>>Michael Bell, managing director, the village bakery

When The Village Bakery was founded in 1976, the organic market was still in its infancy, says managing director Michael Bell.
Originally, the company began making organic bread and cakes in wood fired ovens and by the time Bell joined in 1984, he says, the organic boom was taking off.
And the interest in organic food continues to grow today, according to Bell, who says that 10% growth in organic foods is outperforming the general food industry. Village Bakery sales showed an 18% rise last year, helped by the introduction of the non-organic ‘OK’ range of gluten, wheat and dairy-free products.
Bell says: “Our aims are simple - to make great tasting organic and specialised food to the highest possible standard, so a lot of my time is spent overseeing new product development and ingredient sourcing. There are high standards set for producing organic food, but so far there are none prescribed for producing specialised diet products. I have been very involved in setting up our own tough standards so there is no chance of cross-contamination of raw materials.”
Happily for Bell, he also spends time reading letters
from delighted customers. He says: “In 2000, we took the decision to build the country’s only purpose-built gluten, wheat and dairy-free bakery. It’s certainly paid off judging by number of the enquiries and customer feedback. When I get letters thanking and congratulating us, it’s very satisfying.”
Bell says The Village Bakery is sixth largest employer in Cumbria, with a staff of 200 people. And that makes it an important part of the local economy.
“A business is only as good as its people,” says Bell.
“I like to do a lot of my management walking about the shop floor. That way I’m always in touch with the people and they can come to me with any problems, which, hopefully. I can address.”
village life is a passion for bell