A new year and, by the time you read this, the likelihood is that Harvestime (2005) Walsall plant bakery will be under new ownership. At the time of going to press, favourite bidders to buy the Walsall site appear to be British desserts manufacturer Country Style Foods, though Australian pie manufacturer Ian Allen is still hovering. If either is successful, it will be their first venture into UK plant bread baking. The supermarkets would like the deal concluded, so that over-capacity and, therefore, strong competition remains in the plant baking sector. Everyone else has very mixed feelings.Further afield, UK prescribed bread weights have so far been allowed to remain by EU legislators. The mainly craft-dominated Europe finds our large plant bread market something of an anomaly, alongside our set bread weights. Indeed craft bakers of France, Italy, Poland and elsewhere can produce breads of many multitudes of weights. They believe it benefits the market but the descision is a big relief to most UK craft and plant bakers who are reluctant to change the status quo.If you run a craft bakery, do look at the example of Mark Biggs who works in a one-shop thriving family bakery. Earlier this year, during Doughnut Week, the sole shop raised over £2,600 for the Children’s Trust and, at Christmas, raised another £1,000 for the charity through a raffle. The baker has received excellent local publicity as a result, plus increased customer loyalty. It is a charitable end to the year and a great example to all of us. We constantly hear how we have all become too materialistic in recent years, but I believe we also give more to charity. If it benefits your business, I hope you will put supporting Doughnut Week in May 2006 at the top of your agenda. More news about it soon.Finally, I know each of you will join with us in sending heartfelt condolences to Bakels’ sales director Keith Houliston and his family over the tragic loss of his son on Christmas Day. Keith’s hard work, his sunny nature, his dedication to the industry, his support of so many bakery events, often with his wife Elaine, have made them one of the most popular industry couples. May all our thoughts and prayers be with them at such a difficult time.
Bakers and millers expecting to see a continued drop in energy costs may be disappointed, NABIM director general Alex Waugh has warned. Tensions with Iran, over the detention of 15 British navy personnel in the Gulf, have pushed up oil prices, which have been rising to their highest levels this year.Waugh told British Baker: “If you had been anticipating the prices of energy to come down, it may not happen.”Tehran, the largest city in Iran, is the world’s fourth largest oil exporter. It has warned that, if attacked, it will halt oil exports. Iran ships roughly 2.5 million barrels per day to world markets.According to a report in the Financial Times on 26 March 2007, the benchmark US crude future price gained 66 cents to $62.94, a rise of 13.5% over that week.Tensions between Britain and Iran have escalated, as they dispute the location of the seven British sailors and eight marines when they were seized by Revolutionary Guards in the northern Gulf on 23 March. Tehran said the 15 may be charged with crossing into Iranian waters, while Britain insists that they were abducted in waters belonging to Iraq, with the permission of the Iraqi government. Britain said that official visits to Iran will cease and business will be suspended until the dispute is resolved.Aggravating matters, Iranian students threw rocks and firecrackers at the British Embassy in Tehran last weekend. However, as British Baker went to press, Iran was advocating a diplomatic solution to the dispute, a move welcomed by Britain.
Lightbody, the celebration cake manufacturer, is planning to build a bakery in China.”We’re looking for a site at the moment,” Lightbody’s MD Martin Lightbody told British Baker. “It seemed like a natural progression for us and it’s where all the growth is going to be.”At the moment, the company subcontracts manufacturing in the Far East and has had a sales and marketing office in China for over two years. It has a licensing agreement to make bakery products for popular Hello Kitty and Cadbury brands in Asia.Lightbody said the factory in China would also develop a range of standard UK products, including cookies and flapjacks. “Such products have to be made a little less sweet for the Asian market,” he added.The Hamilton-based licensed celebration cakes business was acquired by Finsbury Food Group last year.
== What was your route into the milling industry? ==I went to my local grammar school in Lincolnshire and left aged 16. I was playing football for Bourne Town and hoping to turn professional, but I damaged my anterior cruciate knee ligament. Many of my friends were going to university but I decided I would try to achieve the same salary as they would by the time they started their first job. My first job was as assistant transport manager at a grain trading business called Briggs, Duncombe and Reames (BDR).I saw those making money were traders, so I became a trader in the firm and went in at 6am each morning to grade barley samples by hand. Then I went to the markets with samples and queued in front of maltsters to obtain a bid.That’s how barley used to be traded. Some traders were really tough; they’d take a bite to evaluate the quality, and throw the balance of the sample on the ground, so none was left for competitors to sample.== So you got the milling bug? ==Yes, next I moved to Soufflet, a French flour miller, maltster, maize processor and trading business. After a few years, I progressed to running their northern office, then I was asked to set up a trading business for brewer Scottish & Newcastle, to contract local malting barley from farmers.Three years later, I returned to BDR to jointly head up milling and wheat trading. We were bought out by a business that eventually became Grainfarmers, which markets grain for farmers, co-operatives through central storage sites. It is the second-largest grain trading business in the UK for buying and selling and also sells seeds, chemicals and fertiliser to farmers throughout the UK.== Were you keeping pace with your university graduate friends? ==Yes, I had overtaken quite a few. Grainfarmers is one of the largest suppliers to Rank Hovis and other mills, so when Peter W Jones, who was well-known by all the industry, retired four years ago, I was invited to apply for the position.== What are your day-to-day responsibilities? ==They vary enormously. But key to it all is identifying opportunities and buying wheat at the right price on a short-term or long-term basis.The team is also responsible for buying wheat germ (flecks), gluten and sales of the milling co-product, wheatfeed.The markets are seeing unprecedented volatility, so to say it is an ’exciting’ job is something of an understatement. It’s important to keep a cool, calm head.== Do you sit on any committees or have any other roles to play? ==I sit on the European Millers Commercial Committee – a forum for millers to discuss import levies, for example, or issues of commonality. We then engage with the EU Commission Agricultural Department.== What about in the UK? ==Over here, I sit on the Cereal Evaluation Ltd Board, which assesses and approves new wheat varieties and communicates their benefits to growers.I also chair the National Association of British and Irish millers (nabim) Wheat Commit-tee, which meets quarterly. We go through industry issues: import taxes, wheat quality, transport and logistics.== Who keeps the media informed about what is happening? ==As chair of the nabim committee, that falls to me. I provide various media contacts with the relevant market information, so that they report accurately to the wider audience.== What is the wheat and flour situation looking like at present? ==Things will remain volatile. It is a continuously evolving picture, because of the spread of harvests around the world and their different cropping seasons. It means that, every month of the year, the dynamics change. In fact, no two days are the same; it is extremely challenging.== Do you travel much in your job? ==Yes, and one of the key fascinations is meeting people and seeing allegiances. For example, the Italians are buying a lot of Ukrainian wheat at the moment. I also like to see facilities and to know that suppliers are financially stable – you don’t want to have to replace wheat at short notice because a supplier is unable to meet his contracted obligations.I spend about one to one-and-a-half days in my office each week. I usually arrive at 7am and leave at 6pm. Duties include hosting foreign visitors (recently a delegation from China wanting to compare UK milling and procurement with their processes), direct market analysis with traders in other countries and developing closer relationships with suppliers throughout the world. There are various opportunities to meet members from the trading and milling companies throughout the year.== What is the biggest challenge at the moment? ==Undoubtedly the rise of the wheat price since last May; briefing our various sales teams on the continuous market movements and helping our customers understand the dynamics.== Do you believe in global warming? ==Yes, an increase of 1-2?C does make a difference. It makes for extremes – flooding over here last July, for example, and six years of drought in Australia. Events like that are the main cause of instability. Wheat needs the right moisture and temperature at the right time.== The causes of the recent flour price increases are well attributed, but are they accurate? ==Yes, as well as a volatile climate, there is increased demand for wheat products – not just breads and cake products, but pasta too – in all the rapidly developing countries such as China, India and elsewhere. Plus, we all want to eat more meat and animals require grain to feed on. So if you are growing grains for animal feed, you are not planting bread milling wheat.The same situation applies to biofuels. Farmers in the US, in particular, have been receiving subsidies to grow grain for bio-fuels. Also, there are more players in the financial markets taking a view and gambling – all are adding to the shortage and cost of wheat and, therefore, flour.== Do you feel for bakers having to experience big flour price rises? ==Yes, I do feel empathy with bakers. Some like Robert Dawson of Dawsons in Nottingham, are very adept at analysing market trends. Bakers have to educate themselves and I enjoy helping if I can.== What might be your next job or promotion? ==I would like to manage one of the business units. I may have moved on sooner without the recent changes in the market. Short-term, I will be taking on Jon Tanner’s responsibilities for sales and marketing as well, as he leaves to join Calor Gas as their sales and marketing director.== How did you feel about the Premier Foods takeover? ==I felt a degree of scepticism, because they were taking on a business larger than themselves. However, they have an extremely passionate senior management team, who really care about making good food. They are supportive of their people and open to dialogue.I can pick up the phone and talk to any of the senior team, who are engaged, trusting of other people and value our opinion.== In another life what job might you be doing? ==If I couldn’t do this, I’d enjoy being a supermarket buyer. I also like the outdoors, so farming – arable mixed with live- stock – appeals.== Any time for sport? ==I go to the gym, play squash and enjoy my motorbike.== What’s your favourite holiday? ==I love skiing and, in summer, I like to get away from it all somewhere hot. I like new and quiet places. Years ago, we were on the second-ever Jumbo Jet flight to land in the Dominican Republic. And on one trip, to Puglia, Italy, it was ideal. We only met one other English-speaking couple in two weeks.== What’s your favourite meal? ==A good, well-aged English steak with salad or Indian or Italian food.== What do you enjoy reading? ==I spend up to three hours a day reading overnight grain reports! But I also enjoy biographies, including Roy Keane, who now manages Sunderland. I have always supported Manchester United and, on a recent trip to Switzerland, met Sir Alex Fer-guson who was staying in the same hotel. I just couldn’t have planned it!—-=== Rank Hovis: a potted history ===Rank Hovis is the UK’s leading flour miller. Its portfolio includes a comprehensive range of flours and mixes and two of the UK’s well-known brands, Hovis and Hovis Granary. The company is part of the Hovis division of Premier Foods.A brief history of the firm runs:1875: Joseph Rank first sees the potential of grinding wheat with steel rollers in preference ot millstones1885/86: Rank builds his first roller mill in Hull1889: Joseph Rank Ltd is formed1933: the company is listed on the London Stock Exchange as a public company called Ranks Ltd1962: Ranks Ltd acquires Hovis McDougall to become Ranks Hovis McDougall (RHM)1992: the company is acquired by Tomkins plc and is subsequently delisted from the London Stock Exchange2000: RHM, including Rank Hovis, is sold to private equity firm Doughty Hanson2005: Rank Hovis acquires a mill at Wellingborough, Northants. In the same year, RHM is relisted on the London Stock Exchange2007: RHM is acquired by Premier Foods in a deal worth £1.2bn
Industrial Washing Machines’ latest EDi range of utensil washers has been added to the government’s Water Technology List, which recognises products that protect the environment by saving water.Its inclusion on the list means that the range qualifies for the Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) scheme operated by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). This means that 100% of the capital cost can be offset against corporation tax in the first year. The whole range features an electronic control system and an integrated recirculation system, which minimises water usage.[http://www.indwash.co.uk]
Vanilla beans are long pods of a tropical orchid plant, which is native to Mexico but is also grown, among other places, in the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Comoros and Réunion,The pods can be cut in half lengthways and the black sticky seeds scraped out on the tip of a knife. These seeds can be added to other ingredients to make biscuits, cakes, custard tarts and other sweet pastry deserts. This is an expensive way to use vanilla, even though the pods can be used a few times before finally being put into containers of sugar to impart the last of their flavour. More commonly, vanilla extract is used. It takes six months to obtain pure vanilla extract from the beans and the extract is 35% alcohol by volume. The flavour is far superior to vanilla essence or flavouring which is derived from phenol.Why not make a berry and almond traybake, adding vanilla extract to a sponge mixture and spreading two-thirds into the base of a tin. Sprinkle the berries – for example, raspberries or blackberries – over the top and cover with more sponge mixture, then scatter flaked almonds on top. Once baked, cover with glâcé icing that has had a little vanilla extract added.Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from Leiths School of Food and Wine
If we were to believe the overused adage location, location, location, we often assume that this is critical to success, but how important is it? When the high street was the hub of every town, location was important and people would purchase their weekly provisions from local retailers because convenience was king, bread, bacon and broccoli all easy to find and simple to purchase.Yet due to the superior intelligence of our own breed and the increasing mobilisation of the population, times have changed for better and for worse. The high street isn’t what it used to be and the swathes of space outside towns are no longer as green as they used to be. The retail park boom, built to use cheap land and designed to offer even more convenience, foil-fresh bread and a bread maker, took customers away from the high street and, with it, most of its prime location status.On a local scale, key locations do still exist and they have similarities whether you’re in Glasgow, Newcastle or London. Their status comes from being at the heart of the spending population and is determined by footfall and customer type. At street level, these locations translate to being opposite a tube or Metro station, a corner site with a double aspect for increased visibility, adjacent to a bank or cash machine or within a transport hub, all of which have a positive impact on sales.But not all retailers are cut out for locations that require large rents, increased risk and often without space for prep, let alone ovens. These sites are generally the domain of chains who can afford to risk a site, have a pre-packed offer and, if necessary, carry a loss leader if payback takes longer than expected. However, any given location really can work, so long as it has potential customers.The success of any location is ultimately down to the success of the offer within it. The product, the service, the price and the store all have to offer value for money and there is no one-size-fits-all prime location. So location really is a fundamental part of any retail business, but only because it has to be the right location for the right business.l Next month: the format of the store
The Government today published its new food strategy, Food 2030, which sets out its goals for long-term food security and how it will be achieved.One of the main aims of the strategy is for well-informed consumers to be able to choose healthy and affordable food, produced and supplied by highly skilled, profitable and resilient farming, fishing and food businesses, in a sustainable way.In order to achieve these goals, the Government has called for more food to be produced with a lower environmental footprint – by, for example, cutting carbon emissions and food wastage – more money to be invested in skills, and clear country-of-origin labelling. The strategy, the first of its kind in 50 years, also sets out the challenges facing Britain’s food supply, including an increasing global population, climate change and changing ingredient prices. Secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Hilary Benn, unveiled the strategy at the Oxford Farming Conference. He told delegates that ensuring food security is just as important to Britain’s future as energy supply.“We know we are at one of those moments in our history where the future of our economy, our environment and our society will be shaped by the choices we make now,” said Benn.He added that people-power can help ensure food businesses follow consumer demand for food that is local, healthy and produced with a smaller carbon footprint. This has already been proven with the expansion of Fairtrade products and free-range eggs on the market, for example.To view the strategy click here
English Rose Bakery has struck a deal to supply Selfridges with macaroons at its Trafford Centre food hall in Manchester.According to the Manchester Evening News, it is the first time the bakery’s products have been stocked by a retailer, as the founder, Emma Brown, was previously focused on selling at local markets and via her website.It is thought the deal could see her macaroons rolled out to other Selfridges stores, including Manchester city centre and Birmingham.Her macaroons are available in a range of flavours including: ‘English Rose’, Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Lemon, Black Cherry, Chocolate Orange and Coffee Caramel.