Social enterprise bakery The Bread & Butter Project is working with Woolworths to keep its business running during the COVID-19 lockdown. From running its own café and restaurant, it is now supplying 14 Woolworths Metro stores in Sydney.
The Bread & Butter Project is a wholesale bakery that uses 100 per cent of its profits to support training and employment opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in Sydney.
Much of its business evaporated as the cafés and workplaces it supplied were closed due to the pandemic.
Its chair Cindy Carpenter said Bread & Butter’s sales fell by more than half in the second half of March.
“While we will continue to supply all our valued partners as soon as the current social distancing restrictions are lifted, we’ve also had to make some quick decisions to ensure our business remains operational in the meantime.
“As such, within two weeks we’ve shifted from being a largely wholesale enterprise to becoming much more consumer-facing via online retailers and supermarkets,” Carpenter said.
A number of new initiatives have been implemented including a partnership with Woolworths Metro. Carpenter said its backing was more than welcome and had a nice synergy because of Woolworths’ interest in refugee employment.
“They instantly started stocking us in fourteen of their Metro stores. They’ve also worked extremely hard on our behalf to provide us with a good shelf presence, because we aren’t a well-known consumer brand as yet,” she said.
Woolworths Metro GM Justin Nolan said: “We understand how crucial our support is to help local businesses such as The Bread & Butter Project to keep up and running at this time.
“We are delighted to be able to work so quickly in getting their breads and pastries onto our shelves. It’s a win-win for us – our customers love the baked goods and we’re also doing our bit to help support the important work they are doing in Australia.”
Carpenter said: “This transition has meant making smaller loaves that are suitable for retail sales, while we are currently in the process of moving to retail-friendly packaging and having retail shelf displays made.
“In addition, we are increasing our in-store merchandising to ensure a strong shelf presence and adding ‘shelf talkers’ that tell our social enterprise story, while seeking to build better brand awareness because we can’t afford to advertise.”
Keeping the Project’s bakery open has maintained much-needed income for its trainees. Its program gives trainees hands-on training in the company’s Marrickville bakery and a TAFE Certificate II in Food Processing, as well as intensive tutoring in English and numeracy.
Carpenter said: “Our trainees have often come to us from environments of political and social upheaval and when they arrive in Australia, many of them aren’t able to use their existing skills and experience in this country.
“By keeping our doors open, we are keeping people employed who may be on Temporary Protection Visas or other visas, and who are not eligible for the government’s JobKeeper support program and would struggle to find alternative work in the current circumstances.”
Currently bread and pastry sales fund about 90 per cent of The Bread & Butter Project’s training and operational costs, with donations funding the remaining 10 per cent, while volunteers and pro bono assistance also help the company achieve its goals
The program has graduated more than 70 professional artisan bakers into employment in Australia's hospitality industry.