Raising Premium Baking Standards
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Sammy Wilkinson
Established in 2003 as the brainchild of three shareholders with a love for baking, Heidi Chef Solutions has grown its presence in the Middle East from grassroots level into an emerging player in the market, supplying its premium brand ingredients to some of the region’s best-known airliners, numerous five-star hotels, premium retailers and other free-standing bakeries and institutions throughout the UAE and GCC countries.
Initially influenced by its Iranian and German shareholders, the Company grew under the guidance of Manuel Eckert, quickly building trust with its client base as a consequence of its quality selection of baking ingredients sourced from some of the most historically prominent companies across Austria, Germany and America.
Heidi Chef Solutions’ rapid evolution in Middle Eastern markets resulted in Eckert growing the business into Canada in 2010, appointing Brian Ballinger as General Manager of operations in the UAE; to ultimately build on the Heidi brand and grow alongside some of its international and longstanding partners.
“Since joining the business as it was beginning to take shape in 2010, we have established an equipment division and comprehensive aftersales support in the region that encompasses breakdown, maintenance, spare parts, reconditioning and other value-add offerings that our customers look for in a supplier,” explains Ballinger.
These aftersales demands created additional growth opportunities that Heidi Chef continue to capitalise on today. “A key selling point of ours has become our ability to provide turnkey solutions, a direct result of listening to our customers. This has served to reinforce the trust they already have in us, while opening new market opportunities and ways to solidify client working relationships; something which our shareholders wholeheartedly support,” he adds.
Supplying such brands as QimiQ (Austria), Steinmetz (Germany), Backaldrin (Austria and Jordan) and Dubor (France) from its dedicated and TUV Nord-certified warehouse facilities in Dubai - and a further 220 pallets worth of outsourced frozen storage space - Heidi Chef takes great care with its ingredients and how products are moved into the Middle East; enforcing a string of strategic relationships that make for professional handling throughout the whole supply chain process. “We handle all of our shipping containers ourselves, leveraging the strong relationship we have with Dubai food control and other institutions. This is something that has been well-received and recognised by our customers, with one of our clients, Hotel Atlantis, crediting us as one of its gold star-rated suppliers,” Ballinger comments.
Recognised as one of the few companies in the UAE who work directly with the grain commodity market, and by leveraging its strong relationship with Steinmetz, Heidi Chef is able to better control the quality of grain bought while remaining flexible on its pricing.
Further supporting this hands-on approach to business is Heidi Chef’s relationships with consultancy companies who act on behalf of clients in the hospitality industry. “This allows us to demonstrate our offering and build a relationship with a hotel prior to opening; even offering potential customers free stock to test equipment, along with provision of the technical trainings needed to run our equipment,” he says. “We have even built our own workshop which serves as an area for equipment presentations for both our customers and internal trainings. Client delivery represents just one of our unique selling points.”
Reflecting its growing customer base and continued desire to uphold a high standard of delivery, Heidi Chef Solutions has tripled its UAE workforce since Ballinger joined in 2010 and proudly continues to train its workforce to better understand the Company’s product range; with each member of the team versed in food hygiene and HACCP food safety procedures. “Even our engineers understand the basic baking principles and all have food hygiene training. Our multi-skilled approach to business demonstrates our deep understanding of the industry and commitment to securing premium quality ingredients and industry-leading machinery,” emphasises Ballinger.
Having almost tripled its turnover since 2010, Heidi Chef strives to continue growing in a “stable, logical, ethical and safe fashion”, with hopes to extend its sales team and equipment reach across the GCC countries; further rooting the business within the Middle East region. “Ultimately, we want to avoid a snakes and ladders approach to business and continue on our path of consistent, organic growth. There are various elements at play that will allow us to do this namely; deploying new ERP software in tandem with a new logistics system to bolster our efficiencies, continue growing our business in Canada and working with our suppliers to develop new products that bridge the gap between raw ingredients and the final baked product,” summarises Ballinger.
He concludes: “Exploring these new avenues will provide Heidi Chef with access to niche and speciality baking markets, offering an alternative and more diverse revenue stream in direct response to the solutions that our customers are looking for today.”