unprecedented level of popularity and there are definitely a lot of mini bakers out there today that make their own bread or cakes at home which is fantastic.

4. I love my breads, particularly my sourdoughs and rye bread, but I’m always looking for something new

– What should I look out for and where?

For the last few years everything has been about sourdoughs which are indeed quite wonderful but there are also so many amazing yeast based breads out there and it seems they have been left behind a little, which is unjustified. A slowly fermented yeast bread can be just as yummy and digestible as a sourdough. The key is a slow fermentation which is where the flavour and digestibility will come from. So my advice would be to look for some small bakeries who bake on sight and use traditional methods that are authentic to our craft and you will be amazed with what you can find. I often go to a small Jewish bakery and buy the yummiest Cholla ever. Not a new invention by any stretch of the imagination but authentically made and it is just to die for.

5. Finally what would your advice be to a City worker out there who fancies getting into the baking (or food) game?

Perhaps the first thing they could do is get and internship in either a kitchen or a bakery so they can see what it is really like to work in these environments and if they still like it after that, the most important thing would be to learn whatever craft they wish to get into and enrol on some courses and go back to college. To get qualifications is paramount.

Thank you Birgit – I look forward to checking out your products soon!

Frankonia The Bread House

Address: Red Lion Business Centre, Red Lion Business Park, Red Lion Road, Surbiton KT6 7QD

Tel:020 8391 5849

Website: www.frankonia.co.uk

Twitter: @Frankoniabakery