Hildegard M. Keil talked to Wolfgang Mayer, a member of the Executive Board of backaldrin International The Kornspitz Company GmbH, about how the company, which supplies raw materials to bakeries around the world and operates production facilities in various countries, is experiencing and coping with the Corona Crisis.
Keil: Mr. Mayer, backaldrin has production operations in Austria, Russia, Jordan and China. How differently is the Corona Pandemic making itself felt in these countries?
Mayer: The measures that have been adopted by individual countries are different, and their timings also differ. Due to official controls, our production operation in China was to close right at the start of the year, therefore our measures to safeguard production and to secure the European supply chain came into force quickly, and we are currently benefiting greatly from that.
Keil: Your European production facility is located at Asten near Linz; what has changed there, are you subject to government supervision, and can you export or are there any restrictions in that respect?
Mayer: The Austrian Ministry of the Interior had already designated backaldrin as a so-called system-critical infrastructure operation in 2019, therefore we now had corresponding crisis plans ready in the drawer. We were integrated into the information chain at a very early stage, and were able to make a fast, flexible response. Above all, that also helps our customers. Currently, we are able to export everywhere, and are doing so. A number of countries are announcing individual short-term measures, all of which we have been able to resolve up to now.
Keil:Austria’s bakers depend greatly on tourism, especially at the present time. What effects has that had for the sector and for its upstream suppliers?
Mayer: We have talked to many customers, mainly those in tourism strongholds. These really are suffering greatly in the well-known circumstances, and in this case it is not yet possible to foresee how it will all be coped with economically. The future will also show how the chain store branch business is trending nationwide. Of course, everyone is currently struggling with problems in the areas of logistics, staff availability etc.
Keil: What does the situation look like for your employees in production, sales and administration – it can’t all be dealt with in a home office. Do you need special authorizations?
Mayer: An exit restriction is currently in force in Austria, and is really being complied with by the population. Due to our special status, backaldrin has received specific driving entitlements for employees in the production, clerking and logistics areas, who are essential to maintain security of supplies. These employees have freedom to travel for professional purposes. All the staff who can do home office working are also doing that already. But even the CEO comes to the building every day and gives his backing to the team at this time.
„Currently, we are able
to export everywhere,
and are doing so. “
Keil: Are you experiencing shifts in demand between product ranges?
Mayer: Basically, we hear from the marketplace that there is again an increased demand for classical breads. There was a slight downturn in sweet baked products during the stocking-up period. Initially, the public was stockpiling, but it has now become clearly visible that supplies are guaranteed, and the situation is relaxing again.
Keil: How is the logistics area operating now – are there any bottlenecks?
Mayer: Currently running very well; we have our own distribution network in Austria and Germany, and employees are also aware that they are playing their part in securing supplies for the public. They are doing magnificent work, and we are very grateful to our employees, who are now bearing an even greater burden than they otherwise would.
Keil: How are you responding in giving advice about the Corona Crisis; what are you offering to bakeries, can they obtain advice by telephone or E-mail, and are there any special tips?
Mayer: Many customers are addressing inquiries to us, and we are glad to help. We have prepared summaries of the hygiene regulations for them, and we have incorporated graphical suggestions from the health authorities and have processed them in such a way that customers can also make further use of them.
Basic advice applicable to all is to maintain a separation distance, wash your hands frequently and properly, and simply be even more disciplined than otherwise. Our sector is very hygienic in any case, and what is needed now is simply to pay a little more careful attention to it. We are optimistic that everything will go well for our customers! We are also keeping various product ideas in readiness, which bakeries can use to design more variety into their product range, and serving suggestions they can pass on as recommendations to their customers, for example to make the evening meal exciting, which is important especially for children.