COBS Bread: Rising to the Top

Fall 2010 - COBS Bread is a branch of the world’s most successful franchise bakery. Its parent company, Bakers Delight, is an institution in Australia and New Zealand with 650 bakeries spread across the two countries. COBS got its start in Canada in Vancouver in 2003. The launch team for the initial Edgemont Vollage included some Aussies from Bakers Delight who had traveled to Canada and fallen in love with British Columbia. A lot of customers wonder if COBS is an acronym, and, depending on whom you ask, it stands for Canada’s Own Bread Store, or it’s simply named after one of the company’s best selling products, a crusty bread called a COB loaf. Either way, it’s a company that’s on the rise, as the firm has now expanded to 63 bakeries across the three western provinces (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia).

This is Not Your Supermarket's Bread

According to John Gilson, vice president of COBS, Bakers Delight used its several decades of experience conquering the lands Down Under to determine that Vancouver had the perfect market conditions for expansion. With only local supermarkets as equally saturated sources for bread, Vancouver was ready to have preservative-free, baked-fresh bread integrated into its neighbourhoods to enrich the lives of more than just the consumer. “We view each of our stores as part of the local community, and naturally, by baking bread every day, there is bound to be bread left over at the end of the day,” says Gibson. “We donate all unsold product to local charities and food banks daily. In the past six years we have donated over $10 million in bread to local charities.” It's a proven business model: provide quality, nutritionally sound produce that promotes customer delight, value and growth of a passion for fresh bread, and a commitment to environmentally and socially conscious practices.

COBS has found that one of the keys to a successful franchise is standardization. Gilson details the process for potential stakeholders: “It’s a detailed process before we award a franchise. We want to make sure we’re adding the right people to our team. They need to be very active in managing their business and they absolutely have to be passionate about COBS. We make sure it’s a fit with the team we have here.”

Potential stakeholders have the option of purchasing franchise rights directly, or operating a franchise in a unique “manage to own method.” No matter how they become a bakery operator, stakeholders are only allowed to purchase authorized ingredients from Gordon Food Services, and they must be extensively trained on COBS’ unique electric ovens. COBS is the only chain in Canada that bakes exclusively on electric ovens. All of these factors contribute to a healthy turnkey operation.

But Is the Food Any Good?

Another reason for the company’s success boils down to one basic thing: the food. Consumers are increasingly becoming aware that in today’s world, a lot of chemicals and preservatives are being used in the food preparation. COBS’ bread is made with unbleached flour and contains no preservatives, added sugar, or artificial colours or flavours, and franchise owners are required make sure the product is fresh by baking daily, on site. Gilson explains that the company ensures a customer is served only the highest quality bread by limiting the source of production. “We only order our flour from one mill in Saskatchewan. It ensures the consistency of our products, and from a business standpoint, gives us economy of scale to negotiate better pricing.”

The company even offers a line of products that are designed to help improve a customer’s digestive health. The Higher Fibre Low-glycemic index (GI) products contain three times as much fibre as traditional white bread to help to keep the digestive system healthy. There are six grams of fibre in two slices (72 grams) of the Higher Fibre Low GI regular loaf, which makes it a high source of fibre. The company has also explored soft fruit and grain bars rich in antioxidants. Additionally, a new product range – CHIA Bread – contains a seed that is a major source of omega-3 fats that help healthy mind and body, accompanied by fibre and protein. COBS Bread actively supports an active lifestyle, working closely with Health Canada/Canadian Food Inspection Agency and NutriKids to further promote nutrition research and development.

Potential stakeholders, if they do their research, will realize that they’re buying into something that’s bound to be a success. A quick internet search produced this sample review from a local customer: “I discovered this place three weeks ago while entertaining some friends from Texas. I have been back twice since then and plan on going every weekend! They have a beautiful, though small, bakery that is extremely clean. The displays counters are full and fresh. All of their scones are to die for!”

With an unbiased review like that, it’s clear to see why the firm is growing so rapidly across Canada. Stakeholders are joining a fully developed team with a clear plan for the future and a track record of success. With 2.5 million customers eating COBS and Bakers Delight products every day, consumers are reaffirming that COBS Bread is baking up something delicious.