The Bread & Butter Project has felt the impacts of COVID-19 with café and restaurant and product distribution disruptions.
Normally operating as a wholesale bakery, which uses 100% of its profits to support training and employment opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in Sydney, the business identified a need to expand beyond supplying cafés and workplaces, many of which are currently closed.
The Bread & Butter Project has undertaken a “complete pivot” in its business model to now supply to Woolworths Metro stores directly. This will ensure the organisation can keep its doors open and continue providing high-quality sourdough breads and pastries over the coming months.
The Bread & Butter Project Chairperson Cindy Carpenter says that in the second half of March, the organisation’s café and restaurant sales fell by more than half.
“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,” she says.
“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.
“We’re very thankful for the backing of Woolworths, who have an interest in refugee employment and responded to our need for more sales by instantly stocking us in 14 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.”
A number of new initiatives have been implemented by The Bread & Butter Project to support the shift.
“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,” says Ms Carpenter.
“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.”
Providing an income and purpose
Another vital outcome of keeping The Bread & Butter Project bakery open is its role in maintaining a much-needed income for its trainees, confirms Ms Carpenter.
“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,” she says.
“This is where The Bread & Butter Project plays a role in providing an income and a purpose, as well as crucial English language tuition and support.
“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.”
At present, bread and pastry sales are said tp fund about 90% of The Bread & Butter Project’s training and operational costs. Donations fund the remaining 10%, while volunteers and pro bono assistance also help the company achieve its goals.
The Bread & Butter Project’s program sees trainees receive 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.
The program has graduated more than 70 professional artisan bakers into employment in Australia’s hospitality industry.
For more information about The Bread & Butter Project, or to find out how to provide support, visit www.thebreadandbutterproject.com.