Pastry that's fun

Interview with Felix Thun-Hohenstein, Managing Director of Bake the Shape GmbH

Felix Thun-Hohenstein, Managing Director of Bake the Shape GmbH
Felix Thun-Hohenstein, Managing Director of Bake the Shape GmbH

Pastries in the shape of a soccer ball, an American football, a mouse, or an Easter bunny - and all of that is available in different baking mixes. Bake the Shape GmbH in Asten, Austria, formerly 'Eat the Ball', demonstrates how innovative baked goods can be. Managing Director Felix Thun-Hohenstein reports from the 'colorful' world of pastries and cakes, which not only taste good but also make people happy in other ways.

Economic Forum: Mr. Thun-Hohenstein, which milestones were particularly important in the history of the company?

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: Already in 2012, the company founder Michael Hobel decided to bake pastry in 3-D shapes, which also allowed for new forms of branding. In 2015, he marketed the first products with additional shareholders, which were the balls – hence the original name Eat the Ball. The current main shareholder then joined and invested in its own production facility in Asten, which was commissioned in 2018/2019. The coronavirus pandemic then reset the whole development because until that point, our focus had been on sports and sports events. We then diversified with new pastry shapes and recipes. In addition, we developed cakes and optimized customization. The new technologies opened up a host of possibilities for us such as filled pastry. We are now also expressing our new orientation in a new name.

Bake the Shape - various pastries
From the puck to the Easter bunny: Bake the Shape makes almost any shape possible

Economic Forum: Instead of Eat the Ball, the company is now called Bake the Shape ...

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: Correct, with this, we are accounting for the development that today we can bake almost any shape that customers desire. The name change took place on July 1st of this year.

Economic Forum: What further developments do you expect?

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: We have already adapted our production line for cakes as well. Currently, we employ 19 staff and anticipate a turnover of 1.5 million EUR for this year. In the next three years, it is expected to rise to seven to ten million EUR. To achieve this, we are investing in developing our own cake line, and in the longer term, an expansion of production up to 100 million pieces is possible.

Economic Forum: Such rapid growth surely brings great changes within the company?

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: Yes, it naturally also affects the company culture. Our repositioning after the crisis has revealed a great creative potential of the team. Innovations are otherwise rare in our segment. We aim to position ourselves as 'the' Austrian creative bakery. Creativity and flexibility are required both in retail and system catering as well as in the licensing area, like in our cooperation with Bayern Munich. Our goal is, together with the customers, to develop and market successful products that also emotionally appeal to the end consumers. For the future, merchandising and large events are interesting topics. We also want to expand our international contacts in the future.

Bake the Shape - Pastry with Heart
Whether round or square, the main thing is that it's fun: Bake the Shape bakes pastries with heart
Bake the Shape - Sacher Cake
Sacher cake done differently

Economic Forum: What developments are you currently observing in your industry?

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: There is a trend towards the higher-priced segment, where awareness of health and the environment plays a major role. At the same time, we are also seeing a trend towards the discount segment for lower-income population groups. We cannot compete with the large bakeries, so we position ourselves in the top segment. Here, it is very important to differentiate ourselves. We can do this especially through our shaping and will also implement it in the packaging.

Economic Forum: What strengths of your company would you like to highlight?

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: The regionality and quality of our ingredients play a big role. We source 97% of our ingredients from Austria, almost exclusively from the surrounding area. In addition, Austrian baked goods already have a good image in terms of quality. We have a very high international food safety rating. But certainly, our product design, the product variety, and the various design options of our products play the main role.

Economic Forum: The shortage of skilled workers is a major issue. What can you offer to attract new employees?

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: We are a young, creative team, basically a startup, and we also have such a corporate culture. Unlike most companies in our industry, we also offer reasonable working hours.

Economic Forum: What is particularly important to you personally, and what vision do you have for the company?

Felix Thun-Hohenstein: My vision is to convey to consumers the joy of good food in an emotional, appealing form. Isn't it much nicer when I have a snack or breakfast that smiles at me? Food, and especially baked goods, are sacred to me. Everything we bake is utilized. What falls through our high quality controls is donated to aid organizations or fed to agricultural enterprises.