Company founder Andre Dehaeck was an enterprising young man back in 1967 when he worked at the family patisserie and bakery. As well as baking the pastries required for his patissiers to fill, he found a ready market for gift. packs of unfilled pastries which were purchased by tourists visiting the battlefields surrounding this once war-torn Flanders town. In time, as word spread of Dehaeck pastries, enquiries started to come in from wholesalers wishing to sell the products in other parts of Belgium. The orders followed and Pidy had arrived.
To serve this embryonic market for empty pastry cases (or "ready-to-fill" as we now call them) the first dedicated industrial production unit was created in a bakery of 520[m.sup.2]. Compare this with the present-day Pidy Ypres factory of 10,000[m.sup.2] (below) which is one of three Pidy Group industrial bakeries located in Belgium, France and the United States with a combined area of 23,000[m.sup.2].
With annual production now close to three hundred million pieces, some degree of specialisation is necessary so each bakery is responsible for specific pastry types. Within the company's principal domestic markets of Belgium and France the main volume line is the range of traditional bouchees and volau-vents which come off the end of the continuous tunnel oven at a rate of 18,000 per hour.
These are all produced in Belgium at the Ypres bakery together with other puff pastry products made using the "French method" of extruding a layer of shortening between two sheets of raw dough. By successive lamination, thousands of leaves are built up to produce the "mille feuille", which gives the best quality French feuilletee patisserie its "lighter than air" character.
The scaling of traditional patisserie techniques from the Dehaeck family bakery to industrial production methods is an area where Pidy, as innovators of this type of product, have been particularly successful and has led to the creation of a successful standalone industrial engineering company called Dewilde NV, which is also based at Ypres, opposite the main Pidy bakery.
The other main European bakery is located in France, which very conveniently adjoins the Franco-Belgian border at Halluin only a matter of 25 kilometres away from the group headquarters at Ypres. There are five main production lines at Pidy Halluin, each specialising respectively in choux dough, shortcrust pastry, pressed puff pastry, genoise sponges and "spiral-wound" products such as cream horn cases. In the past, as a result of acquisitions and green-field investments, there were other Pidy bakeries in France, but over recent years production has been centralised at the company's Halluin site to achieve optimum benefits from what has become a highly-automated and capital intensive production process.
In full, Pidy now make a comprehensive range of pastry types, including:
* mini party food carriers (neutral and sweet)
* puff pastry bouchees and vol-au-vents (individual pie cases)
* choux buns, eclairs and profiteroles of any size
* blind-baked neutral tartlets and quiche cases from 4cm up to 22cm
* genoise sponges, plain and chocolate
* sweet shortcrust tartlets and tart bases from 4.5cm to 28cm
* puff pastry roulets and cream horn cases
As well as the manufacturing innovations developed by Pidy, one key feature of their industrial pastry-case production is the long shelf-life of up to twelve months on the finished products. This compares with the few days shelf-life normally expected on fresh-baked pastry. The difference in time for spoilage to occur is a function of moisture content, and whereas fresh pastry would typically have a moisture content of 18%, the Pidy products undergo a further dehydration process after baking to reduce the moisture level significantly below the 9% point at which moulds can begin to develop. This is obviously essential to cover time spent in the distribution chain.
Once the products are filled, the pastry rehydrates to a balancing level by absorbing water from the filling (dependent on the moisture content of the filling) and then the clock starts ticking again as for a fresh product. On highly absorbent products, such as sweet shortcrust tartlets, it is possible to order the products pre-coated with an internal moisture barrier which slows down the rate of absorption, and in this way extend the shelf-life before the pastry becomes too soft.
Although Pidy originally developed their range for domestic consumption in Belgium and France, increasingly the benefits of convenience and consistency have been identified firstly by the catering industry and then by industrial food manufacturers. It was principally the more developed and centralised food manufacturing industry in the UK that was the motivating factor in establishing the wholly-owned subsidiary Pidy Limited at Northampton in 1997.
Since opening in the UK, the company has established a leading presence both in the catering and food manufacturing sectors. The catering sector is serviced through two parallel distribution channels--with one of the leading national foodservice distributors and also via a network of independent catering wholesalers. Deliveries are shipped weekly from the main finished goods depot in Belgium using one of the principal French cross-channel hauliers.
In the food manufacturing sector, Pidy have built successful working relationships with key industry partners large and small, working together on a project-by-project basis to supply major retail and catering customers with finished products ranging from party-food to fresh fruit tartlets. As well as supplying products from the standard range, there are opportunities for adapting recipes to meet customers' individual requirements, and where volumes justify it to consider investing in new tooling to create bespoke products. Acceptance by UK customers has been facilitated by the BRC Higher Level Accreditation at both the bakeries in Belgium and France.
The company also has considerable expertise in the area of packaging--gained from over thirty years of shipping fragile products around the world--and free technical support can be provided in that area. For standard products, many types of plastic trays can be supplied from existing moulds and by using the same tray for trans-shipment can result in significant savings on labour and packaging waste costs.
It is a main aim of Pidy to provide not just the product but full technical support. A team of specialists can be called upon where consultation is required, and commercial confidentiality is guaranteed. Pidy is no longer simply a mass producer. The company can also make custom-made products based on the customer's specification. In this time of globalisation Pidy's vocation is to become a true partner: your creative partner.
For further information, please visit the Pidy stand SN4231 at IFE2005 or contact:
4 Sterling Business Park
Northampton NN4 7EX
Tel: 01604 705666
Fax: 01604 702666