Scientists believe lust has a lifespan of only two years, so thank goodness we are in the bakery business, where my best-selling lines of 20 years ago are still my top sellers today. (On a personal note, I am sure my lust lasted longer than two years, but I cannot speak on behalf of my wife Barbara!) But moving swiftly back to bakery… January this year was particularly slow. January 2005 saw us grow sales by 15%, year on year. This year sales were up only 2% and that does not really cover our increased costs – electricity alone has gone up by 87% compared to the previous three-year contract.Add to that petrol and wage increases, as well as government red tape, and we will be back to bread and water soon. May I take this opportunity to point out that we are not proud, will readily accept charity and will not be offended should you offer any donations!So what are we doing about the slowdown? Here we go again, looking at cutting costs. Why do we need all the ovens and decks switched on in the early part of the week? We are baking less so we should look hard at using less oven space. Fan extractors are very powerful, so we often have the crazy situation of a fan extracting heat while we are also heating the bakery. The solution is making sure the fan is switched off as quickly as possible.Now I know you will be thinking, why waste our time with such trivia? It’s common sense. But this is so often the problem – we know what is wrong in the bakery and know the answer, but we do not act. The bigger you are, the more you tend to let the simple things slip by because there are more pressing problems to attend to.Reducing prices is something we very rarely do at this time of the year – or any other time come to that – for the simple reason that there are fewer customers out there, so why sell at a lower price and make less profit? Increased volume of sales would never remotely compensate for the loss of margins, so why be a busy fool, working twice as hard for the same profit or even less? Pricing is such a difficult thing to get right. In fact, I think it is an art rather than a science. No matter what we say, the area we trade in plays an enormous part in our pricing structure. Not long ago, I had a telephone call from a very successful baker in the north and we were discussing our problems. When he told me the prices his competitors were selling at, all I could think was ‘Hell, he must be good to survive against those crazy low prices’. The bakers around him must be living in the past – a little like an elderly lady I know who always wears a black garter in memory of those that have passed away. Why do so many bakers undervalue their own labour and products when the supermarkets do not sell baked goods that cheaply?There is an old saying: ‘The easiest way to become poor is to pretend you are rich.’ I could add to that ‘or by undervaluing your products’. There may be no disgrace in being poor, but it is most inconvenient!
With the government due to announce the location of Britain’s first super-casino in December, avid gamblers across the country will be brushing off their smart suits and counting their gaming chips.But this year’s Baking Industry Awards could give you the opportunity to practise your gaming skills well in advance. At the awards, to be held at the Grosvenor House hotel, London, on September 18, sponsor Cereform will be rolling out its roulette and blackjack tables, setting up its ‘wheel of fortune’ and inviting attendees to play with funny money in its casino, one of the event’s most popular attractions. You will have the opportunity to win some fantastic prizes; last year, there was the chance to win one of six iPods, including a top-of-the-range iPod Photo, and more prizes will be up for grabs this year, too. Watch this space.Tickets for the awards are already on sale and, to ensure a place, you need to book early. Last year, 900 people attended the industry’s most prestigious event, which acknowledges and celebrates the best of British baking.Ticket prices are being held at last year’s level and cost £160 plus VAT each, £1,500 plus VAT for a table of 10, and £1,800 plus VAT for a table of 12. For details call Elizabeth Ellis on 01293 846593.The 11 award categories are: The Customer Focus Award; The Craft Bakery Award; The In-Store Bakery Award; Bakery Supplier of the Year; Bakery Food Manufacturer of the Year; Plant Production Manager of the Year; Celebration Cake Maker of the Year; The Marketing Award; Baker of the Year; Healthy Bakery Concept of the Year; Student Baker of the Year Stop press: Remember, if you are entering the awards, all completed entry forms must be returned by 16 June. For an entry form phone Emma Wiles on 01293 867630 or Hazel Smith on 01293 867628. Don’t delay! Phone today!
Sensitive marketThe world wheat market is very sensitive at the moment. The supply and demand balance sheet places ending stocks for 2007/2008 at their lowest level for 30 years, which is one factor that has caused the increase in global wheat prices. However, it does not end there. The global closing stock number is based on current harvest projections around the world being achieved, and there are already reports indicating that it may not.There have been various world weather fronts affecting key wheat-growing areas that have put into doubt these production projections being reached.The US has been suffering from rain that has caused harvest delays and given rise to concerns on both yield and quality deterioration.Eastern European crops in Romania and Bulgaria and in the Ukraine and Russia have all suffered from drought that has seriously affected their production estimates. The Ukraine, a traditional world exporter, has cut back its production estimate from 18m tonnes to 12m tonnes.As we now approach harvesting of the wheat crops in Western Europe the rain that has fallen has been causing concern in France, Germany and the UK – the three largest wheat-producing countries in the EU – and already analysts are reducing their estimates for the potential for wheat production and quality in these countries.As well as the overall crop size, quality supply issues are an area that millers and bakers alike need to watch closely. The UK has seen a shift in the wheat types farmers are growing. Over the last several years, there has been a switch towards higher-yielding feed grades, with the breadmaking grades that millers need for breadmaking flour being reduced. This has reduced the availability of breadmaking wheat in the UK by over 31% over the last three years. The consequence of this is that now, and in the future, we have to pay higher premiums for breadmaking wheat.We are experiencing this increase in premiums already, as it impacts on breadmaking wheat prices and, coupled with reduced supply and increased demand, year-on-year breadmaking wheat prices in the UK are up by over £57 per tonne. Over the past 12 months, UK wheat prices have entered into a period of increased volatility. We have seen quite marked price variations day to day and week to week, but with the overall price trend being upwards. The LIFFE futures price for feed wheat in November has increased by £41 per tonne from this time last year and the HGCA quoted breadmaking wheat price for November, basis Liverpool, has increased by £57 per tonne. Increased demandWorldwide, we are seeing the demand for agricultural commodities increasing through continued food demand, but more so now through the demand for biofuel production and this is being mirrored in the UK.The UK traditionally exports in the region of 2m tonnes of wheat each year and recent bioethanol production plant announcements, such as that announced by ABF last week that will use 1m tonnes of wheat per annum, have already increased the domestic demand by more than the UK wheat exportable surplus, by 2009/10. Again this will have price effects, not only on the base wheat price but also the milling premium.We will continue to monitor developments over the coming weeks as the harvest progresses and some of the uncertainties become factual. However, longer-term, price volatility and uncertainty look likely to remain.
When Newcastle-based finance director Richard Linfoot, 42, was made redundant from his accountancy job, he thought long and hard about what he would do next.Swapping his briefcase for a baker’s apron, he and wife Jane worked out a business plan, got their kitchen inspected and licensed by the local council and, earlier this year, opened for business as the Gosforth Cake Company.Their plan was to offer baked-to-order cakes, delivered personally door-to-door for local residents. Richard explains: “As this is a new business, we are still on a learning curve. We began by leafleting the local area and this proved successful. We are now doing about 40 cakes a week, but this was from a standing start and it is increasing all the time.”Starting on a small scale, the couple has been able to finance the business themselves. Additionally they had previously upgraded their kitchen, so it was able to satisfy local environmental health demands. Richard also had a head-start on the baking side as well. “My mother was always baking and I learned from her.”Jane adds: “I never thought, a year ago, that we would be making a living out of baking. I always said I married him for his puddings and his cakes were beautiful too.”The couple attribute success to using old-fashioned personalised ways of doing things and this has struck a chord. “I don’t specialise in fancy cakes for weddings, although I will do them; I make traditional old-fashioned ones such as chocolate, coffee, fruit, lemon drizzle and a whole load more.”At present Richard does the baking, Jane does most of the deliveries and children Nicholas and Anna are the unofficial tasters. “There is no doubt that we have tapped into a market that is out there,” says Richard. “By this time next year, I hope we will be in our own small bakery unit, but still selling privately to households. Partly, this is because if we sell into shops, we will lose part of our margin, but also because we use only natural ingredients, the shelf-life would probably not be long enough for shops.” n—-=== The pros and cons ===Biggest ChallengeRichard: Managing demand. There is a greater demand for the weekend and this can create problems. If there are 10 different orders for 10 different cakes on a Friday afternoon, this can create problems in the kitchen. However, as we grow and learn, we will be able to see the pattern better.Biggest satisfactionRichard: Being my own boss and being in charge of my own life. To be able to make a living baking cakes is really a dream come true.Jane: It is a bit of a change from being a finance director to baker, but Richard is more fulfilled and is doing something he enjoys.—-=== Going it alone ===The firm: The Gosforth Cake Company, Gosforth, Newcastle upon TyneThe brief: baking cakes to order for delivery to the customer’s doorProducts: 10 different types of cake – coffee, chocolate, vanilla, lemon, carrot, lemon or orange drizzle, apple and cinnamon, fruit cake, banana and date cake, fruit tea cake. Price for 6-inch cake is £7.95 and for 8-inch cake is £9.95. Delivery: free locally but with a charge for longer distancesStaff: Richard and JaneBackground: Richard is a former accountant; Jane is a former teacher Website: [http://www.thegosforthcakecompany.co.uk]
Warburtons is expanding its Scottish operation with the creation of a new 20,000 sq ft distribution depot at Eurocentral Business Park, near Glasgow.The company, which bakes 1.7 million loaves a week in Scotland, will use the depot to add 40 new delivery routes to the 55 already serviced from its nearby Bellshill plant in Scotland.Ian Connell, Warburtons general manager in Scotland, said: “Such has been the scale of our success in Scotland that we have outgrown the distribution facility attached to our bakery in Bellshill.”Some staff will transfer the short distance from Bellshill to Eurocentral and Warburtons will be recruiting 25 additional staff.Warburtons, which is about to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its arrival in Scotland, currently employs over 370 people between its bakery at Bellshill, Lanarkshire, and its distribution depot in Aberdeen.
We have recently been developing a range of ’open sandwiches’ for a chain of excellent gastro-pubs we supply, writes The SoHo Sandwich Company’s Adam Gilbert.Technically these are not really sandwiches. Layered and stacked on a crisp bread pedestal, they’re more closely related to the canapé. But whereas canapés call for the precise placement and rigid composition of fussy ingredients, these free-form assemblages are put together with ease. Never dainty or shy, they are proud sandwiches with a friendly, in-your-face attitude.For one of these delights, we take good-quality sourdough bread, which we rub with a garlic clove, brush with olive oil and warm on the chargrill. We place slow-roasted asparagus spears on the bottom, then we gently poach an egg and place it on the asparagus, cover the egg with fontina cheese and flash it under the grill in order to melt the cheese.Finally, we place thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto on either side of the egg and sprinkle some fresh thyme to garnish. Perfect for eat-in cafés.== Ingredients ==Sourdough breadAsparagus spears 4Olive oil 20gFresh thyme 5gFree-range egg 1Fontina cheese 30gProsciutto 50g
== Calorie clarity ==Pret A Manger and Subway are among 18 major catering companies introducing calorie information on their menus for the first time, initially on a trial basis. Pret is to trial it in one store initially, with plans to expand to a further 24 shops. Subway stated it would display it in a minimum of six stores initially. The move coincided with the first annual report of the government’s obesity strategy Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives – One Year On.== Costa reaches 900 ==Costa Coffee this week broke through the 900-store mark as the branded coffee shop sector showed little sign of a slowdown in the recession. With a new outlet opening in London’s Piccadilly on Wednesday, a spokesperson told British Baker that Costa would open 100 stores in 2009. Costa also spent £150,000 on the opening this week of its third barista training academy in Newbury.== Supermarket agenda ==A new business development programme designed to help food and drink producers secure supermarket listings has been launched by development organisation Scotland Food & Drink, Sainsbury’s and the Scottish Government. Eleven food and drink companies, including Kingdom Bakery, Mey Selections and Murdoch Allen & Sons, will start the six-month programme this month.—-=== On the web ===l New chairman of the NSA’s bakery steering group Ian Thomson, talks about the group’s strategyl British Baker is now on Twitter – follow us at http://twitter.com/BritishBakerl Chester based-bakers P&A Davies teams up with California Raisins on local Chester radioTo read the full stories check out bakeryinfo.co.uk
North-west bakery chain Sayers and Hampsons has decided to celebrate National Cupcake Week, not with an attempt to make the largest cupcake, but by creating the smallest!Sayers said the Guinness Book of Records entry for the World’s Smallest Cupcake has never been recorded, so it is hoping its mini baked good will be a worthy contender. The cake itself only took one egg and 30 minutes to make. It measures 3cm in height and 1.5cm in diameter.In addition to its mini cupcake creation, Sayers and Hampsons will celebrate the Week by launching its full-size cupcakes across all stores, available in four different varieties. The miniature cupcakes will not be for sale. A spokesperson for the bakery added that the firm is “proud to break the mould”, for its small creation. “It should create some healthy competition, so next year we’ll go microscopic.”
London-based Peggy Porschen Cakes has announced it has plans to grow the business by ramping up online sales and “possibly opening a shop”.Currently working from Madison Studios in The Village, the firm supplies Fortnum & Mason with its seasonal ranges of hand-decorated cakes and cookies, and has created celebration cakes for the likes of Stella McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna.As part of its ambition to expand, Peggy Porschen is working with accountancy firm Harris Lipman in order to “take us to the next level and give us advice on how we can grow our business,” said managing director Bryn Morrow.Harris Lipman partner Michael Bernstein said: “While it is well-known for producing cakes, there are perhaps other areas that are under-sold, such as the cookery masterclasses they run, which can perhaps be promoted more.”
Memory Lane Cakes has confirmed that following the conclusion of its consultation, 95 workers at its factory in Cardiff are to be made redundant. The firm, part of Finsbury Food Group, entered into a period of consultation on 3 December 2009 on changes to shift patterns at the premium cake manufacturer. Finsbury had said it was looking to change production from seven to five days a week, with 95 out of Memory Lane’s 1,000-or-so staff at risk of losing their jobs. A joint statement from Memory Lane and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, announced that “despite efforts from both management and the union to find alternative solutions it is with regret that the proposed redundancies will go ahead”. “These redundancies are being made to protect the viability of the business going forward.” The affected employees will be given one-to-one consultations, with the final redundancies to be completed the week commencing 1 February.