From croissants and breads to seasonal specialities such as Yule logs, Panelux has some 350 products in its catalogue. Half of its business is targeted at Luxembourg and the Greater Region, with the majority of fresh bakery and patisserie products sold under the Fischer brand. Other products--some of them frozen--are sold to supermarkets, restaurants and community kitchens.
Although we’re considered a major player in Luxembourg, we are in fact small on a European scale.
And then there are the frozen products for export. “At the turn of the century, pre-cooked frozen food developed and we chose to concentrate on the top end of the range,” explains Patrick Muller, the company’s co-CEO.
“Although we’re considered a major player in Luxembourg, we are in fact small on a European scale,” adds Manou Emringer, co-CEO and international sales director.
A question of visibility
Exports outside the Greater Region account for half of the Mensdorf-based company’s sales. It produces 25,000 tonnes of products a year and up to 4,000 loaves an hour per line for the export market.
Its Luxembourg identity is not, however, emphasised in this segment, where the group works on a contract basis for products bearing the distributor’s brand. Every year, Panelux meets its customers and prospects at the major trade fairs Anuga in Cologne and Sial in Paris. “Twenty years ago, we had to introduce ourselves. Today, we’re well known,” says Emringer with a smile.
The downside of the energy crisis
“We’ve lost quite a bit of volume because of the cost of energy, particularly on entry-level products,” admits Emringer. Many customers are doing the math: importing frozen bread and pastries from Luxembourg, which then have to be stored and baked, is an increasingly expensive proposition.
In the coming years, we’re going to concentrate on the mass retail segment.
To compensate for this, the manufacturer is counting on the local market, where it says it is recouping volumes from both supermarkets and restaurants (the so-called “food services” sector). “In the coming years, we’re going to concentrate on the mass retail segment, where there is potential for volume growth, particularly in the Belgian and German markets,” adds the international sales director.
Ancestral family roots
Some 450 employees work at the production site to the east of the capital. Operational since 1992, it has five production lines for bread and two for pastries.
With around 20 ovens of different sizes, this vast installation has substantial energy requirements. “We’re looking at switching to a hybrid formula with gas and electricity to reduce our fuel oil consumption by 70%,” says Muller.
This presents a new challenge for the company, which claims to stand out from the competition on two fronts: its traditional baking methods, and its frozen production inspired by the knowhow of the family business. The company’s roots go back to 1913 and the creation of the Fischer bakery chain. Panelux is a subsidiary of VertiCo, the Müller family’s holding company, which includes a number of well-known subsidiaries such as Fischer and Moulins de Kleinbettingen.
This article in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.