Culi d'Or uses creativity new baking solutions

2007 – The Culi d’Or sites at Hoogeveen and Emmen, the Netherlands arose from the acquisition of Delta Daily Sweets by Brinkers in 2000. From that date, it was decided to start working with a flat organizational structure, as they were used to at Brinkers.

Culi d’Or
Culi d’Or as a retail brand is part of the Brinkers Group (producing cakes and deserts), the holding company is based in Zoetermeer. The Brinkers Group is a family company whose history dates back to 1878. The Brinkers Group consists of a margarine and a pastry division. In total, the Brinkers Group has 10 production facilities, located throughout Europe. The Brinkers Bakery Group consists of three modern bakeries which all are located in the Netherlands. Each bakery is specialized in a number of products which together form the Culi d’Or pastry assortment.
The Brinkers Bakery Group is among the largest producers of pastries in Europe. Within the group, a full range of pastry products is made for supermarkets, catering and airline catering. The products are produced and delivered ‘Fresh frozen’ to customers at home and abroad.
At the sites Culi d’Or in Hoogeveen and Emmen about 45 people are employed permanently and there are on average 45 temporary employees. The Brinkers Pastry Group employs a total of 250 people in Europe. Culi d’Or gives quality a high priority and a lot of time and energy is invested in quality control and research & development. The bakeries meet the highest quality standards and are all certified on the BRC Highest Level.

Why this is workplace innovation

Culi D’Or Hoogeveen has opted for a flat organizational structure right from the acquisition by Brinkers in 2000. Let every employee do what he or she is good at and use that experience at a maximum. While the plant manager preserves an overview of all activities at the workplace the employees become – as it were – entrepreneur within their jobs. ‘We start from trust and responsibility’. But also being open to each other, is critical. The employee who makes a mistake  is made accountable for that, not for repercussion, but as a learning process. By involving the skills  and creativity of the employees there can be found quick and good responses to the changing demand of the market.

Weekly the current affairs is discussed with (representatives of) all the disciplines involved: production, logistics, quality assurance; technique. In this discussion only the outlines are plotted. The responsibility for the further elaboration is then returned to the individual workers themselves. The “further consultation" does not exist anymore.  When it is appropriate the employees just walk in to discuss the elaboration. However, decisions are communicated to the plant manager who maintains an overview of all processes.
Employees are challenged to analyze problems and devise solutions themselves. Market demand is increasingly diverse. More and new services are developed on  market demand. The flat organization facilitates a quick and decisive production. Where necessary for the realization of a new bakery product for the market demand, external market parties are  found quickly. They don’t push pastry products in the market, but start from the expertise and creativity that is present in (the employees of ) the company. This will answer the question of  the customer, possibly with the help of a third party. “We don’t sell bakery products but bakery solutions."


The transition to the flat organization started in 2000. A new plant manager was appointed who was familiar with this  “Brinkers  ideas”. The changeover of the employees was realized  with very few problems, with the exception of a few individual employee who either could not handle the responsibility or used the absence of a tight organizational structure to profile themselves as supervisors.
The smooth transition is probably partly explained by the open communication. There is a lot of informal consultations and all disciplines are consistently involved in all consultations. That is both top-down as well as bottum-up. Success is shared with all concerned. Employees are pride in their work, probably because of this.
This includes the temporary workers; they also share in the success and temporary workers in the region are happy to work for Culi d ‘Or Hoogeveen. In case of peak hours, there is never a problem to fill in additional man-hours; this is solved on a voluntary basis, the commitment of the employees is high, partly by sharing success.
On the other hand, the smooth transition can also be explained by the sincerity with which trust and responsibility were assigned. The plant manager also stated that “the national character of the Drent" fits well in this way of working.
The deposit of maximum responsibility on the individual employee requires, in addition to good and open communication, a quality profile of the worker. The company invests in the training and education of its employees. After all, if it is expected that the workers themselves bring creative and innovative solutions, they have to be equipped and trained for that. Issues are addressed and resolved with the combination of experience, responsibility and training. When an expertise is not present a market opportunity is not canceled, but it is ensured that the gap is filled somehow quickly.
For example, an aviation company wanted a contract in the short term, but they did not want to arrange the transportation from the factory to Schiphol. However transporting the cake  is not a proprietary part of the Brinkers Group. Nevertheless they did not choose to renounce this order, but quickly they contracted an external carrier, and thus the contract  between the airline and Culi d’ Or Hoogeveen was established on the conditions that the airline as customer had set.
To work successfully with a flat organizational structure, it is important that this way of working is supported by the whole group to which Culi d’ Or Hoogeveen belongs ( Brinkers Group). The fast, creative and sometimes unusual solutions that are thought of at the shop floor should also be given space within the organization of the parent company. In the example above, the external distribution company could be contracted  without an official permission of the parent company; so strength and speed could be saved. Again this showed that the parent company is working with confidence and sense of responsibility and not with hierarchical control. If this would not happen, working from a flat organizational structure would be frustrated. Now it’s the other way: because the self-devised solutions that come from the floor gain confidence from the parent company, the commitment and motivation of each individual worker is stimulated.

The results of what has taken place in recent years at Culi d’Or Hoogeveen cannot all be expressed in numbers. In addition to an increased enjoyment of work, great motivation, provoked  creativity and improved training it can be stated that since 2000 sales has doubled in a difficult market, absenteeism has dropped to around 2 % and that production peaks can be managed in a natural way (on voluntary basis).

Learning Moments
In recent years, Culi d’Or Hoogeveen learned:

  • Working with trust and responsibility will succeed only  if management ensures open communication and sharing successes.
  • Providing and magnifying self-responsibility may lead to a mild form of “first blow" of individual employees. There is a natural tendency to see the at the shop floor chosen solutions as a matter of course and to forget about feedback.
  • In addition to personal responsibility and trust the plant manager should have a good overview of the processes. Communication is also crucial here.
  • And the parent company should handle her daughters like wise to prevent a clash of cultures to happen and frustration is harvested instead of commitment.