On that day when Restoration of Independence was declared on March 11th, 1990, Vilniaus Duona was running business as usual. At the time only 30-40% out of 1500 employees were Lithuanian. Most of Lithuanians were working in management and administration.
“Even though other factories in Vilnius were facing disturbances, we managed to avoid that. Management decided to forbid all events, which were not related to regular activities of Vilniaus Duona. The employees could attend political gatherings and events on their own time”- remembers I. Šiaulys.
Shortly after, Moscow declared embargo to Lithuania, which lasted for a few months. As Vilniaus Duona was mostly using Lithuanian products, the factory was not really affected by it. The only thing that had to be substituted with the local produce was wheat flour imported from Kazakhstan. Also, there were some constraints with electricity and gas service. The main problem for the employees was that the petrol usage was restricted.
Finally, on the 23rd of November 1990, Vilniaus Duona was registered in a current name as a public enterprise.
As the company was not any under structural changes, five bakeries in Vilnius were up and running successfully, along with one in Druskininkai. The 6th bakery in Vilnius was being built. The assortment was not changing much, except for the production volumes of certain products – such as pasta, pastry, and buns.
Before Restoration of Independence and even during the first years after, bread had no packaging. People would buy it in bare loaves, which were placed in metal carts. Every cart had ten shelves that fitted 7 or ten bread loaves. Then the cart would be pushed to the car and unloaded in the store. You could buy bread either cut in half or a quarter.
Back in those days, bread had a very short expiration date – it would go stale in 3 days.
“We are not able to ship bread all across the country to Klaipėda – it would simply not make it that far. Because the trucks back then did not have any protective layers, it was not recommended to transport bread further than 50-60 from the place it was baked” – explains I. Šiaulys.
Vilniaus Duona was the main supplier of bread for 1 mln. people in the area of Vilnius City, Vilnius and Trakai regions.
Around that time bakeries were dependent either on the state (for example, Vilniaus Duona, Kauno Duona, Klaipėdos Duona, Panevėžio Duona, Šiaulių Duona, and Visagino Duona) or the consumer co-operative unions – there were more than 300 of them. That basically included every city in the country: Ukmergė, Utena, Joniškis, Rokiškis, Šilalė, Tauragė, and some other smaller towns.
Between 1999-2000 smaller bakeries entered the market. The owners would buy second-hand ovens from abroad, and that is how the whole new era of pastries and cookies started.
“We bought the first packing machines in 1999. Along with that, we started using bread slicers. Moreover, the expiration date of bread got longer – it would last for 5 or 6 days. Besides that, Vilniaus Duona started retail in Klaipėda”- tells I. Šiaulys.
In the spring of 1998, Vilniaus Prekybos Mažmena became the main shareholder of Vilniaus Duona. A new CEO was assigned by the new owner, along with minor changes in administration and performing an internal audit. There were practically no changes in the bakeries, except for adjusting the volumes of certain produce.
When bread sales started slowing down, the 5th bakery was closed. Some of the employees were transferred to other bakeries, some of them had to leave the company. But in the same year, the bakery went under construction for renewal and was about to open two new buildings.
There were more changes to come. Vilniaus Duona was reorganized, and two new legal entities were established – Vilniaus Duona Plius and Kepimo Technologija. Both companies took over most of the capital and functions.
At the beginning of 2001, Vilniaus Duona changed its name to Tireksa. In the meantime, Vilniaus Duona Plius was running the production side of the business. Kepimo Technologija carried on with reconstruction and technological planning.
In 2000 JSC Vilniaus Duona Plius consisted of four bakeries (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th), transportation branch, and seven retail stores. There were 1586 employees working for the company.
At the same time as Vilniaus Duona, Panevėžio Duona (another bakery) became a part of Vilniaus Prekyba group. In the year 2000, Panevėžio Duona started selling its production under Vilniaus Duona Plius name.
Because the 5th bakery was still under construction, the old bakeries did not get extra funding. But the company’s carp park was expanding. In addition of 35 trucks owned by the company, 30 larger Mercedes Benz cars were bought. Also, in the autumn of 1999, the company acquired German packing and bread slicing machines made by Hartmann. They were brought to the 1st and 3rd bakeries later on in spring and for the first time in Lithuania rye bread was sliced and packed in bags.
In 2001 it was clear that a Finnish company had an interest in Vilniaus Duona. On the 29th of January 2002, Vilniaus Duona Plius stocks were sold to a company Vaasan&Vaasan from Finland. This company also bought a share of Panevėžio Duona stocks which belonged to Vilniaus Duona.
This marked a new episode in Vilniaus Duona history. Joining Vaasan group meant a whole new business development turn in Scandinavian and Baltic bread markets. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd bakeries were running smoothly, along with a waffle factory, retail stores, a spot in Karoliniškės local market, and a sub-branch Panevėžio Duona.
The production assortment has changed. All the products from the 4th bakery were off the shelves. Such goods as pasta, pretzels, cakes, pies, buns, and tree cakes were no longer produced. Little by little, the number of employees started to reduce too.
With a bigger focus on logistics and delivery, a new project of a logistics hub Centrum was introduced. To fulfill this plan, a new property was rented out in Žarijų str., Vilnius. The logistics center was opened in 2003, and all products delivered to the stores was first handled there.
In 2004 the 2nd bakery launched a new line of long loaves. The volumes were as high as producing 2400 long loafs an hour. Besides that, further packing mechanisms were installed and new production lines were introduced as well.