William Eid is, according to Honeytop Speciality Foods MD Mark Laurence, "a genius". Laurence is not just flattering the boss.
Eid and his brother Charles own the business, which supplies own-label naan, tortillas, pancakes, crumpets and other flatbreads to the major multiples and also produces goods under the Sharwood's, McDonald's and Weightwatchers brands.
As head of research and engineering, William designed and built much of the equipment, including a new £9m state-of-the art bakery in 2008.
With its creation, Honeytop moved into morning goods and tortillas a shift that has boosted its turnover 40% over the past two years to around £55m. Not bad for a business that started out in 1984 supplying just naans and flatbreads on a small scale to the multiples.
Back then, the Dunstable-based company founded by Charles and William's father Samir was first to supply authentic naan on a commercial scale.
In 1993 it introduced the UK's first longer-life flatbreads, then in 2006-2007 it completely reformulated its naan breads to further improve quality. "Our naan bread sales almost doubled over the following two years," boasts Laurence.
It didn't wake up to morning goods, though, until 2008, when it built the new bakery. It took just four months to complete, with Honeytop's in-house engineers creating bespoke hot-plate lines to bake batter-based products, including pancakes and crumpets. Adding high-speed robotics to these traditional processes has enabled the company to keep production costs down and improve speed to market for customers, Laurence adds.
The new bakery created 140 jobs, taking the workforce to 400 and morning goods now represents 25% of the business.
Honeytop produces some 150 SKUs for its own-label and branded customers and is hoping to ramp up production further. But although it produces a small amount of its own "Honeybake" branded goods, it is in own-label that the business feels the real opportunities for growth lie. It was, for example, the first to bring chocolate pancakes and fruited crumpets to market under Asda own-label.
"Other suppliers have their own branded interest and it was retailer own labels that were suffering," says Laurence. "Because we can build and design our own equipment, we've been able to make it in a profitable and competitive way, using robotics and taking labour out of the process."
The secret to Honeytop's success is its ability to innovate, believes Lawrence. "We don't consider ourselves to be marketers," he says. "We're driving forward quality and innovation in own brands. There's a lot of interest [from retailers] there and we're happy to put all our efforts in that direction.
"Being privately owned we can take decisions quickly, unlike the big public companies. We would foresee within the next two years we may well have another bakery open."