Baker’s choice

Confectionery and bakery equipment is a vital tool in the modern bakery: TABJ speak to Tombake, a South African business that is leading the market in this area.

There is nothing quite like the smell (and taste) of freshly baked bread. From mixing the dough, proving it and baking it, it is a skill that is appreciated by all.

However, if you’re running a bakery and you’re making batches as part of your commercial operation, you don’t have time to stop and smell the loaves: you need equipment that gives consistently good results, is reliable, and quickly helps you to a tidy profit.  So who better than a baker to understand what a bakery owner needs? The Tombake (Pty) Ltd management team has over 100 years of baking industry experience between them  and so, when it comes to knowing what will suit your baking needs, they’re well-placed to advise. In fact Tombake goes beyond simple sales to advise clients on where to optimally position equipment and how to improve the quality of the product a bakery is offering. They can also conduct feasibility studies and profit and loss scenarios on a client’s equipment investment.

Michael Murray, operations director,  explains that owner Manoli Livanos bought a majority share in Tombake back in 2007 and set about passionately re-galvanising the company’s position in the South African baking market.  The company has a factory where it manufactures bakery equipment from scratch but it also imports equipment from a number of different countries to ensure that clients have access to a complete range of bakery equipment. The range is certainly extensive with everything from dough mixers and cake mixers to bun dividers, provers and a full range of deck, convection, and rotary rack ovens. In fact, it is extensive enough to be called comprehensive.

The company has agencies in Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius and Nigeria, where it also has a showroom for clients to see the equipment and get training on how to use different products. This is in addition to their South African showroom in Cape Town.

Catering range

Tombake recently launched a huge catering range comprising a number of food preparation and display units, including food processors, display counters, blast chillers and freezers, chicken grillers, food stations, deep fat fryers, combi steamers and gas grills. “It is an add-on to our existing business. The bakery equipment has served us well and continues to be our main focus but the catering range came about because our customers requested it,” explains Murray.

“In the next year or two we’ll be expanding the catering range but our main focus is always in improving our products and services for our clients. We do hope to be a bigger force in catering market, similar to what we are achieving in the bakery.”

On the bakery side, Tombake are already a preferred supplier to many household names as well as smaller independents. With branches in Johannesburg and Durban, a head office in Cape Town, and service centres around the country, Tombake can provide maintenance and repair services as well as sales. Murray tells me that they continued to enjoy growth in the recent tough economic climate, proving that there are some industries that continue to thrive – even during a downturn.

Different regions have different bakery needs as shown by the popularity of the donut in America or the croissant in France. “In Africa, the needs and requirements of our customers will change according to geography, whether an area is rural or more westernised, for example. In South Africa there is a big bread market because, in general, South Africans eat a lot of bread. In other parts of the African market there is a demand for baguettes because of the French influence.” Whatever it is that a bakery’s customers prefer the taste of, Tombake can provide the equipment to ensure that everyone gets their nourishing daily bread.