SAINSBURY’S is integrating all its supermarket counter and self-service retail scales and bakery printers into a centralised system, said to be the world’s first. It will cover its main 450 stores.The project is being carried out in partnership with Avery Weigh-Tronix, and a roll-out programme for the system is nearing completion. THE Fabulous Bakin’ Boys – whose branded snack products are marketed as ‘unsuitable for grumpy people’ – has joined forces with domestic cleaning company Molly Maid to offer the chance to win a year’s free house cleaning. The promotion is running on over a million packs of chocolate cupcakes in supermarkets across the UK until May.IN Japan, Circle K Sunkus has launched Brain Buns under the Kachial Hogaraka Time brand. These bite-sized bread pieces are enriched with vitamin B1.IRWIN’S Bakery has joined with Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke Association to offer health checks for all its staff. Every employee has been given the chance to have their blood pressure tested and be offered one-on-one advice from a heart nurse. The programme forms part of Irwin’s commitment to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Robert CampbellAfter two months, the day that I was flying out to Switzerland had finally arrived. I was already starting to feel nervous and I hadn’t started my two-and-three-quarter-hour train journey to Manchester airport.At 10.45amI arrived at the airport, making my way to terminal 1, feeling more nervous, not only about the trip and the course, but also about meeting Jai Stockton, the other winner, whom I only spoke to the week before and with whom I was going to be spending the next four days. I kept thinking to myself ’I hope this guy’s not too boring and that we get on alright!’ I stood waiting for Jai in the terminal, when I spotted this man who seemed to be looking for someone, I managed to catch his attention and it was one of those awkward moments. Eventually, we both managed to acknowledge each other and got on really well for the four days. Having a lot in common helped: we were both married with kids and did the same job and both liked football (even if he did support Manchester United!).At 4.45pm,Just two hours after leaving Manchester, we arrived at Zurich Airport, where we would soon be meeting Siggy [Sigisbert Bienz, court steward at The Worshipful Company of Bakers, who accompanied for translation purposes]. We went to collect our bags at the conveyor belt. After waiting 20 minutes from Jai collecting his bags, I started to get this horrible feeling that my bag had gone missing! I began to panic even more, wondering if anyone would notice that I was in the same clothes for four days! Just as I turned around, there was my bag, sitting on another conveyor belt. It was a huge relief!We made our way out to meet Siggy, who had purchased our return train tickets to Lucerne, and set off in a double-decker train. Siggy gave us our course work for the next two days, which he had translated into English. After seeing the coursework, I felt more nervous, thinking, ’I hope I’m not going to let anyone down!’But I was looking forward to learning more about continental products and see the techniques used to gain the high quality finishing of craft bakery products that marks Richemont out.At 7pmThe train arrived in Lucerne, where we all jumped in a taxi for a 10-minute ride to the Richemont School. In the taxi, we were able to enjoy the fabulous views of the lakes and mountains. Once in my room, I rang home to tell my wife I was alright.Jai StocktonThe adventure began with my initial meeting with fellow award winner Robert Campbell, from Thomas the Baker in York. We were to travel together to the Richemont School, Lucerne, Switzerland.We met and boarded the plane together, both of us nervous about leaving our families, but excited with the prospect of our trip. Our first – and thankfully only – hiccup was a baggage mix-up at Zurich Airport. Our fears were soon overcome by the arrival of Sigisbert Bienz, who met us in the arrival lounge. Mr Bienz had already bought tickets for our train connection to Lucerne, so we boarded the most unusual train I have ever seen: all the trains were double-deckered and the upper decks were fully equipped with children’s play areas.BREATHTAKING LOCATIONOn arrival at Lucerne station, we hired a taxi to take us to the Richemont School. Nothing could have prepared us for the breathtaking setting of the School, which is nestled in the valley on the edge of a lake, overlooked by the snow-capped Alps. Escorted to our rooms, I was pleasantly surprised to have a large room to myself, having expected a dormitory arrangement.With the Richemont school renowned as one of the best bakery colleges in the world, I was looking forward to seeing the Continental style of producing bakery goodsAs we had the evening to ourselves, we decided to freshen up and go out and explore. Walking around the lake into Lucerne, we had our first glimpse of the famous bridge we had heard so much about from Mr Bienz. All the fresh air and excitement soon wore us out , and so we retired, knowing we had an early start ahead. n
Recently I was reading a biography of Al Capone, the Chicago gangster boss of the 1920s, and it made me think of the comparison between him and the government. Both stole from the people and told their victims it was for their own good.Yet one great difference was that Mr Capone was very efficient and controlled crime, only allowing the crooks to kill each other, not the public. Plus, he kept very tight control of his costs and every part of his operation worked smoothly.Meanwhile, the government allows the crooks to kill and rob us and I cannot think of anything they manage working well – neither health, nor transport, nor benefits. In fact the list is far too long and depressing to think any further.So let’s think about our own future in the year ahead, over which we do have some control. Those of us mainly in the retail trade have to work hard on our marketing, which made me think about our production costs. No one would question that our return on capital in the baking industry is appal- lingly low and that bakery consumes capital on equipment like a drunk in a brewery.Stop investing in new equipment and failure is virtually guaranteed, as costs would get out of control. This has made me wonder whether we should close our bakeries and buy in products we need. After all, if savouries, bake-off and filled rolls represent 50% of our turnover, why are we putting in so much capital and effort to produce the other 50%? The problem is, of course, that we have so much invested in our bakeries that we could never sell them and recoup our costs.Then there is the question of ego, where we all think no one else could make the products we need to our own standards. While that may be true, I rather doubt it, because if we took our recipes to another bakery for the volume we require, they would produce it to our own standards as they would be so desperate for our business. Let’s face it, the supermarkets demand what they want and get it.Will this happen? I rather doubt it as we all take a great pride in what we do and the reason for our existence would be gone. But small groups of, say, three or four shops may have to consider whether they can produce economically without working every hour of the day.This leads me on to the big question: what is the ideal size for a company to control and make money? Rather than number of shops, I think the deciding factor should be distance from the bakery. We have 10 shops within five miles of our bakery, which means that, when we are short of shop staff, which is most of the time, we can at least move people about quickly.Our Candy Shop experiment is 18 miles from the bakery and already we can see the problems. Would we do it again? A truthful answer is, I doubt it. But we had to do it, or we would be forever wishing we had. In about a year, we will know if the extra work was worth it.Ego has a lot to answer for. It is always leading us to keep expanding. So I suppose there is truth in the theory that the one thing a man has that gets bigger when you stroke it is his ego. n
UK bakers are being encouraged to enter a competition to celebrate the best of British food and drink.Taste of Britain will judge products on production standards and sustainability, as well as the positive impact they make on the local community, in five categories: Best UK Food, Best UK Drink/Beverage, Best Regional Food, Best Organic Food, and Best Seasonal Food.Organised by the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, Sainsbury’s, Defra, the IGD, and Food From Britain, the closing date for entries is 27 July. Entry forms can be accessed at [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tasteofbritain].Winners will be announced in a 16-page supplement in The Daily Telegraph, which coincides with the start of British Food Fortnight.
bakery market was worth £42m in the year to November 2007, representing a small proportion of the total organic food market in the UK, which stands at £2bn.The new research, conducted by Leatherhead Food International, also found that organic bread is worth £26m, up 25.3% in the past year.The report, which was commissioned by ingredients supplier British Bakels, claimed that “significant expansion of the organic bread market could be held back by a lack of local wheat supplies”. Most organic wheat is imported from Canada, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan.”Bread lags behind other food products in terms of share of consumer spend,” said Paul Morrow, MD of British Bakels. “If we were to achieve the same share for organic bread of the retail market as the majority of other organic products, sales would virtually double.”The report found there has been limited activity in the organic cakes market. “Consumers shopping for cakes are more likely to base choices on convenience or indulgence than ethical concerns,” said the report.See 1 February, 2008, issue for more on the organic market.
Sam’s Cookies, a well-respected bakery firm in Bray, Co Wicklow, just south of Dublin, which has been trading since 1992, is about to face the challenges of exporting for the first time.The firm was founded and is still run by husband and wife team Keith and Sam Johnson. Keith, the managing director, had been in the clothing trade, but when his wife won a contract to supply an Irish retail chain with handmade biscuits, he joined the bakery operation.Until 2006, Sam’s Cookies operated out of a facility built at the back of their house in Kiltiernan, Co Dublin and, by then, their previous factory had grown to 300sq m, larger than their house. At this stage, they had run out of space, so they moved to a new 1,000sq m factory on an industrial estate in nearby Bray, less than 10km away. There, they make cookies, biscuits, cakes and puddings from natural ingredients.”We bake in small batches and the aim is to replicate, as far as possible, home-baked, handmade products,” says Keith. About 35,000 biscuits and 7,000 cakes are made each week. Seasonal products include Christmas and plum puddings and all products are clean-label.The Johnsons invested €0.5 million in new equipment for the bakery. Turnover has doubled over the past two years and is now between €2.5-€3m. What was once a two-person operation now employs 24.Keith says it hasn’t been hard to grow the business, but controlling that growth is a constant challenge, as is ensuring that quality stays at the top. Sam’s Cookies produces own-label products for leading supermarkets, such as Dunnes Stores and Superquinn and for coffee shop chains throughout Ireland, such as O’Brien’s Sandwich Bars and Insomnia, as well as baking under its own name for speciality food shops.Recently, the firm has started to supply outlets in Northern Ireland belonging to three of its main customers in the Republic: Avoca Handweavers, Dunnes and O’Brien’s.== NEXT STOP BRITAIN ==The next stop is Britain, where the firm is planning to start exporting a biscuit and cookie range with a 12-week shelf-life, concentrating on selling them through coffee shops and upmarket multiples. For the past two years, the company has done well in the Great Taste Awards in the UK, winning a number of gold medals.For the Johnsons, two major and vital sources of advice have been Enterprise Ireland, which supports indigenous SME companies, and Bord Bia, the Irish food board. Keith explains that a wide range of support is available, including help with trade shows; market and technical feasibility studies; taking part in international trade missions and introductory seminars to meet foreign trade buyers. The firm also gets financial support to help pay the cost of a person to develop export sales and R&D grants to develop products for exports.A huge amount of information on specific export markets and product sectors is also available, including data on competitors; the supply chain; distributors and agents; transport costs; retail markets; retail margins; discount structures and promotional costs. But, as Keith points out, the commercialisation of export projects cannot be state-aided under EU competition rules, so the firms have to fund the costs of packaging design, advertising and promotion.Getting products noticed in export markets is down to good marketing and good product quality. Keith says that recipes can be altered to suit local tastes, such as developing products with an Irish twist, such as Porter cake and oatcakes, for the US market, which is next on the agenda after the UK.Customer focus groups are important, as are eye-catching packaging and in-store promotion and tasting. Publicity in trade magazines and retail publications dealing with food products is also vital. The Johnsons plan to operate through local agents and distributors in export markets and working with key retailers will also generate marketing momentum. As Keith says, “Sam’s Cookies in Wal-Mart could be a neat association!”For Sam’s Cookies, the big costs in exporting will be transport to market, rebates and commissions and finding the right agent or distributor. “Additional capital investment may be required for items such as pallets or stillages to protect goods in transit, as well as extra labelling and packaging,” says Keith.The most important issue for the company is whether it can afford the time and finances to develop export markets. “How long will it take to recover our investment and will there be a sustainable and profitable market to justify the initial investment?” asks Keith, pointing out that the management structure of the company has to be capable of expanding the business to incorporate the growth and expansion from exports. But the dividends, including expanding its sales base and widening its client list, are many.
What is the Sector Skills Agreement (SSA)?Improve says the SSA is the means through which the sector can increase productivity, address skills gaps and provide more responsive training provision.The SSA action plan has generated nine areas on which Improve is focusing employer efforts. Over 200 employers have already signed on to one or more of the following:1. Careers development: projects include developing a conversion programme for food scientists, attracting more science graduates, and expanding media efforts to promote career opportunities.2. Promoting productivity: a blended E-learning programme has been developed by the National Skills Academy and is available from the Academy Centres and the IT Hub.3.Pick and mix: Improve has developed a new way of accessing N/SVQs; the employee can choose 10 specific modules from a basket of 500 to best serve a particular employee.4.Training: 80% of all training happens on the job; the aim of this project is to enable 80% of in-house trainers to achieve their Assessor Awards.5.Connecting the industry: the aim is to generate a database of all training provision across the UK.6.Sweet success: a communications project, focused on CEOs and financial directors, to increase their understanding of the bottom-line benefits of investing in skills.7.Future in food: this is another careers project, aimed at school and college students, to promote the sector as a career of choice.8.Learning together: this solution focuses on bringing a network of SMEs together to deliver cost-effective economically valuable skills training.9.The skills pledge: the emp- loyer commits to raising skills and, in return, Train to Gain expertise, courses and funding are available.
A Lancashire pastry chef who learnt the trade from a Swiss master baker in Lytham St Anne’s has returned from 20 years working abroad to open The Deliciously Swiss Artisan Bakery & Patisserie in Didsbury, Manchester.Mark Cooper opened the doors of his new shop on Valentine’s Day and has met with an enthusiastic response from local people. The shop itself harks back to an old-style village bakery and is decked out in wood with displays of fresh breads and cakes. As well as tiramisu, fruit tarts, cheesecakes, chocolate ganache and Baileys cake, he bakes a range of pumpkin and rye breads, fruit loaves and sunflower cobblers.
Crips has unveiled five new flavours in its range of snacks. The oven-baked wheat and potato snacks have been designed for the health-conscious consumer. They contain almost four times less fat than traditional fried potato crisps.The new flavours – available in redesigned packaging – are: Natural Sea Salt, Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper, Thai Sweet Chilli, Mature Cheddar Cheese & Spring Onion and Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar. They contain no genetically-modified ingredients or monosodium glutamate and are suitable for vegetarians.Crips come in 35g bags and are sold in 90 Waitrose stores and over 300 independent stores across the UK.RRP: from 65p[http://www.cripsnacks.com]
Morrisons’ bakery department helped the retailer achieve strong third-quarter figures, announced at the beginning of December, which saw total like-for-like sales rise 8.1%.In-store bakery buyer Andy Clegg said Morrisons’ bakery department was “trading beyond expectations”, with initiatives introduced earlier in the year paying off, with new customers switching from other supermarkets. Morrisons estimates that 700,000 more customers visit its stores each week compared to 18 months ago.”Our baker’s [display] tables have worked well to highlight our scratch-made speciality breads and the skill of our bakers to new customers,” said Clegg. “Our decision to introduce more in-store theatre, with open bakeries so customers can see products being made, has also paid off. We have made a huge investment in fresh, good-quality food that is value for money.”Morrisons’ patisserie counters are also performing well, as are sales of own-label sliced bread, said Clegg. “Volume growth is good in plant bread, because people are making their own sandwiches to take to work, rather than spending £3.50 when they are out.”