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The Renovation and a New Beginning

A night of New Year’s Eve 1991 was challenging for all at Vilniaus Duona – managers, specialists, and other employees. There was a fire in the 1st bakery. Half of the roof was burnt, a lot of equipment was damaged. For six months Vilniaus Duona could not use this bakery which had a capacity of producing 40 tons a day.

“For most employees at Vilniaus Duona it was a hectic night. The 5th bakery took over from the 1st one – in one night all sourdough, products, flour, and packaging were moved. On the 2nd of January, all stores were stocked with Palangos Bread for the 5th bakery”- shares I. Šiaulys.

You could feel the tension rising at the beginning of that year. On the 8th of January, a rally organized by a Soviet organization Jedinstvo took place. There were attempts to take over the building of The Supreme Council and The Parlament. Vilnius was flooded by the people who came here to defend the independence of the country. Naturally, bread was high in demand.

Also, after the fire, the 1st bakery was out of order. The other bakeries were maxed out. There was a shortage of staff – sourdough, dough mixing and dividing operators were working 16 hours shifts with no days off.

The situation was not improving. On the 11th of January, Vilnius Railway Station was occupied, and all train traffic was suspended. Some of the employees of the 5th bakery living in Naujoji Vilnia, Lentvaris, Trakai, could not come to work. To ensure smooth production and realization of products, there was a manager or a supervisor on site at all times. The technical team on standby was backed up by reconstruction team. At then the bloody night of January 13th rose.

“Even to this day, it’s difficult to describe the mood in the bakery. Fear, anger, uncertainty about our loved ones… The night shift drivers told us about the tanks. The army men stopped their loaded truck, dragged the driver out of the car and threw him on the ground. With a gun to his face, a driver was told that no one gives a f… about the shortage of bread and he should turn around and get out. Our driver came back to the bakery” –  I. Šiaulys remembers.

In 1991 the privatization of public property had started by the official Order of the Government. Shortly after, a list of privatized public companies was announced, and Vilniaus Duona was on it. In the autumn of the same year, The Ministry of Agriculture released a statement asking to provide a schedule of dividing a public company Vilniaus Duona to separate bakeries.

“This was a complete shocker and not only for the managers of Vilniaus Duona. A long process of negotiation with The Ministry has started. It was complicated because the management and organizational structure of Vilniaus Duona were centralized, there were no processes in place, the bakeries were just specialized according to production and assortment”- explains I. Šiaulys.

The finances of Vilniaus Duona were centralized as well: none of the bakeries had their own bank accounts, there was just one account for the whole company. The prices were going up, the government provided some of the products and consequently, some bakeries were profitable, while others were facing problems trying to avoid the loss.

Meanwhile, the bakery in Druskininkai had a different approach. There was an organizational structure in place; it had a bank account and a distribution network. Also, the city itself wanted to manage its’ own profitable company.

On the 8th of June 1992 by order of The Ministry of Agriculture a public establishment Vilniaus Duona was reorganized. Two separate companies were established – a public company Vilniaus Duona and The Public Bakery of Druskininkai. As a result, the employees of Vilniaus Duona lost their right to use a holiday house in Druskininkai. Meanwhile, a bakery in Druskininkai was left all alone in competition against Lazdijai and Alytus bakeries.

In 1993, Vilnaus Duona was declared a public stock company. In the same year Lithuania was facing a lot of changes: new currency Litas was introduced and the Russian Army left the country. Therefore, these changes affected Vilniaus Duona. Between 1993 and 1994, the prices of products were turning around rapidly, small bakeries started doing business in Vilnius and Trakai, and when the army left Lithuania, the demand for bread reduced.

In 1994 60% of Vilniaus Duona capital was privatized. The asset evaluation was performed at the beginning of that year. The 6th bakery was sold in an auction. On the 25th of May 1994 a public stock company, Vilniaus Duona was registered as a joint-stock company Vilniaus Duona.

In 1994 Vilniaus Duona produced 58265 tons of bread and bread products, 3485 tons of pasta, 1825 tons of pastries. The total revenue flow was 87.2 mln Litas. 3570 tons of packed baked goods were sold in 1994.

There were no changes between 1995-1997 at Vilniaus Duona. The amount of packed production was slowly increasing. As the competition got stronger, other bakeries, like Gudobelė from Kaunas, launched their products in Vilnius. Vilniaus Duona had to expand their distribution sites.

On the 19th of September 2005, Vilniaus Duona Plius changed its name to the old one – Vilniaus Duona.

2004 marked the start of a major Panevėžio Duona renovation and modernization project. It was completed in 2008 spring. After this, the bakery in Panevežys became the most cutting-edge bakery not only in Lithuania but in all three Baltic countries.

During the first stage of the project implementation, a new long loafs line was introduced – from mixing the dough to slicing and packing. The productivity of this line was as high as producing 2600 units per hour. During the later stages, two rye bread lines were released, which could each produce 3000 loaves of bread per hour. At the end of this project in 2007, Panevėžio Duona joined Vilniaus Duona and became one of Vilniaus Duona bakeries – Panevėžys Bakery.

At the end of renovation, between 2007 and 2008, a new Vilniaus Duona bakery was built in V. A. Graičiūno str., together with a modern logistics center. It had cutting-edge long loaves and buns line, a tunnel baking oven, a cooling machine, and slicing-packing equipment.

After the new bakery was built and the renovation project was finished, the production was moved to the new premises. The old bakeries (the 1st one in Konarskio str. 2 and the 3rd one in Vivulskio str. 41) were closed down in the middle of 2008.

The new bakery was named The 1st Bakery of Vilniaus Duona. So in the middle of 2008 JSC Vilniaus Duona had these units: Panevėžys bakery and the logistics center, The 1st Bakery of Vilniaus Duona and the logistics center, and the old 2nd bakery, which used the logistics center of the 1st bakery. Both logistics center in Vilnius and Panevežys worked hand in hand in delivering bread from Vilnius to Panevėžys and vice versa.

The finance crisis mixed things up. The renovation of the 1st bakery started only in 2014. A new production building was under construction. Around the same time, the exterior of buildings was being retouched. Also, tech equipment was being installed and moved from the 2nd bakery. Two new production lines were introduced – making long loaves and toasts. The production started in the summer of 2015.

Prasidėjusi ekonominė krizė planus pakoregavo. Tik 2014 m. prasidėjo 1-osios kepyklos rekonstrukcija. Pradėtas statyti naujas gamybinis priestatas. Beveik tuo pačiu metu buvo vykdomi ir pastato apdailos, ir technologinės įrangos montažo darbai. 2014 m. gruodžio viduryje pradėtas įrangos montažas – naujame priestate sumontuotos dvi linijos. Viena – batonų linija, dalis jos įrangos perkelta iš 2-os kepyklos. Kita – tosterinės sumuštinių duonos linija. Jos produktų gamybą pradėjo 2015 m. birželio–rugsėjo mėnesiais.

On the 12th of May, Vilniaus Duona had an official opening of the most cutting-edge bakery in the Baltic countries. The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė attended the event congratulating Vilniaus Duona on this occasion.

In February 2015 the production of long loaves was discontinued in the 2nd bakery. In July the bakery was closed. In the same year, Vilniaus Duona became a part of the Lantmännen group, which one of the biggest companies in agriculture, energy, and food industries. This marked a new beginning for Vilniaus Duona. The bakery turned a new page in its’ 130 years history.

Today Vilniaus Duona owns the 1st bakery of Vilniaus Duona (V. A. Graičiūno str. 38A) and Panevežys bakery (Panevėžys, J. Janonio str. 7), both together with a logistics center.

In 2016 Vilniaus Duona opened a brand new modern bread factory. On the 12th of May, Vilniaus Duona had an official opening of the most cutting-edge bakery in the Baltic countries. The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė attended the event congratulating Vilniaus Duona on this occasion. Together with the management of the bakery, she made a symbolic first cut to a 2-meter length rye bread loaf.

A new bakery was opened by expanding the old one on V. A. Graičiūnas street. Two new production lines were introduced – making wheat long loaves and toasts. If those two lines were at the maximum pace, it could make 80 tons of bread products a day.

According to CCO of Vilniaus Duona Gražvydas Jukna, the new bakery will enable doubling the production volumes as well as offering the market even more new quality products.

One of the most important innovations is called Clean Room. It is an extremely clean chamber that has built-in filters which purify the air. That is why the air in the Clean Room is 10000 times purer than the air we breathe. This novelty ensures that there are no harmful bacteria in the area where bread is packed and prolongs the expiration date of the products with no added preservatives. Only certified employees have a right to work there.

Another innovation that was introduced recently is a robot that minimizes manual work at the bakery. Also, in order to add more aroma and moisture to the products, a new sourdough system was introduced. According to G. Jukna, the new bakery will open new opportunities in not only Lithuanian and Baltic markets but on a global scale as well. The new bakery will offer specialized products for foreign markets, and that will have a positive impact on the volumes of export. The whole bakery property now covers. 10955 sq. meters. The expansion investments are as high as 9.3 mln Euros. In total there are 147 employees working at the bakery.

An installation made of bread for a special occasion

During the opening of the bakery artists, Jolita Vaitkutė and Emilija Vonžutaitė created an installation made of bread just for this occasion, which depicted Vilnius Cathedral and the Bell Tower. The installation was made of 1064 Toste bread slices, and it took no less than 80 hours to make.

The records agency Factum declared this piece of art the largest painting made of toasting bread.