Kneading tradition with technology

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 March, 2022 at 10:56 am by Andre Camilleri

Maypole is undoubtedly the market leader in the bread and bakery business in Malta. This places a considerable demand on our production and distribution networks, where we strive to maintain constant supplies of our traditional and innovative high-quality products to our chain of 27 retail outlets evenly spread throughout the Maltese Islands, as well as to our direct clients in the catering and hospitality industry.

Our state-of-the-art bakery in tal-ħandaq is the hub of our system. Our ongoing investments in cutting edge production technology are crucial in matching our supply with demand. However, it must be underlined that, while automation and machinery play a key role in certain of our production processes, the baking of the traditional ħobża tal-Malti that is synonymous with Maypole, and has always been our flagship product, requires artisanal intervention especially in the moulding stage of the loaves. In fact, the production of the fresh Maltese ħobża  at The Bakery involves the interaction of modern mechanised processes, with the traditional manual skills that no machine can as yet replace. While the ħobża process is about 70% untouched by hand, our fancy bread and sandwich loaves production is closer to being 100%. This is an added contribution to our strict standards of hygiene and food safety in the establishment.

The quality of the production is closely controlled by our technological smart systems. Our purpose-built ovens are computer-managed, while freezer temperatures, so essential to proper food storage, are monitored constantly by sensors and alarms.  We also boast a battery of retarding provers, cabinets with a controlled and adjustable temperature and relative humidity. These cabinets can be set to automatically prove the dough ready for baking at a pre-set time, making it possible to prepare and store the dough overnight or even through the weekend, contributing in no small way to the planning of the production of our wide range of fancy and sliced bread.

The high demand for fresh bread products also increases the strain on our supply chains. We carry out deliveries of freshly baked bread and other items to every one of our shops at least six times a day, with some busier outlets even receiving up to eight daily deliveries. In order for this everyday routine to be carried out smoothly and efficiently, for us to keep our commitment with customers, we have invested in a modern fleet of delivery vans. These however need to be very well-coordinated to be able to perform their logistical function, matching the demands of outlets and direct clients with the supply from our bakery. This is where our custom-made IT system, connected to the sales points at all Maypole outlets, plays a central, pivotal role. Through this interconnected system, we receive the stocking situation of all our freshly-baked items in each shop in real time. As soon as a ħobża is sold in any one of our shops, this is registered in the system, and thus our delivery routes can be organised with precision, ensuring constant supplies, high quality and freshness and minimal waste, helping to keep prices low notwithstanding the current international pricing situation.

Besides the focus on quality and logistics, our technological and smart systems also keep a close eye on our environmental obligations. Our successful commitment to reduce plastic as much as possible has now become widespread knowledge, however the energy-saving and emission-reducing technology at The Bakery are perhaps less-widely known. The precise planning of baking times and control of oven- and freezer temperatures means that we only use the needed amount of energy. In the meantime, the hot air generated by the baking process in the ovens is cooled by passing through the cold-water supply, in the process providing warm water, while no excess heat is released into the environment. 

The ħobża tal-Malti is perhaps one of the longest standing symbols of our identity as Maltese people. Its wholesome, crunchy and tasty texture are enjoyed daily by everybody in a variety of circumstances. In order for the Maltese people to continue to enjoy simple, yet delicious, bread of ours, a lot has gone in to match technology with tradition, maintaining its characteristic taste and texture, and managing to keep up with the growing demand among Maltese and foreign visitors alike. Biting into a biċċa ħobż biż-żejt u t-tadam does not perhaps tell the whole story of what went into its production and its delivery to your kitchen, but it sure makes it well worth it!

Text by James Debono

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