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with a 15 per cent market share, but in the traditional Swedish biscuit sector it holds a massive 40 per cent share. Interestingly, both supermarkets and AC Nielsen see the two as completely separate. In shops, Swedish oat flake biscuits are found well away from the biscuit shelves. " Gille oat biscuits are probably the most inexpensive luxury item on the market," says managing director Lars Ekstrom. " They contain nothing but good, wholesome ingredients. Gille's biscuits contain some vegetable fat, no trans fat, and shouldn ´ t be eaten in excess, but the fat is the reason they taste so good." Biscuits are essentially flour, sugar, fat and flavouring. But the proportions and the type of fat determine the cost and taste. With the Gille brand, nothing is spared in maintaining the quality of the range. The baking process drives off the water content so no preservatives are necessary, while chemicals and e- numbers are avoided. The basic raw materials of wheat, sugar and eggs are all from Sweden. So too are the oats, with the equivalent of 1,100 football fields of oat cultivation contracted to Gillebagaren. And while biscuit eaters might have a touch of guilt consuming calories, they can at least offset this by thinking of the cholesterol- lowering properties and other healthy ramifications of eating oats. Additional flavours for the biscuits are all sourced for their quality rather than low price. Chocolate with 59 percent cacao fat is imported from Belgium. Almonds, dried fruits and spices are all carefully sought out. Since 2005, hazelnuts and peanuts have not been used due to the risk of allergies. For more than ten years, milk products have been discontinued. The result is a unique biscuit range, with a special place in Swedish society and increasingly chosen in export markets. At last count, Gille goes to 30 countries around the world, as far away as Japan, Canada and Australia. Thanks to the profitability of the business, the company has with approximately two- thirds of sales going to export. In terms of overall ranking, when the total biscuit range is included- savouries, sandwich, wafer and the like- Gillebagaren is the second- largest biscuit baker in Sweden 60 www. bus- ex. com June 09

Gillebagaren AB June 09 www. bus- ex. com 61 changed hands several times over the intervening 20 years until last year it was acquired by the Dutch firm Continental Bakeries, a bakery group that focuses on toast and snacks, cookies and biscuits, and bread replacement products. Although Continental does have its own brand names, it tends to concentrate on private- label goods for retailers, earning on the order of ? 250 million from its ten factories. " Gillebagaren was an attractive proposition for Continental," explains Ekstrom. " There was very little crossover of products, and they saw the potential of taking Gille- branded biscuits to a wider audience. From our point of view, Continental's position in the market means that it can open doors for us that were previously closed and give us an opportunity with major supermarket chains in Germany, France and Holland." On the factory floor, everything is gradually being automated, with the last great tranche taking place in 2005. Between them, the company's two plants have a total of twelve production lines running two shifts a day. Baking biscuits is not that taxing. Make the mixture from good- quality ingredients, bake them for five or ten minutes at 200° C, and there you are. The distribution of the biscuits, though, is a much more complex arrangement. Gillebagaren designed and built the conveyor system itself. A large proportion of the 450 employees are actually engaged in packaging. Only on the two long run lines is it feasible to use robotics for the packaging. In terms of scheduling, Gillebagaren likes to run the lines for at least one whole day, or 14 to 15 hours. As such, it deliberately restricts the number of new products introduced each year in order not to fragment the range too small. By the same token, it listens to what the distributors are saying and introduces new flavours from time to time. The latest fad flavour, for example, is cranberry. Keep an eye out for it on your next visit to IKEA. - Editorial research by Jason Martin