No pie in the sky
How a passion for baking has evolved into a million dollar business.
10 February 2019 | People
Uwe Bachmann; Baker; “It all started in the double garage of our home in Langstrand.”
Uwe and Henrietta “Hetta” Bachmann established Artisan Bread Bakery and Coffee shop in 2011.
Uwe hails from Swakopmund and formerly worked in the fishing industry. He later joined the retail industry and worked with Spar for more than 17 years. Henrietta, a qualified bookkeeper, hails from Usakos.
Uwe discovered his passion for baking after relocating to South Africa in 1994. He joined a bakery school in Blackheath, Cape Town, where he learned the basics of baking techniques under the watchful eye of the late Bill Fann who worked as a pastry chef for the Sultan of Brunei for 38 years.
Uwe became a fully taught baker and brought his acquired know how to Namibia in 2010.
Intentions to retire did not last long though, as the baking bug bit him and he undertook a study on traditionally practised bread baking techniques used in the Middle Ages over 500 years ago.
“It all started in the double garage of our home in Langstrand. I obtained permission from the municipal health department and had a unique two-deck stone floor oven built in South Africa. The bread had to be loaded into the oven with a peel. I also developed a sourdough starter consisting of water and flour which I use until this very day.”
The dough mixture was subsequently diversified to white whole wheat and rye sour doughs. “This gives the bread a unique taste and many health benefits. No yeast is used. I only allow a fermentation time of 16 hours before baking and am still using the very same sourdough starter I produced seven years ago. I just feed the mixture every day and it is now strong, healthy and smells wonderful. I also researched many bread recipes to enhance the taste, longevity and health aspects of the bread we bake.”
Uwe initially baked only five breads a day. Nine months later, this number has increased to 500 a day. Once supermarkets showed more and more interest, the couple decided to buy a bakery in Walvis Bay.
His youngest son, Uwe Jnr (also a passionate baker), attended an artisan bread baking course in Cape Town, moved to Namibia and joined his parents in the business.
“The business grew rapidly and we had to expand within two years. We bought a building in the light industrial area, shifted the bakery, and added a coffee shop with pastry, confectionery and sandwiches on offer.”
In the meantime, Uwe's eldest son Werner, also joined the business. Together they investigated the possibility of opening a pie factory as well as the cost implications of such a move.
Namibian Pies was born after a visit to Vredenburg, South Africa. “Excelsior Pies' owner and founder of Biscuit King SA Frik Pelser, with 19 years' experience in the industry, came on board and helped set up the pie factory in Walvis Bay.”
Buying the building, establishing the bakery and pie factory cost the family around N$8 million. The listeriosis outbreak in South Africa prompted the Bachmanns to speed up the opening of Namibian Pie Company.
Twenty two jobs were created and after one month of intensive training, the first 200 sausage rolls were produced. This demonstrates that the country is capable of producing excellent quality products, rivalling any product from South Africa in terms of product taste, appearance and price.
Pies produced here are of a high quality with the cheese griller which constitutes 40% percent of total sales and pepper steak pies being the top sellers.
“We produce thousands of pies of 11 different kinds every day which are enjoyed throughout the Erongo region. Our target is to produce 20 000 pies a day and we're hoping to attain this by July this year.”
According to Uwe there is also great interest from a major supermarket group that wants to support wholly Namibian produced products. This pending deal could result in Namibian Pies producing 100 000 pies per month, and will again enhance job opportunities and create additional spin-offs.
Namibian Pie Company is fully Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) compliant and employs a fulltime inspector who test products manufactured by the company. All staff members were also HACCP trained and issued with certificates.
Meat fillings for all pies are obtained from a local butchery which also supplies the cheese grillers.
“They adhere to the same business principles as we do and don't make use of any colourants or chemicals, only natural products. Namibian Pies rather stretches its fillings by adding potatoes instead of machine deboned meat (MDM) which is actually the norm in the industry.”
Plans are in an advanced stage to expand the pie factory by 400 square metres by mid-2019. The product range will also be diversified to include samoosas and nuggets, and create another 25 jobs.
Nine persons were trained and employed in the bakery which produces an assortment of top quality breads, baguettes, ciabattas, brötchens, cookies and rusks.
A Spanish chef and four staff members operate the coffee shop. Six meranti wooden doors which came with the original building were converted into tables and a shop counter.
“We specialise in Danish pastries and produce seven different variations which we supply to guest houses and coffee shops,” Uwe says.
Seapride Namibia distributes Artisan Bread Bakery products in frozen form to lodges all over Namibia.
“Tourists enjoy the unique taste and the feedback we get is very positive. We had visitors from Botswana and South Africa over Christmas who came to personally experience our unique Namibian products.”
Due to the prohibitive cost of electricity, Artisan Bread Bakery makes use of two diesel-powered ovens. A Rodes Kook-E-King machine was purchased in November 2018 that can produce up to 1 250 kg of cookies per day.